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IPD: The Missing Manual

Missing ManualMy first impression after reading The Owners’ Guide to Starting Integrated Building Projects by Oscia Wilson is that it is much more than a guide for building owners. This easy to read handbook will guide anyone interested in either pursuing this important and still little used collaborative project delivery approach – integrated project delivery or (IPD) – as well as those interested in gaining a better understanding of its methodology, to be better informed and prepared to explain it to others.
The book has its roots in social media, in that it originated as a LinkedIn discussion, with many expert voices adding their two cents to the discussion. It soon became apparent that what was needed was an IPD users manual, and after some toil, as the discussion grew and grew, this must-have book was born.
San Francisco architect Oscia Wilson envisioned turning the outcome of that very valuable online discussion onto a much needed owner’s guide, several integrated project delivery experts volunteered to contribute, and what ensued – the book I hold in my hand – turned out to be much more than the sum of its parts.

While Oscia’s name is the only one that appears on the cover of the book, in true IPD spirit, the inspiration for the book was crowdsourced – integrating the expert advice, experience, knowledge, colorful anecdotes, judgment, and hard-won wisdom – of several excellent, big-name building industry contributors (all listed and acknowledged inside the front cover.)

Wilson wisely kept the length of the book down – it can easily be read in one or two sittings. Owners are busy people, and they want to get to the goods, the facts, sooner than later, so keeping the book slim was probably a wise choice. That said, the book maybe could have used more of a preface or introduction, to provide a little background – explaining, for example, why there’s a need for an owner’s guide (owners most often decide on the project delivery method for a project) and why not an architect’s guide or contractor’s guide. Also, for all of the rich content and comprehensive covering of topics, I was surprised that there wasn’t a mention of the several hybrid approaches to IPD that many firms have taken-up when IPD itself is not an option, including the so-called IPD-ish and IPD-lite workarounds which are pulled out when one can’t pursue IPD for legal or insurance (or just plain risk-aversion) reasons. Perhaps the author didn’t want to give Owners the option to duck out of using IPD pure and proper? That said, the book does have an excellent section on What To Do If You Can’t Do IPD which offers some excellent alternative approaches and tactics.

If, like owners, the goods are what you are after, the book is chock full of excellent collaboration-related tips, techniques, talking-points and step-by-step processes. More than an owner’s manual, this book could be thought of as an IPD Users Guide which should appeal to a much wider readership. This easy-on-the-eyes book is itself a beautiful object – well worth owning for its considerable contents as it is for the attractive cover, the clear and well-illustrated color graphics, and the closing invitation to add to the continuing conversation. Everyone in the building industry will benefit from reading – and rereading – The Owners’ Guide to Starting Integrated Building Projects.

You can find Oscia Wilson’s five-star book here on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Owners-Starting-Integrated-Building-Projects/dp/1499627327

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The Death of the Death of the Death of Drawing

death drawingDrawing is far from over. It’s not even close to dead. Not by a long shot.

Just to make sure, I just tweeted: ‘Is drawing dead?’

Death of Drawing anyone?

‏‪Case Inc’s @davidfano immediately tweeted back: no :)

‪@JayZallan Agreed: no. Next.

‪Chicago architect-in-the-making @joshuamings tweeted: nope. I’m heading out the door to sketch Alfred Caldwell’s Lily Pool and maybe Studio Gang’s pavilion in Lincoln Park.

Mexico City’s ‪@Rodrigo_Medina replied: Drawing will always have its practical applications, thinking it is enough is where I see the real problem.

‪@Parthenon1 Silly question?

‪The serially successful “Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity” author @gapingvoid tweeted: I would say that was an extremely silly question. But I’m old school :D

You get the idea.

Readers may recall the 2012 NYTimes article by architect Michael Graves “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing” which declared:

“It has become fashionable in many architectural circles to declare the death of drawing.”

And then asked:

“What has happened to our profession, and our art, to cause the supposed end of our most powerful means of conceptualizing and representing architecture?”

Says Graves,

“The computer, of course.”

David Ross Scheer, in his new book The Death of Drawing, also answers this question in terms of technology.

