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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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7 Reasons to Attend the Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

Following the overwhelming success and enthusiastic feedback from the 150 plus participants and dozen vendors in the 2011 event, the 2012 symposium will feature even more timely subjects in the industry and provide more opportunities for networking, knowledge-building, and exposure to cutting edge developments.

7 Great Reasons to Attend this Year’s Symposium:

Reason 1: The real advantage in attending an event like this is to enhance your understanding of the current and future role of technology in design, construction, and facilities management from industry experts and those working at the cutting edge of their fields.

Reason 2: Included in the program will be such topics as augmented reality, legal insights on Integrated Project Delivery, GSA’s approach to facility management and technology usage in heavy construction. The assembly of world-class speakers promises to challenge your imagination.  Check out the schedule and presentation abstracts.

Reason 3: AIA continuing education credits will be available. Attend all three days and earn up to a total of 16 CEUs.

Reason 4: Professional discount extended for those who register by Friday, July 20. Architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management students attend for just $25! Find complete registration fees here

Reason 5: The primary focus of this year’s Symposium is to improve project efficiency by reducing costs, accelerating delivery, improving quality, minimizing risks, and leveraging resources. In the spirit of the event, the presentations will be quick, short, and more concentrated with plenty of time for interactive Q/A.

Reason 6: Location. Chicago, on Northwestern University’s downtown campus on Lake Michigan, near Michigan Avenue. Here’s a map and list of nearby hotels.

Reason 7: All conferences boast the chance to rub shoulders with colleagues in an informal setting. The Symposium affords attendees the rare opportunity to network with researchers, academics, practitioners, software and building developers, vendors, IT professionals and university students working in architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management – as well as leaders in the industry.

Sponsored by the Northwestern University Master of Project Management Program http://www.mpm.northwestern.edu/, and the newly created Executive Management for Design and Construction program, the 2012 Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction will assemble design and construction researchers, academics, and practitioners to discuss the present state-of–the-art and the prospects for future advancements in this field.

Check out the Symposium brochure.

Detailed information about the Symposium is at www.techforconstruction.com or inquiries can be sent to me, Randy Deutsch, at randydeutsch@att.net.

One last thing: Northwestern University’s School of Engineering would greatly appreciate your mentioning this content-laden Symposium to your colleagues.

Thanks!

The facts: Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

August 15-17, 2012

Northwestern University, School of Law

Thorne Auditorium

375 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago

www.techforconstruction.com

Again, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Randy Deutsch, via email randydeutsch@att.net

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The State of IPD and BIM: an Owner’s Perspective

Since owners benefit as much – if not more – than contractors and architects from use of the new digital technology tools and collaborative work processes now used on many building projects, why is it that we so seldom hear about building information modeling (BIM) and integrated project delivery (IPD) from the owner’s side?

To help rectify this situation, I decided to conduct an interview with Symphony Partners.

Clay Goser and Dawn Naney served as owners at BJC HealthCare prior to starting Symphony LLC and are extremely knowledgeable about how these new tools and processes serve the entire project team.

Saying you can do IPD without regard for a contract is a recipe for disaster: True or False?

Clay: False. It’s not about a contract -

Dawn: –  it’s about getting people to behave differently.

Clay: A contract is a tool that has two purposes – to set business terms and conditions and to allow the team  to have the critical conversations around expectations.  The reason IFOA agreements often work is that they are different enough that they introduce risk and firms want to know what that means for them.  The Integrated Form of Agreement (IFoA) begins to define how a group works as an organization.  What we don’t have most of the time is a conversation about what we’re going to do and how we are going to do it. The nature of IPD is getting people to come back together – collaborating to a greater extent. Collaboration is the behavior.

Dawn: The contract has a different purpose. The purpose of IPD is to identify and proactively manage risk and capitalize on opportunity within the delivery process.  The purpose of the contract is different. It asks: what are you going to do, how much are you going to get paid to do it and the process outputs required (i.e. status reports, schedules, RFI turn around times etc.) and does not address how are you are going to operate as a team and the procedures to implement the project.   Defining what you are going to build and HOW you are going to build it is critical to successful integration outside of the IFoA contract.  This is the behavior change.

What do you see as the current state of IPD?

Clay: IPD is firmly in Gartner’s Hype Cycle©  as we try to define what IPD will do for us. We will head for the Trough of  Disillusionment© -[ meaning when inflated expectations are not met, there will be a threat of abandonment. All new technologies and ideas go through this cycle.  Some survive, some don’t and that is dependent upon how long and how deep the trough lasts.   The risk we introduce is that as firms start to market IPD and implement without completely understanding why it works those waiting for IPD to become mainstream before introducing this new delivery method to their organizations, will abandon the concept as unpredictable and risky and start to question the value of integration.

