Monthly Archives: December 2009

All I Really Need to Know about BIM and IPD I Learned in Kindergarten

“The architect who combines in his being the powers of vision, of imagination, of intellect, of sympathy with human need and the power to interpret them in a language vernacular and time—is he who shall create poems in stone.”              Kindergarten Chats on Architecture, published in 1901 in which Louis Sullivan, as a master architect, teaches a fictional student his principles of architecture and philosophy. 

Maybe it’s time we have a kindergarten chat? In a recent online group discussion, I asked two questions:

            What is the right place to learn the habits, mindsets and attitudes required for design professionals and others in the construction industry to work effectively in an integrated environment?

and

            If the current generation of emerging design professionals didn’t learn the habits, mindsets and attitudes critical for working effectively in a BIM and IPD environment in kindergarten, when will they pick it up?

Responses kept coming, dozens and dozens of insightful comments in all. One thing that is clear from the comments is that we should have learned these basic habits, attitudes and mindsets such as trust, sharing and collaborating in kindergarten. But it has become apparent to many – especially to owners and contractors – that these values weren’t picked up by their design professionals in kindergarten –or any time since.

So what to do?

Before we all take crash courses to rekindle these basic – but critical – values and practices, it makes sense to address what needs learning and when best to learn it, so that we remain relevant and effective practitioners for those we work with and advise. To this point there are roughly three schools of thought.

BIM and IPD: Three Schools of Thought

            Integrated project delivery (IPD) integrates all team members–owner, architect, construction manager, engineers, and subcontractors–to form a collaborative effort, seeks input from project team members at the onset of the project, allows team members to leverage Building Information Modeling (BIM) by creating a virtual design of every element of a construction project as well as its process.

As a school of thought is a collection or group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook, this might be an effective way of categorizing the range of attitudes we carry about what’s important for design professionals to know – and when they need to know it.

BIM/IPD School of Thought 1: All I Really Need to Know about BIM and IPD I Learned in Kindergarten

My 14 year old son is learning BIM software this year at his high school. He and his peers find the software intuitive and pick it up quite readily.

With IPD, the focus is usually on Early Goal Definition, Intensified Planning, Appropriate Technology, Organization and Leadership. While these are important, as a process IPD is based on some very basic values and principles that unless mastered by all involved, the project will fail. These include: Mutual Respect and Trust, Mutual Benefits and Rewards, Collaborative Innovation and Decisions, Open Communication and Sharing of information.

An early reviewer of my in-progress book on BIM and Integrated Design summed it up this way: “Perhaps one of the most important benefits wouldn’t even cross your mind, and this book attempts to explain it succinctly: Integrated Design and BIM require a much different mindset, and this mindset requires collaboration, coordination, team work, and knowledge sharing in order to succeed. This is not an option, this is a prerequisite.” 

Some feel we should have picked-up these principles and values in kindergarten but either didn’t or weren’t paying attention. More likely, we did learn – but unlearned them in the years since – especially once we left the cocoon of school and embarked on the hard knocks of a career in architecture and construction. There we learned to be mistrustful, skeptical, competitive, secretive, working independently out of silos. In other words – we unlearned all of the critical habits, attitudes and mindsets necessary to work on an integrated team – and be effective practitioners today for those who need us most.

This line of thinking is perhaps best exemplified by this comment from a recent discussion:

            “Modeling/BIM as a craft/technical skill should be taught freshman year, just as pre-arch curricula traditionally taught drafting and rendering. As far as integration/collaboration goes, however, that’s a skill students (and professionals) should have picked up by         Kindergarten…”

BIM/IPD School of Thought 2: All I Really Need to Know about BIM and IPD I Learned in College

For others, college is the best time to address these work habits and attitudes. One commenter put it like thus:

            “This whole ‘change’ which is coming in our world has to be based on a foundation of trust, respect and a willingness to let one’s ego take a back seat to the ‘team’, the project and the client. If you can get the students & future architects to embrace this new way of working and thinking, early, I feel that they would be starting out on the right foot towards this new way of working.”

BIM/IPD School of Thought 3: All I Really Need to Know about BIM and IPD I Learned in the Workforce

While many comments stated that school was the ideal place to learn the technology and work processes to work together in an integrated fashion, others thought that this scenario was at best unrealistic, opting for this learning to take place after school – as summarized by this comment:

            “As a 50 year-old returning to school for a Master’s in Architecture, I would hope that the program exposes me to the core principles and concept being used today. It is important for students to have an understanding of IPD/BIM and the role they play in our profession. But, the true training will come as they enter the workforce. As mentioned in an earlier comment, many students are still graduating with little to no understanding of the business side of architecture, but, are well versed in the latest computer programs. I think the student should be exposed to what is currently being used in the profession. And then, allow their employment and progression toward licensure to hone those core principles that were taught in school.”