Only his answer is book-length, well-illustrated, and extremely relevant for our age.

And I recommend that you purchase a copy, read and discuss it (with only one reservation, which I’ll get to in a moment.)

One look at the six chapter titles in the book’s Table of Contents will speak to the book’s immediacy and relevance, and should help you determine whether this book is for you.

I suspect many of my blog readers and Twitter followers will find these chapter headings both pertinent and compelling:

1 Representation and Simulation 19

2 Drawing and Architecture 49

3 Building Information Modeling 101

4 Computational Design 129

5 Simulation and Architecture 165

6 Simulation and Ideation 193

Earlier drafts of the book’s chapters, the author tells us, were reviewed by Chuck Eastman, Ole Fischer, Daniel Friedman, and Michael Sorkin, a formidable group of scholars and speaks to the author’s pedigree.

Thesis, Purpose, Goal, and Central Argument? Oh my.

Scheer’s thesis will be self-apparent to those who are living it, anxiety-inducing for others:

“I believe that we are in the midst of a transformation that will ultimately reshape architecture to an extent not seen in over 500 years.”

He goes on to explain the book’s purpose:

“These changes reflect the incorporation of architecture and the building industry as a whole into a pervasive social and cultural movement towards virtualization and predictive control through digital simulation. Architects need to understand why this is happening and its effects on how we think and work if we want to continue shape the design of the built environment. This, in a nutshell, is the purpose of this book.”

Elsewhere, Scheer asks:

If architecture loses the idea of representation, how will buildings acquire meaning?

Architects have infused their designs with meaning for ages. But drawing is not the only means by which meaning is actualized. In fact, as with all communication, meaning is a two-way street: the building user and the public at large have some say in the matter. And the meaning they interpret may not be the meaning the architect intended (just think of Venturi’s Princeton Biology Building nicknamed the Purina building for the building’s elaborate brick pattern recalling the Ralston Purina checkerboard logo.)

A great deal of a building’s meaning is acquired not through any effort on the architect’s part, but on the building’s immediate context.

How does the architect know that the meaning they implied was received as intended? What role does genus loci – the spirit of the place in which the building is built, inform the building’s meaning? Is it naïve to think that buildings acquire meaning from the architect’s skill at drawing or from the drawing alone?

Society looks to architects’ buildings to be somehow significant even as it diminishes their ability to do so

Early in the book, Scheer says that he “believes” that BIM and computational design “will ultimately replace drawing as the medium of architecture and the construction industry.”

There’s no reason to “believe” this. It is 2014 and this has already happened. At least in terms of deliverables and documentation, if not – per the tweets above – in terms of how architects converse with themselves.

A few pages later, Scheer states that “this book’s goal is to stimulate debate about the future of the discipline of architecture and inform decisions about its direction.”

One expects that The Death of Drawing will inevitably lead to such discussion – in the studio, in coffeehouses, in schools and in the office.

Simulation and The Author’s Discontents

Scheer next states:

“My central argument is that the relationship between design and reality is undergoing a shift from representation to simulation and that this shift has many profound implications for architecture.”

My one gripe with Scheer’s book is its lack of context. Why is this shift happening? One would expect to find a mention of 9/11 and the subsequent reality hunger that ensued in the arts and service professions? Or a reference to the 2008 economic downturn that perhaps might have led to the need for firms to increasingly simulate in order to differentiate themselves and provide themselves with a competitive advantage?

The fact that nonfiction, these days, trumps fiction every time. And that the architect of representation practiced a refined form of fiction.

Until the fiction is objectified, justified or otherwise backed up with data.

This lack of reference to the outside world – especially given the book’s topics of BIM, computational design and simulation, is disconcerting.

Especially considering we’re living in an Age of Context.

Subjective statements – as well as Theses, Purposes, Goals, and Central Arguments – remain subjective until placed into a larger context.

As with buildings, without that context for reference, they lose meaning.

A book’s argument – any research actually – is a claim backed by reasons based on evidence.

With its thesis, purpose, goal, central argument, this book is not short of claims.

And the reasons – however personal – are there as well.