Dawn: One challenge we’re having as an industry is distinguishing what is – and is not – an IPD project. We need to change the question.

Whether an IPD project is pure or IPD-ish is not the right question?

Dawn: Right.  There isn’t a standard checklist of “do this” that makes a team “IPD”.

Clay: Here’s an example: some teams feel that you have to  do BIM throughout the entire project to be IPD.   However, a team, for example, that adopts BIM to answer key critical questions that the team deems important to their success without creating waste – such as using BIM to define how the exterior structure ties into an existing structure that’s ‘pure’ IPD or integration at it’s best.   I have seen many design teams implement 100% BIM only to have the trade contractors turn around and dismiss the model because the model isn’t useful to fabricate from. True IPD would define how much BIM is needed from the design team to facilitate understanding and fabrication by the trades, stop there and let the person best equipped to carry it forward, carry it forward.   It’s based on the project, time and circumstance.

What do you see as the impact of the economy on IPD?

Dawn: When an owner goes for the lowest bid, they often just get what they pay for not what they need, which results in change.   We incent bad behavior when we, as Owners, award solely on lowest bid…i.e. we incent firms to hide the risk and submit change orders to course correct the scope instead of buying intelligent performance to avoid the risks and do it right the first time and eliminating the waste. Owners are under the impression that we’re in a buyer’s market, so they’re holding back from pursuing IPD. The market needs to look for better, smarter ways to be profitable and sustainable in a down economy and Owners needs to look for better, smarter ways to conserve precious capital.   Buying through low bid introduces risk to both parties.

Clay: As a percentage, all construction projects vs. IPD projects, the number of IPD projects is very small. There are a lot of conversations about how prevalent IPD is now. The industry is ramping up. Every IPD project is a petri dish from which we continue to learn. We’re at a very early adoption stage of IPD.

The economy is driving us to work and behave differently: smarter.

When people say “once the economy comes back we’ll consider change:” IPD won’t go gangbusters. When firms are busy they don’t have time to think about how to work better, more effectively: they are worried about how to get the work done.  People should be thinking about how to work more effectively NOW, so that they can differentiate themselves when the economy gains momentum.

What has been the impact of IPD case studies – those published by the AIA and University of  Minnesota? Is it your impression that owners are reading them?

Clay: Owners are interested in the IPD case studies, especially owners of robust and innovative organizations dedicated to continuous learning. Owners focused on keeping their head above water or adverse to risk aren’t as interested in the IPD case studies.

Owner-involvement in IPD is critical to a project’s success: Is owner-led IPD the only way to go?

Clay: Owners impact vendors – architects, engineers and contractors – by incentivizing and setting specifications, and not always in a good way. As for IPD, owners don’t always understand what IPD means.  Do Design-Bid-Build jobs go poorly? Yes. Do Design-Bid-Build jobs go well? Yes. What’s the difference? The team – how they cooperate, how they behave.

The question needs to be: How do we produce good collaboration and reproduce it?

Dawn: Owners must ask and seek out why IPD worked when it does work for them. Most of the time, it’s because the team wanted it to work well. The relationships were better and they problem solved in the best interest of the project, not themselves. Team formation is critical to successful integration.  Each new project is a melting-pot of different cultures melding together.    When you bring the right people to the table at the right time to best inform project decisions this integration occurs earlier in the process allowing for the critical forming, norming, storming and performing of the team to occur prior to construction when the cost of change escalates exponentially. IPD allows for time at the beginning for the team to create a team culture and define how they are going to work together.

Clay: When you show up early in the design process, IPD allows you to have a conversation about how you’re going to work vs. just show-up and perform.  Many firms are marketing IPD to Owners promoting the need for an IFoA agreement.  Many Owners don’t know what’s in the contract. What it involves or how it effects all of the team members as a group.

Architects, engineers and contractors say we have to do something different from Design-Bid-Build to remain profitable. Owners say: why don’t architects, engineers and contractors drive IPD?

Keep in mind, IPD after all, when it was first created, was used by the team without knowledge by the Owner!

Dawn:  Owners are asking: If IPD is so great, why haven’t you been doing it for 100 years?  Why do I need to incentivize you to “collaborate” by removing risk?

Owners are used to accepting the lowest bid. They have a hard time swallowing the IPD pill because it isn’t quantifiable or defendable to their Boards and Investors.

We need to educate Owners that IPD allows you to solve problems, avoiding risk and uncovering opportunities we didn’t know existed.   A lot of the time teams don’t know what the real problems are so they solve symptoms. What they need to do – and this comes from Lean – is identify the root problem and solve it.  We need to understand the cause and effect relationships of our behavior.

Clay:  An owner empowers an IPD team but doesn’t need to demand it.

