Tag Archives: level of detail

My So-Called Parametric Life

This life has been a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have received instructions on where to go and what to do.                                                                                                         Angela in “My So-Called Life” 1994

Is it just me or has life gone totally parametric? Perhaps only a BIM evangelist, BIMhead or BIMaholic would propose BIM as a metaphor for life. (Guilty as charged.) So, what does it mean to live a parametric life?

It is not, of course, that you are a Revit model or are about to become one. While that is for some a distant possibility, your story – the one you are putting out there, not your life but your so-called life – has become a Revit model. Have you noticed?

Ask yourself this: At any time in your previous life (BB = Before BIM, AC = After CAD) did you ever dream in CAD? Those who used to work in CAD would recognize the scenario where you go home at the end of a long day at the monitor and dream in CAD – dreaming that you are living in a 2D drawing – in a CAD world.

Living a Parametric Life

I am not asking what it means to dream in BIM or what it means to have BIM dreams. To work so hard and for so long in BIM that we start dreaming in…3 dimensions? We already do that and have for millennia. Little more than wearing 3D glasses to bed.

But living in BIM? That’s something else altogether. Living in BIM is something that we’re only now getting around to doing. We find ourselves living in BIM

  • because in some ways we’re well ahead of the technology, processing information and anticipating next moves that leaves the software – however well-intentioned – in the dust.
  • because we recognize some of the amazing things the process accomplishes and we want to model the behavior in our own lives.
  • because we know in our bones that BIM is the future – we get it – and we want to be part and parcel of this future.

We’re told over and over that the software thinks just like us – architects, contractors, whoever. But most of us have discovered, some the hard way, that we have come, over time, to think like the software. Revit doesn’t think like us – we’re thinking like Revit. That’s living in BIM.

I offer these 14 Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM not as failsafe rules we need to follow – but to bring to our attention things we’re already doing right, right now, and ought to build on as we move forward. In other words, behavior – not buildings – that we ought to be modeling.