But the book, despite its wealth of beautiful images, lacks evidence. All we have is the author’s word and a veritable cornucopia of drawings to enjoy.

Due to the lack of evidence backing up the author’s claims, the book almost reads at times like it is a museum exhibition catalogue.

Scheer’s book doesn’t, for example, reference Grave’s article mentioned in the opening of this post, nor any of the other online arguments that spawned from it.

Nor does the book reference the 2012 Yale symposium entitled, of all things, ‘Is Drawing Dead?’

The fact that David Ross Scheer received his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University – it’s mentioned on page 1 – is not lost on the reader or reviewer.

It doesn’t reference MIT’s former Architecture Department Chairman, William J. Mitchell “The Death of Drawing” in the UCLA Architecture Journal 2 (1989)

Nor does it dip into social media. Forget Twitter. See for example, Lee Castili’s thoughtful post What is the drawing’s purpose?

Scheer, for example, states that “Skill in drawing has been the hallmark of the profession.”

But as with so much that is said in the book, we have to take the author’s word for it.

It doesn’t pass the otherwiseness test: What about other hallmarks of the profession, such as problem defining and solving, seeing the big picture, understanding how local decisions have global impacts, or envisioning what others can’t see? Don’t these count?

Simulation is the Enemy

Every good story has a protagonist and antagonist. Scheer’s real war in the book is with simulation. Simulation, he explains, that exists to anticipate building performance.

“Drawing and simulation entail vastly different attitudes on the part of the architect. In fact, the shift in attitude is more important for architecture than the actual uses of a given simulation. Once an architect decides to work in simulation, the values implicit in drawing no longer apply.”

The architect Scheer describes comes across as “as a wielder of information rather than a creator of form.”

He elsewhere writes “computational design is directly concerned with the generation of form.”

Except for when it is concerned with building performance or human performance.

But whether building geometry, building performance or human performance data and information are equally data. In other words, information and form are not separate activities, but integrated and interdependent.

Design integration doesn’t fare well in the book either:

“With all information in a readily transmissible form, there are great incentives to share it more freely, resulting in a leveling of the design team and a consequent redefinition of the architect’s role within it.”

This explanation of integrated design is exactly backwards. Designers aren’t encouraged to share because their work is in a form that is sharable. They share because the other – analogue, drawing – methods didn’t work.

They share information because clients require them to do so. They share information to avoid clashes in the field, cost and schedule overruns, tension in the field, finger pointing and poor relations between team members.

The earlier methods – however good they look in galleries, museums, and books such as this – led to a loss of productivity in the profession and industry. So bad, that many other fields have popped up vying for the opportunity to outdo designers and contractors at their own game.

Watching Michael Graves sketch on bumwad was a lot more fun.

But it didn’t work.

An Elegy for the Architectural Drawing?

There is a romantic notion throughout the book of the lost halcyon days of paper architecture, hand sketching, and perhaps even drafting.

And from what I recall from my 30-year career as a building designer, form-for-form’s-sake wasn’t an especially strong argument for justifying one’s course of design action.

Scheer is all for representation. He states emphatically, “Representation and simulation are incompatible modes of experience.”

In fact, firms like Thornton Tomasetti and their research arm, CORE Studio, have created software and apps, such as TTX, that serve simultaneously as both representational and simulation tools.

Scheer anticipates this when, later in the book, he writes “simulation is as much an orientation towards experience as it is a process. The same simulation can be taken at face value by some and regarded as representation by others.”

He next writes “An architectural simulation behaves like a building—it gives the same results as a building when tested in specified ways.”

If only that were the case. There have been many instances where LEED did not predict energy savings outcomes in the built building.

Again, the book here is weak on context. Surprisingly, Sherry Turkle’s seminal Simulation and Its Discontents is listed under Bibliography and Further Reading but not referenced in the book.

About a third of the way into the book Scheer asks, however rhetorically:

Is representation good and simulation bad?

His answer, perhaps more than anything else in the book, states his case:

The question, he says, makes no sense.

David Ross Scheer’s The Death of Drawing comes out in July, 2014 and can be found here

The Death of Drawing Website and blog http://deathofdrawing.com

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Why Being Proficient is Not Sufficient

proficBetween doing design technology searches and helping out my university students, I look at – and make suggestions for improvements on – a couple hundred resumes and CVs each year.