Dawn: IPD is a smart way to work. If you don’t have the owner driving IPD, integrate anyway and reap the benefits as a best business practice.   It makes the team members more profitable, reduces risk and informs an improvement strategy that is sustainable and lucrative for future business. 

Can you do IPD without BIM?

Clay: You can’t divorce Lean from BIM from IPD. Lean is a not a methodology, but a philosophy.  BIM is a tool.   You don’t have to do BIM to be IPD. IPD is a means to an end. Lean is the end. BIM is a way to get there.   You can do IPD without BIM and have great results. BIM is a tool that helps facilitate communication – understanding what it is you are trying to achieve.

Likewise, you can use BIM without IPD but the benefits may be marginalized. BIM and IPD coupled together are stronger.

Rate obstacles in terms of most prevalent to least: owner involvement (thru ambivalence, skepticism, indifference); insurance issues; legal issues; blurring of roles; who owns the BIM; collaboration; need for education/processes; inflexible behavior; MEP/engineers; resistance to change.

Clay: The need for education and a consistent definition of what IPD really means, not how but what you are trying to accomplish is very important. 

Dawn: Most often, people want to jump into IPD and make it a revolution – not an evolution. Most owners don’t have the flexibility to change to IPD right away. IPD requires a change in process and considerable amount of change adoption.

People don’t resist change – they resist risk.  Remove the risk, remove the resistance.

Clay:  The collaborative nature of a nimble-thinking team approaches obstacles as problems to be solved.

Integration is the “leaning” of the entire delivery process wherever people and process touch each other.

We need to reframe “obstacles” as just “problems to be solved.”

Clay Goser has been responsible for projects in nine hospitals and over a half billion in medical construction in and around the metropolitan St Louis area. He left BJC Healthcare to start Symphony LLC, a company consulting in strategic improvement in portfolio, program and project management. Read more about Clay here.

Dawn Naney has over 15 years of experience establishing and managing teams responsible for the successful planning and execution of portfolios, programs and projects in a variety of fields including design/construction, information technology, clinical interventions and process improvement, primarily in the healthcare industry. Prior to serving as consultant at Symphony LLC, Dawn served as an owner in the area of Portfolio/Program/Project Management for the Center for Clinical Excellence. Read more about Dawn here.

Symphony LLC is a consulting firm providing collaborative leadership, education and management of capital portfolios, programs and projects primarily for the design and construction industry. Symphony balances tradition and innovation to lead high performance teams focused on delivering the best value for a fair price. Best value for capital expended is derived from improvements resulting in better quality and performance, reduced cost and competitive differentiation for owners and service providers. Learn more about Symphony LLC here.

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The Architect (2012)

Speaking of Hollywood, last night I had the opportunity to see Oscar contender, “The Architect,” a film whose story begins in the late-CAD era.

“The Architect,” whether you consider it a screwball comedy, a sentimental melodrama or a spoof, is a 2D black-and-white film that has received a great deal of praise from critics.

The story is a simple and familiar one

 The story focuses on a declining male starchitect and a rising starletchitect, as CAD grows out of fashion and is replaced by BIM.

A valentine to early computer-aided drafting and design, “The Architect,” stars leading man Jean Dujardin as a CAD-using starchitect named George Valentin.

At the top of his profession, Valentin meets eager would-be architect, Peppy Miller.

She dreams of success in architecture, invests time in learning BIM, and as her demand rises in the industry, Valentin’s shine is eradicated.

Architect Valentin faces untold obstacles: the fickleness of the public’s changing taste, the adoption of disruptive new technologies, waning powers that come with age, competition from fellow industry professionals and unemployment, among others.

Faced with the economic insecurity of the Great Recession and technological change that threatens to make him obsolete, George is being crushed in a vise grip all too familiar to mid-career architects.

Refusing to adapt to the onset of BIM, he puts all his money into one last CAD production.

And pays for it.

George has owners in the palm of his hand, at least until BIM arrives

It turns out George isn’t well-suited for BIM, not least because of his mindset and attitude, dependence on 2D CAD and archaic drafting style.

But BIM is perfectly suited to vivacious ingénue Peppy Miller, who crosses paths with George, first as a fangirl, then as an intern in the office of his firm.

In 2009, just after the economy crashes, George’s studio stops making CAD documents.

The studio head announces the end of production of 2D CAD documents, but Valentin insists that BIM is just a fad.

It’s fitting that the next time he meets Peppy, on Rapidograph Studio’s main stairway, she’s on her way up and he’s on his way down.

When the studio head lays-off all his 2D CAD starchitects, George decides to open his own office where he could work in CAD.

His project is submitted on the same day as Miller’s new BIM project, and Valentin is ruined.

His wife kicks him out and he moves into an apartment with his valet, while Miller goes on to become a major 3D star.