14 Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM

  • Be the interoperability you want to see. The old words don’t apply – learn the new vocabulary and make sure that everyone you speak with understands how you are using these terms. You want to be speaking the same language, make sure you are working on the same page. Until the time comes when models talk with each other, and software speaks fluidly with complete comprehension, take it upon yourself to make sure you are speaking the same language with those you work with, no matter their role on the team. How can we expect our software to be interoperable if we aren’t?
  • A change anywhere is a change everywhere. You get the concept: Work you do in one part impacts the others. Parametrics, of course, is a distinguishing quality of building information modeling (BIM.) As with bidirectional associativity, a change anywhere is a change everywhere. There’s no escaping it – a change made in one place – compartment, area, phase – of your life impacts all the other places of your life. So be careful about what you change – whether your work habits, the way you communicate or how you operate within the team. Whatever you change about yourself will have repercussions throughout. Being parametric implies you’re consistent, you stay on-story, and you’re building not just a model but a brand. No matter how they cut you, you’re the same through and through.
  • Your space-keeper and workaround is someone else’s obstruction. The choices and decisions we make must have integrity because they will be repeated everywhere. What’s worse, you will be judged by the integrity of your information. If you are awaiting information and need to plug something in just to keep the ball moving – notify the team – especially contractors who view missing data as roadblocks, no matter your good intentions or justification. And don’t make a habit of it. Your goal ought to be to see how long you can keep the plates spinning.
  • You can’t step into the same model twice. A model is more like a river than a thing. Your contribution to the building of the model has more to do with the communication of information than the rock-solid enclosure you consider your domain. We’re not designing objects or things (and never really were) – but flows, communicating information to others. The model you jump into and help out on today is not the same model you worked on yesterday – especially if you’re working on an integrated team. The more you can think in terms of systems and flows the better off you’ll be.
  • Run an internal clash detection of your team before starting on the project. Look for supportive personalities, learners, those who are passionate and excited to work, those who enjoy what they do and for whom working in BIM – and ideally on this particular project – was a choice. And weed out the devil’s advocates and other contrarians – unless the criticism is constructive, regularly leading to decisions and action, offering alternatives when one course is shot down.
  • Consistency is king. Aim for an inherent consistency to everything you do. Take LOD. Make sure your team knows what level of detail (LOD) you are modeling to. That each part of the model has the same level of detail. Think of detail in terms of levels – as in levels of detail – that are built upon. A conceptual model ought to have conceptual level of detail throughout the model. Same with a model used for energy analysis, for quantity take-offs and estimating, for fabrication. And so on. Like roughing out a sketch – you start with the basic shapes, then you fill in detail, until the image is fleshed out. So too with the consistency of the information you impart. If you are job hunting – don’t, under your “Reading on Amazon” widget – have the 4-Hour Work Week as your recommended book. It undermines your message. Use LinkedIn’s book section to reinforce your message or let others know what you’re reading – but stay on-message. That goes for your work both in the model and on your team. Don’t say one thing and do another. That’s so CAD.
  • What you see is what you get. Your model is only as good as the information that you put in it. Garbage in, garbage out. There’s no hiding anymore. So be real. There’s no faking it either– who we are and what we do are expected to be real, so be real. Hemingway had what he called a built-in bullshit detector. All the best writers have this. You need to develop or acquire this talent for yourself. And be aware that those working but upstream and downstream from you have their turned up on high.
  • Decisions are consequences. We’re no longer designing objects or things, but courses of action. Our decisions impact others – we need to be aware of the consequences for our courses of action on every facet of  the team and process. Look at every decision you make in terms of whom it impacts both upstream and downstream.
  • While you model the building, model your behavior. Think of each team and project you are on as an opportunity to put in an exemplary performance. You are serving as a role model for others whether you are aware of it or not. And as with raising kids, your behavior – the way you act and perform – is worth 10X the impact of your words.
  • Perform an expectation audit. How you see the model/what you do might be different from how others see it – ask them how they plan on using the model – then try as best you can to accommodate them. Ask the contractor early on how they plan on using the model, what level of detail they would like to see in the model, then try to accommodate them. If money is an issue, discuss being compensated or remunerated with the owner.
  • Play well with others even if your software doesn’t. Another way of saying get in the habit of behaving as though the software does what you want it to do – because the time will come, soon – when it will. You want to be ready for when the day arrives. Better the technology plays catch-up, not you.
  • Your model doesn’t limit itself to 3D. Why should you? Don’t limit yourself to 3 dimensions. What about a 4D you and a 5D you? If you are doing your job and even doing it well you might be selling yourself sort – by a dimension or two. Look for ways you can be contributing beyond your title and role. Because when you work on an integrated team, you are more – much more – than these labels. Yes, you need to perform and do the work that has been assigned to you, your teammates are relying on you for this. Your model isn’t limited to 3D – nor are you. What would the 4D version of yourself look like? But the true value of working collaboratively is the way you keep others – and their focus – in your peripheral vision – just of your own cone of focus. Look for ways to cut time – and save money – for others, and be prepared to make these suggestions before the subjects come up. Always keep an eye on the horizon – and the topic of the next team meeting.
  • Ask yourself: If I was the model what else would I do? What else can I provide that others may need? Your original intention for your model may have been to use the model for one thing – but what if you also used it for a rendering? For an animation? As a database to run energy applications? Similarly – ask yourself: what else can you do or provide that others may need? How else can you push the envelope on yourself in terms of what you can add in the way of value at this time, for these team members, on this project?
  • Are you leveraging the technology of your team? Look around you – at those seated at the table. Do they have certain skillsets, experience or resources that you could leverage to help you to meet and even surpass your goals? You leverage the deep capability of the software and virtual model – why not leverage these same attributes and qualities in those you count on every day to come through for you?

Your turn: Can you think of Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM that are missing here, that you might add or rules you see that clash with this model?

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