Students shouldn’t place education on top. They need to start seeing things from the employer’s perspective. Anything even vaguely work-related needs to move up.

Students also make the rookie mistake of listing every piece of software they know. Photoshop. InDesign. Microsoft Office.

While mastering these tools is in itself a minor achievement, if not miracle, listing them on your resume says more about you than you may intend.

To the prospective employer, these tools are the air you breathe. Putting them on your resume is like saying “in my spare time I drink water.”

Somewhere over the past couple years the technology bar has been raised. You are now expected to know more and do more. And, more and more, you’re expected to learn these tools in your spare time.

What exactly are you supposed to know? I’ll get to that in a moment.

In a recent conversation with the Head of University of Minnesota School of Architecture, Renée Cheng, she admitted that learning BIM is no longer part of their curriculum. Revit classes have been sequestered to the architectural archipelago of Saturdays.

At the University of Illinois School of Architecture where I teach – Revit and other software lessons are covered sporadically in the evenings. I personally try to teach BIM and building science as inseparable subjects, and work in the topic of BIM as often as I can for my 134 undergrad and 90 grad students, and students are encouraged to learn Revit for extra credit outside classroom time.

It is as though I now have to teach each class twice. I teach the material that, according to the accreditation body, students need to know to succeed in a career in architecture. Then I put on my BIM hat, walk to the white board on the side, and inform them of the implications of that topic in terms of BIM and integrated design.

But back to learning software. In off-hours my TAs provide live software tutorials, and students are expected to practice outside of class on their own. We make sure students know they have free access to Lynda.com and other online tutorials, and answer questions in and out of class as they arise.

In a few weeks Paul F. Aubin will be stopping by my Anatomy of Buildings lecture class to wow my students with his family editor magic. A couple of the students may recognize him from the Lynda.com tutorials or from his Mastering Revit Architecture book series, but by and large the students see him not as the Revit rock star and rocket scientist rolled in one that he is, but simply as a guest lecturer. Paying attention is voluntary.

On your resume, your ticket to talk is prior experience with Revit and skill with learning new software. So why, then, isn’t being proficient in software sufficient?

It’s not so much about what you learned in 4-6 years (OK, seven) of school, but your willingness, openness and ability to learn software – including tools that haven’t been invented yet. In college, what we try to do is teach you not for your first year out of school but for your tenth, fifteenth, twentieth.

Firms want employees to be self-motivated, to mess around with software on their own. For example, to develop their own expertise in advanced Revit features.

More and more of these firms are all-Revit – or All-in Revit. They’re Revit firms.

Like ArchiCAD instead? See if Papageorge Haymes (Chicago, IL) is hiring. Or Jared Banks (Newton, MA) or Ashen+Allen, BAR Architects (both SF, CA) or CJMW (Winston Salem, NC) or Kirksey Architecture (Houston, TX) or Woods Bagot or check out this list to see if any are hiring.

But back to reality.

When – under the skills category – you place the words “AutoCAD” or “Revit” on your resume, it is to start a conversation.

If they ask you how well you know Revit and you say that you did an extra credit assignment for Professor Deutsch or watched a tutorial 4 years ago but haven’t actually used it, it will be a short, and not particularly sweet, conversation.

If they ask you how well you know Revit and you say that you are proficient in AutoCAD, 3D Studio Max, Rhino, Revit and that you’ve messed around in your spare time scripting in MaxScript, what the prospective employer hears is not the litany of software you’ve burned through but “Holy cow, they mess around with software in their spare time.”

A few might wonder why you have any spare time (i.e. what’s wrong with you?)

If they ask you what is your experience working with the scripting language in Autodesk’s 3ds max, VIZ 3D, and gmax applications, call their bluff. They probably were coached by IT to ask you this, but the senior person who is interviewing you probably has little idea what it is they are asking. Whatever you do, don’t make them feel stupid. Just answer the question as accurately, and as briefly, as you can. They will be relieved by whatever you answer, happy to move on to the next question or show you around the office.