Whatever school of thought you belong to, I am not suggesting here that we return to school to relearn what some of us have unlearned – the hard way – in the midst of our careers during heated discussions, presentations and negotiations.

The hard truth is that owners need more commitment to collaboration – and with that trust and respect – from their architects and general contractors.

Perhaps it is time for a kindergarten chat – starting with one that we have with ourselves and then perhaps branching out to chats with our colleagues – where we refresh our memory and recommit ourselves to the basic but all-important values and principles that IPD is based on: mutual respect and trust, sharing, open communication and cooperation. Perhaps this is one all-critical commitment we can keep in what promises to be a pivotal year for our industry and profession. 

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, Uncategorized

The Future of Practice

I had the opportunity over the weekend to attend end-of-semester case study presentations by 6 teams of IIT graduate students taking part in the College of Architecture’s inaugural Master of Integrated Building Delivery degree program. Headed by Assistant Professor John Durbrow, the course was taught by Aaron Greven, owner of AG Design Works with one foot in architecture and the other in construction, where he masterfully mediates and positively influences the two.  IIT’s program is one of 60 or so BIM and/or IPD programs currently offered at universities worldwide. For a few hours in the lower level of Crown Hall on a sunny Saturday I witnessed what will no doubt be the future of practice.

The course in general utilized lectures, presentations by practicing professionals and off-site field trips to investigate new and emerging technologies and develop a detailed understanding of IPD. The students who presented had been studying integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building projects and participants. They developed case studies and collected unique stories of 6 projects’ successes and challenges working with BIM in integrated and collaborative processes, including the Tucson Convention Center Addition and Hotel; Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago; Crate & Barrel, Toronto; Optima Camelview Village Scottsdale, AZ; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the University of Chicago – New Hospital Pavilion.

All-in-all the presentations were informative, describing research gathered on a wide range of topics related to the practice of architecture and the construction of significant buildings at all scales.

Here are some of my take-aways and observations from the presentations – with an eye on the big picture:

  • Content Representation I. If the AEC industry is experiencing a fundamental change in how services are delivered, and BIM and IPD represent paradigms in how these services are communicated and delivered, one might question the wisdom of delivering all the presentations in PowerPoint, perhaps the most conventional of means.
  • Content Representation II. If the medium is the message (Marshall McLuhan) and the message is the new work processes require collaboration – then IPD presentations ought to reflect this collaborative work effort. Team members ought to at least be aware of the material fellow classmates are presenting so as not to repeat – or at least to build-on – their content. In lieu of standard linear presentations where each student speaks at the lectern for 6 minutes and 40 seconds and then hands-off to the next student (the inapt image of silos comes to mind) a more imaginative – and consistent – (re)presentation might mirror the give-and-take of collaborative teamwork. Listing of project facts could be placed in a comparison matrix, approximating the parametric wonder of the technology that enables the IPD process. At the very least the presentations ought to appear integrated: fonts, style, etc.
  • Content Integration. If Integrated Project Delivery (IPD,) or here referred to as Integrated Design, is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices – then the content of the presentations ought to be integrated into a working whole.
  • Production Efficiencies. If IPD is to be a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction – then presentations on the subject ought to be exemplary examples to this effect. If fundamental changes in the process of delivering buildings are about to revolutionize the structure and practice of architectural design, when given 15-20 minutes to present – a talk on IPD that continues on 50-100% over the time limit can’t possibly serve as a proponent of the process. If anything, it makes a mockery of it. A presentation that runs over in terms of schedule can justifiably be seen as wasteful the instructor’s, classmates and visiting critic’s time. If the habits, attitudes, mindsets and practices required of IPD cannot be mastered in school – how should we expect them to be practiced in the real world?
  • Role and Identity. To its credit, the program recognizes that the role of the architect at the realization of current industry changes is not yet clearly defined, but it is recognized that it will be significantly altered from that of today. This critical, and admittedly quite scary, topic was discussed – obliquely by the presenters, more directly between the presentations – and perhaps ought to have been addressed directly as one of the observations made of each project presented by the presenting team. IIT has introduced the new curriculum to ensure that graduates are prepared for a rewarding and significant role in the emergent state of the profession – whatever that role may be.