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

However reassuring excursions into bygone golden ages may be – whether drafting in pencil or CAD – they carry with them the potential for revisionism, soft-focus complacency and the refusal to embrace uncomfortable but necessary change.

This is why some critics are grumbling about “The Architect,” which has won a cache of critics’ awards and looks to be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar.

Whereas naysaying design professionals can appreciate the fond look back at the medium they adore with equal devotion, they inevitably see “The Architect” as an all too-comfortable 2D nostalgia trip that represents stasis rather than genuine innovation, provocation or artistic risk that working in 3D enables.

Those skeptics may be missing a modest but meaningful truth buried under “The Architect’s” surface and story, which is that George’s plight could easily be transposed into any modern-day profession or industry.

In one of “The Architect’s” most poignant scenes, George plays a character sinking in a cement pour, an aptly desperate metaphor at a time when so many architects feel they are in over their heads.

It’s a film that taps into our anxieties as we encounter seismic economic and technological transformations.

Having just witnessed his first BIM model, George says at one point:

“If that’s the future, you can have it!”

He could be speaking for an entire generation of architects who feel as if they’re in mortal danger of being left behind, forced into early retirement they can’t afford — literally or psychologically – or leaving the profession altogether.

At the risk of revealing a spoiler, it turns out all is not lost for George.

Disappointingly, it involves a work-around – when everyone recognizes the only way out is the way through.

“The Architect” may be drenched in the romance and visual values of CAD’s bygone era, but it’s a motion picture uncannily of its time.

(Apologies to critics of “The Artist,” which – like this post – is a shameless pastiche.)

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Q&A with Author of BIM and Integrated Design

A short interview has just been uploaded to my BIM book’s Amazon page and I’m reproducing it here for your convenience.

Responding to questions such as “Can you summarize your 270 page book in a sentence?” is a nerve-wracking but effective way to focus the mind – and to see if you can get at the heart of your massive undertaking in short order.

While short, I feel like this brief repartee captures the essence of what I was trying to achieve when first setting out to write BIM and Integrated Design.

Q: How would you summarize your book in a single sentence?

A: The focus throughout this book is on people and the strategies they use to manage and cope with the transition to the new digital technology and the collaborative work process it enables as they initially adopt and then take the technology and process to a higher plane.

Q: Why do we need a book like this now?

A: There’s a crisis not only in the economy but in the profession. Buildings are becoming more and more complex and the way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing. At the same time the construction world is going through enormous changes, so is our environment.

We’ll only be able to tackle today’s complex problems through collaboration, and that takes work and a prepared mindset. You have to be disciplined, can’t just show up and wing it. Your teams’ efforts have to be coordinated and integrated. I noticed that there is a gap in learning along these lines in the profession and industry and this book seeks to fill it.

Q: There are a number of books that cover the subject of BIM. How is this one different?

A: Most books on BIM cover the technology or business case while this one focuses on the process that enables the highest and best use of the technology. BIM and Integrated Design focuses on the people side of the change equation, addressing BIM as a social and firm culture process and does so in four distinctive ways:

  1. it addresses people problems, human issues, issues of communication and collaboration, firm-culture issues, issues of motivation and workflow related to working in BIM;
  2. it explores the most commonly encountered obstacles to successful collaboration, as well as the challenges this technology and process create for individuals and organizations in their labor toward a comprehensive, successful BIM adoption and implementation;
  3. it describes the social impacts and implications of working in BIM on individuals and firms, and how to overcome real and perceived barriers to its use; and
  4. it discusses challenges to BIM collaboration including interoperability, workflow, firm culture, education, technological challenges, working in teams, communication, trust, BIM etiquette, one model versus multiple models, cost, and issues concerning responsibility, insurance, and liability.

Q: What else led you to write this book?

A: There were two lingering questions that I had not been able to answer for myself and that I noticed many architectural firms were also asking: How can BIM advance the profession of architecture? And, how can collaboration assure the survival of the architect? As a result of my research for the book, I was able to uncover some surprising takeaways.

Q: What are a couple of these takeaways that readers would be surprised to find in your book?

A: I think many will be surprised to discover how the introduction of BIM into the workforce has significant HR implications – including education, recruitment, and training – and will welcome the book’s comprehensive review of the most effective ways to learn BIM, no matter where they fall on the learning continuum.

Additionally, readers get to hear arguments in favor of and against the return of the architect in the master builder role, as well as arguments for the virtual master builder and composite master builder or master builder team. Most of those interviewed for the book had a strong opinion on this subject and the result makes for some good reading.

Did you find this Q&A helpful? While I realize only by reading the book will I come to learn whether I achieved what I had set out to accomplish, let me know whether this post gives you a better understanding of what the book is about. Thanks!

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