Oh, and if you want a job offer, when they ask you if you have any questions, don’t ask them about software. Ask them if you can see a set of their documents. Employers are never so happy as when someone asks to see their documents. It’s as though you asked to see pictures of their children. It’s as though you asked if you could raise their children. They’ll be that proud to share them with you. That is one thing that hasn’t changed.

Firms are looking for do-ers, but also for strategists: employees who take software matters into their own hands, who might recommend that the firm look into a certain software over the one they’re married to, or invest in a particular software because that is where the competition or industry is headed.

So, while it is important that you know Photoshop, InDesign and the Microsoft Office suite, it is also important that you breathe and drink 8 glasses of water daily. Important, yes. But not sufficient.

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The Poughkeepsie Principles

pkpsWe are in a race now to produce better and better information, instead of better and better buildings. – Paul Fletcher, RIBA architect

There is a school of thought that contends that BIM is not an authoring tool or software platform or an industry standard, but an approach to creating and managing information.

This way of thinking has blossomed in recent years – from an emerging movement to accepted wisdom – in the AECO industry.

Not that architecture itself is getting the short shrift.

Despite the advent and subsequent diffusion of digital tools in the design process, some of which have a more intuitive design interface than others, we shouldn’t worry about losing our ability to design exceptional buildings anytime soon.

In fact, when it comes to architectural design, there is ample evidence that we are in the midst of a Renaissance (re-Renaissance? Re-naissance?)

Just scroll through archdaily or archinect or archidose or architizer or architonic or archello or abitare – or thumb through this – I think you’ll agree:

Architecture isn’t suffering.

This New Architecture is all about better buildings because we can produce better and better information.

Because we can use this information to convince clients to go along a path that they would otherwise – without the metrics, the benchmarking, the information and data – not take.

But before we can lead owners down this path, we ourselves have to make an important choice.

A Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, describes two paths: one well-trodden, the other less travelled.

You may remember this poem from school. The author takes the path less travelled – the one that “wanted wear” – and, for the author, that has made all the difference.

We, too, have the choice before us – to continue on the well-trodden path of practice –

Whether that means designing using our well-worn visualization tools, working in CAD, or delivering projects by design-bid-build –

Or going outside of our comfort zone, exploring a new way of working.

Our industry’s less travelled path.

Taking the less travelled path

A while back on a sojourn from NYC to Albany, due to inclement conditions I was forced to pull over on the side of the road.

Seeing that the rain wasn’t letting up any time soon, I made a mad dash to a lodge on the edge of the woods.

Inside, locals huddled over coffee weren’t in any hurry to head out. Nor was I.

Battened-down into a booth, I composed the following principles on a napkin.

Principles I swore to – and ascribe to – ever since that fateful day. I call these

The Poughkeepsie Principles

1. BIM is not an authoring tool or software platform or an industry standard, but an approach to creating and managing information.

2. BIM puts information in place to coordinate the digital process from design through operations and beyond.

3. That information comes from somewhere.

4. Digital processes in architecture not only enable, but also determine the way we design, construct, and work together – and relate with our tools.

5. Despite the near-constant temptation, don’t put your tools before people.

6. Everything points toward more expansive ways of digital production.

7. Digital processes alter how we work with one another for the good of all.

8. We collectively determine the meaning of the good of all.

9. Digital networks are there to improve communication and to assure that we communicate with one another. So communicate.

10. Those with digital capabilities work collectively, not autonomously, for the highest good.

11. We collectively determine the meaning of the highest good.

12. Those with digital capabilities will find themselves catalysts for a new organization and industry order.

13. Those with digital capabilities will not find themselves catalysts for a new world order.

14. Where you end up in that order will be determined by your capabilities and collaboration quotient (CQ).

15. Call it collaboration quotient, not CQ. Your colleagues will thank you.

16. Designers will continue to author the design of projects.

17. In the new digital workflow, everybody is a designer.

18. Semi-autonomous algorithmically driven design workflows deeply embedded in a collective digital communication infrastructure will continue to create alluring objects.

19. But designers will be needed to determine how these objects look, scale, function, shed water, stand up and meet code.