Architecture school curricula are already overburdened with course requirements. How on earth are they to fit in courses involving the learning of BIM, let alone a thorough working understanding of IPD, where students are currently required to complete their degrees with demonstrated ability in Speaking and Writing Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Graphics Skills, Research Skills, Use of Precedents, Human Behavior, Accessibility, Sustainable Design, Program Preparation, Site Conditions, Building Materials and Assemblies, Construction Cost Control, Architectural Practice, Leadership, Legal Responsibilities, Ethics and Professional Judgment, Life Safety, Building Envelope Systems, Structural Systems, Environmental Systems and Fundamental Design Skills amongst others?

Here’s how. By placing the BIM model at the center – and learn the various areas of concentration working from the model. What better way to garner a deep and meaningful understanding of structures, environmental systems, sustainability and so on than from the building model that you have virtually conceived and built?

As for IPD, since Building Information Modeling is already the primary communication basis of IPD, course content such as collaborative work practices, leadership, legal and ethical responsibilities, can be covered much as construction-related topics are: from the model. Additionally, students currently learn several of the hallmarks of Integrated Design, including Learning Collaborative Skills (the ability to recognize the varied talent found in interdisciplinary design project teams in professional practice and work in collaboration with other students as members of a design team,) already an NAAB requirement for graduation, as well as Building Systems Integration (the ability to assess, select, and conceptually integrate structural systems, building envelope systems, environmental systems, life-safety systems, and building service systems into building design.)

Degree programs, such as IIT’s still nascent but growing one, builds upon what is already a requirement of every graduating student and provides a promising glimpse at what will come to be in the years ahead.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling

An Early Holiday for 16 Fortunate Design Professionals

In need of some good news? Or better yet, a job? As reported today in the New York Times, the nation’s employers not only have stopped eliminating large numbers of jobs, but appear to be on the verge of rebuilding the American work force, devastated by the recession. Additionally, there’s increasing evidence that the jobless rate may have already reached its peak.

So what does this mean for architects?

The good news is that the job increase appears to be no less true for the architecture profession, in fact for all design professionals and others in the construction industry.

At long last, there are architecture jobs to fill – and a lot of them at that. And in most cases one doesn’t have to move to the other side of the earth to fill them.

In what can only be seen as a sign of optimism, in the past month there are more BIM-related job postings nationwide than at any time since the start of the recession. Due to the increase of firms adopting and implementing BIM work processes, it looks like there’s going to be an early holiday for at least some design professionals and others in the construction industry.

This news will inevitably serve as a win-win for those who took the time during the first years of the recession to invest in training, had opportunities to either train others in BIM and related applications and plug-ins, were fortunate enough to have worked on BIM projects, or otherwise have concentrated their efforts on helping to facilitate the adoption and implementation of the BIM process for firms just starting out in the new technology.

Anecdotally, if the recent uptick in the number of inquiries by the staffing and recruiting industry for this one architect is any indication…things are beginning to look up.

In an admittedly un-scientific sampling of various LinkedIn groups’ postings, the following BIM-related jobs are either currently available – or were available in the month of December 2009:

Looking for a REVIT MEP expert (chul_ulyana@yahoo.com)

Wanted – Revit and / or AutoCAD MEP 2010 Instructors

Posted by Rick Feineis

Perm Job Opening in NYC – In-House Revit Trainer/Architect

Posted by David McFadden

Revit Electrical Drafting position located in the Bay Area
Posted by Anthony Selden

Looking for BIM content creation experts

Posted by Marc Goldman

Architect (Revit Experience Essential)

Posted by Matthew Upton

Architectural CAD Director Revit and AutoCad
Posted by Rachael Pierri

BIM Specialist-Northeast Wisconsin

Posted by Tim Eichstaedt

Architectural CAD Support Specialist REVIT and AutoCAD
www.blackshire.com. 535.blackshire@hiredesk.net

BIM Director- SoCal

Posted by Mark Horridge

Senior Structural Revit Design Drafter

David Turnbull on + 61 2 93508301 or dturnbull@constructive.net.au
Postedby David Turnbull

Project Manager, NY Metro Area

973-298-6117.
Posted by Robert Bazewicz

3D Visualization Engineer

Posted by Christian Greuel 

Sr. Project Manager/Energy- Chicago $140K-$180K
Sr. Construction Manager Major Projects- Chicago $150K-!80K

Posted by Ron Schroeder

MEP Estimator for large General Contractor in Los Angeles area

[Note: This post has been edited due to time-sensitive material.]

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Filed under BIM, BIM Director, BIM drafting, BIM employment, BIM expert, BIM instructor, BIM jobs, BIM trainer, construction industry, Content Creation, design professionals, people