20. In other words, designers will still be needed to design.

21. The proliferation of advanced digital modeling tools has enabled designers to conceive and create designs that would be messier to do using Koh-I-Noor Rapidographs on mylar, Razor Points on napkins, 2/HB soft/hard black pencil in Moleskines, lead holders and electric erasers.

22. And drafting dots.

23. Digital modeling tools require less cleanup, therefore, save time.

24. There is a time and place to use Rapidographs on mylar, Razor Points on napkins, 2/HB soft/hard black pencils in Moleskines. This isn’t one of them.

25. Go ahead, experiment with algorithmic and simulation-driven design. Just remember your client and users are waiting.

26. They’re still waiting.

27. Computational design is considered to be a design tool, and also a series of instruments that can be applied in the creation of architecture.

28. The previous principle is both redundant and superfluous. It is redundantly superfluous.

29. Computational design enables architects to incorporate performance analysis and knowledge about material, tectonics and the parameters of production machinery.

30. That’s just a fancy way of saying information, alluded to in the first principle.

31. Computational design really needs to say what it means.

32. In the new world of integration, architects become hybrid- – not hyphenated- – practitioners.

33. In other words, hybrid-practitioners, not hyphenated-practitioners.

34. Architects can counter the traditional model that isolates architects from the economics and construction of buildings by positioning themselves towards the operational center of each project.

35. To do so, architects need to become developer-architects or contractor-architects, (see hyphenated-practitioners.)

36. Architects need to define what it means to be hybrid practitioners without the hyphen.

37. Use nothing out of the box. All software shall be customized. See principle #6.

38. Customizing computational tools can create more responsive designs.

39. Learn how to customize software for your specific needs and the needs of the project.

40. New digital tools are new and shall remain so until they aren’t.

41. Computation is indeed changing the way architects design, only nobody can say how.

42. There are digital design tools and there are results. Focus on the results, and the tools will take care of themselves.

(To be continued: the napkin on which I was writing was full.)

Published works that inspire – and uphold – these principles include, but are not limited to:

- Digital Workflows in Architecture, Scott Marble

- Digital Fabrication in Architecture, Nick Dunn

- Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought, Xavier De Kestelier, Brady Peters 

- SHoP: Out of Practice, Shop Architects

- Inside Smartgeometry: Expanding the Architectural Possibilities of Computational Design, terri Peters, Brady Peters

- Material Strategies in Digital Fabrication, Christopher Beorkrem

- Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques, Lisa Iwamoto

- Material Computation: Higher Integration in Morphogenetic Design Architectural Design, Achim Menges

- Digital Manufacturing: In Design and Architecture, Asterios Agkathidis

- Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture, Branko Kolarevic  

- From Control to Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture, Michael Meredith

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AEC’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Kool-Aid1“You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Tom Wolfe’s classic saga is about Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters as they test the boundaries of consciousness.

However his 1968 book is remembered today, it is arguably the most popular example of the then growing literary style called New Journalism.

Just as New Journalism marked a turning point in the writing of nonfiction, the use of data in the AECO industry today marks a turning point in our own time.

Just as New Journalism captured the events that took place in the 60’s, so too all things digital has captured ours.

First Who, Then What

Your practice is either digital, or it is toast.

“You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

What about you?

You’re either using BIM, or you’re off the bus.

Kool-Aid2Jim Collins in Good to Great told us it is imperative to have the right people on the bus.

That great leaders start – not by announcing to the people on the bus where they’re going – but by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats

In your office, those right people – irrespective of what seats they are working in – are immersed in digital technology.

They’re fearlessly using BIM, and the information therein, for higher and better purposes.

“Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script.”

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Up until now, as an industry, we haven’t made the most of digital tools that are available to us.

For many digital natives – those interacting with digital technology from an early age – this is moot.

They’re wondering why we’re even discussing this, like flowers discussing the sun; or fish, water; birds air.

But some of us late-arrivals-to-the-industry-digital-tools party believe ourselves to be not just digital immigrants, but digital exotics, digital foreigners, or digital aliens.

Kool-Aid3These are our basic fears:

Digital renders what we do as free

Digital renders what we do a commodity

Digital renders what we do as untraceable

Digital renders what we do as risky

Digital renders what we do as legally untenable

Digital renders what we do as obsolete

Our Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test moment

“I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.”

Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

People love buildings.

Architects love designing them.

Engineers love analyzing them.

Contractors love building them.

And yet our future depends on our producing computer-generated models together that contain information – geometry and data – to support the design, construction and fabrication through which our buildings come into being.

The reason this – here, today, now – is The AEC’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (or, if you prefer, our Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep moment) is because we have arrived at this point – and there is no turning back.

All the pining for freehand drafting and hand sketching, nice as they are, adds-up to just so much romantic longing.

All the arguing in favor of continuing with CAD falls on deaf ears.

Just as the Earth has in recent weeks reached the uncharted territory as atmospheric carbon dioxide has shot past the penultimate 400 ppm mark, so too our industry has reached its own 400 ppm mark.

Only in terms of BIM.

No longer on the periphery of our visual field, edge of our consciousness, or margins of our minds – just as carbon is diffused in our atmosphere – BIM is as part and parcel of our practices.

We’re soaking in it. It is the air we breathe.

As Lachmi Khemlani has said: BIM has not only arrived in the AEC industry but has literally taken it over.

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Quit BIM Fast, Quit BIM Often

seth-godin-the-dipEveryone hits a point when working in BIM where they want to quit.

BIM offers some the temptation to quit on a weekly basis.

For others, Kenneth, that frequency is daily.

Especially when you aren’t seeing the results you expected.

Especially when you can’t get the program to get with the program.

Especially when what goes into BIM is greater than what comes out.

When that happens, where can you turn?

On Quitting BIM

What we’re talking about here isn’t quitting BIM for good.

BIM isn’t going anywhere, and for those who have hit a wall – there is a way out.

For us users of BIM, the way out is the way through.

Lord knows, not around.

But what about those who find themselves close to quitting time?

Like vote early and vote often, quit BIM fast and often.

In other words, too many users of BIM believe that the obstacles they face are permanent and immovable.

End Task/Force Quit

When, in fact, if they were to take a step back (and a deep breath), they’d see that they’ve just travelled down a dead end.

They’ve wandered off the path and just need to find their way back.

So they, once again resolved, can start up again.

When this happens, just quit the dead end and get back on the path.

But what if it’s just a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing?

Maybe it will never get better, no matter how hard you try.

How can you tell the difference between a temporary obstacle and road closing?

Strategic Quitting for Beginners

On a recent walk, I re-listened to The Dip by Seth Godin, a little book about quitting that came out just around the time when the only thing quitting was the economy.

In many ways, the book accurately describes the predicament we – individuals, teams, firms, profession and industry – find ourselves in today.

The book acknowledges that every new undertaking starts out exciting and fun.

Just like, for example, our initial adoption, implementation and exploration of BIM.

Then it gets harder and less fun.

Until it hits a low point, and – as Godin points out – is not much fun at all.

And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle.

Just as many of us have been asking if BIM is even worth the hassle.

To get to that promised land of benefits, you have to pass through the wilderness of adoption

Josh Oakley, Founder and Principal of ANGL Consulting, identifies this adoption dip as “the J-Curve”, and calls it “the greatest risk to BIM adoption.”

True that. But the wilderness many of us find ourselves in today is well past adoption.

Many of us are deep in the woods – well past the halcyon days of implementation.

We’re in it. Deep. Subscription deep.

Deep, dip, whatever. What do we need to quit to take your work in BIM further?

The Long Slog

We’ve all heard or read about The 10,000-Hour Rule, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

The 10,000-Hour Rule is very similar to working through the dip, that period where the gains don’t seem to be coming as quickly as you’d like.

For many of us, i.e. now.

In The Dip, Godin describes “the long slog between starting and mastery” in which those without the determination or will find they’re burning out.

What really sets BIM masters apart from everyone else is the ability to escape (i.e. quit) dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated.

BIM masters quit fast, quit often.

In fact, Godin contends, winners realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it.

And on the other side of the barrier is the ultimate competitive differentiator:

BIM to the higher power.

Godin points out if you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.

Call on a Sherpa to help you navigate your BIM climb

Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. – U2

Need to get back on track and see some more BIM wins?

You don’t have to go it alone.

Call on a BIM consultant to help you figure out

  1. if you’re in a dip that’s worthy of your firm’s time, effort, and talents.
  2. when to quit, and
  3. when to stick

Try case or ANGL (or, if you provide BIM consulting services to individuals or firms, feel free to put your contact info in the comments below.)

A BIM consultant can help you, your team or firm, identify and quit your dead end situations, in which no amount of work will lead to success.

They will get you back on the path to meet your goals and inspire you to hang tough.

If not, they’ll help you find the courage to quit – so you can be number one at something else.

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The Dual Disruption Brought About by BIM

CultureWe should all know by now that BIM is considered a disruptive technology.

Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz and their cohort said as much back in 2008.

But “disruptive” to whom, exactly?

The person or persons who work in BIM, of course.

But what about those who don’t work in BIM?

Who – whether by their choice or another’s – work alongside those who work in the technology, but don’t work in the technology themselves.

Their work lives have been disrupted in innumerable ways.

For BIM not only disrupts those who work in the technology, but also those who aren’t using BIM.

Why aren’t they working in BIM? They may not be asked to work

  • on BIM teams because they are perceived as being too senior, often equated with being too expensive.
  • with the authoring tools because their skillsets are needed elsewhere, outside of the BIM workflow.
  • in BIM because there’s a perception that older works are slower learners, and there isn’t time to train someone who needs to be performing ASAP.

BIM Outliers

Other times, where the opportunity is left to the employee, BIM outliers may perceive themselves as being too far along in their careers to be learning a new tool.

Or too near retirement to learn something new that will only be utilized for a few short years.

For whatever reason they aren’t working in BIM, they are nonetheless dually affected by its increasing use in the organization. They are

  1. perceived as working outside an innovative, growing and continuously developing process.
  2. increasingly perceived as belonging to a culture that no longer exists.

BIM outliers are working at a time when “the way we do things around here” is no longer “the way we do things around here.”

BIM outliers are disrupted because the shared meaning of their organization’s culture has gone the way of hand drafting and CAD.

In other words, the organization’s stories and rituals have changed.

To the extent that a firm’s culture is defined by the encouragement to innovate and take risks, BIM outliers may be perceived as working outside this firm value.

To the degree that the firm’s culture is organized around teams, the BIM outlier may be perceived as working independently, as an individual among teams.

BIM haves and BIM have-nots

It is possible for the BIM outlier to be perceived by others in the firm as representing the firm from their pre-BIM era.

To the extent that this conjures-up pictures of dinosaurs is something to seriously consider.

Your firm may not yet have a BIM culture, with BIM haves and BIM have-nots. But just as one day in the not too distant future, when BIM will be the new standard of care in the AEC industry, so too BIM will be the status quo within most organizations.

And whether through attrition or other means, BIM holdouts will be a faint memory. And the social glue holding your firm in place will be replaced by BIM, just as Horizontal Glue was replaced by BIM 360 Glue.

Your firm’s old culture – like the old guard – played an important role when new technologies and work processes were first introduced. They kept the place together in a time of rapid change.

But chances are, change in your organization is part of the scenery today – no longer requiring the former entrenched culture for stability during uncertain times.

The new culture that BIM brought about has its own (war) stories and rituals, and only those who work with the tools or in the process, can understand and help transmit your culture’s meaning.

Which is doubly disturbing to those who are on the inside while remaining on the outside. Because the stories that make up the culture of the firm will no longer be in a language understood by all.

Unless, of course, you and your coworkers are as skilled at telling stories – in a language that can be understood by all – as you are as working with the technology.

- Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED-AP

In July 2013, I will be leading a 2-day seminar. To learn more, please click the link below:

BIM: Lessons in Leadership

Harvard GSD Executive Education seminar

July 8, 2013 – 9:00am – July 9, 2013 – 5:00pm

Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Earn 14 AIA/CES

http://execed.gsd.harvard.edu/programs/bim-lessons-leadership

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