Monthly Archives: March 2010

T-Shaped BIM

Every now and then a simple, seemingly obvious concept comes around that transforms an entire industry. This post will introduce such a concept: the T-shaped BIM teammate.

Here, we are of course not talking about forming a T-shaped connection of walls in Revit. If you came here wanting to learn how to intersect walls in BIM, you’re a fool. Go here.

The rest of you, stick around. You might learn something important.

And, as in past posts, it is not actually BIM that is T-shaped – it is you. Or Tu – French and familiar for you.

Some people are put-off by the word collaboration – and for that reason I am going to refrain from using it again in this post.

For them – the word – implies compromise, time-wasting, money-wasting, talent-wasting, and perhaps worst of all, people- and process-oriented as opposed to product- or building-oriented interactions.

To them, people are impediments to progress, not the lubricant that makes things flow. Perpetually in search of workarounds –they work around people whom they believe keep them from completing their work. You know the type.

The social case for BIM and Integrated Design

Integrated Design came into being for one reason and one reason alone: to achieve greater results for the owner and other project stakeholders. Including you.

There’s a compelling business case for working in integrated design: it enables the efficient and effective use of tools such as BIM and related technologies.

There’s a compelling technology case for working in integrated design: it potentially makes more efficient shared use of the software and work processes.

And there’s a compelling people case for working in integrated design: by colla- – by working with others, working together, cooperating traitorously or treasonously, sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus  – you and your team both can attain greater results.

Admittedly, not every project lends itself to the advantages of working co- co- co- together. For example, due to project size, schedule or client demands.

There’s another way to look at – working jointly – that may appeal to you more and potentially change the way you work from here on out.

The “|” in DIY

I used to work with someone who did it all himself. If there was a new program a project had to be accomplished in he’d learn it himself and do the work himself – even when he had several talented and eager others at his disposal. That way he knew the work was going to get done right. In a previous post I labeled this type of colleague’s approach DIY. I wrote about this concept – DIY vs. SxS – a while back here and will be speaking about it in a couple weeks at Christopher Parsons’s KA Connect 2010 here and here.

When he worked with others he thought he was delegating by handing-off tasks he didn’t want to do, but what he was doing was abdicating his role.

He was an “I” and as we know, there is no “I” in BIM

And as has been noted, no “I” in IPD either.

The T in archiTecT is more important, noteworthy, prominent and if you will, architectural, than the “I” in archItect or arch|tect which is divisive, isolating and dissenting.

“I” is a barrier – a barrier to co- co- co- cooperation – and as with the compelling and popular blog title Arch | Tech can imply a barrier between design and technology – or even design and construction – instead of stitching them together.

But the “|” doesn’t have to be an obstruction or impediment.

“|” can also be a net – as when Robert Frost famously opined that writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net.

Which is how I interpret the “|” in Arch | Tech, as a net between design and technology, lobbying the BIM back and forth.

As well, for that matter, as the “|” in BIM – volleying the model back and forth between design and construction, weaving a single unified model for use by all. 

But | digress.

The ideal T-shaped BIM teammate

Right now you’re happy to find an engineer or consultant that works in BIM. Period. No matter their shape – or what shape their in.

But in time, as BIM becomes ubimquitous, you will start to add another level of criteria as you put teams together.

You will start to require that all your Team members be T-shaped and you will want to Team with other T-shaped professionals.

And because They will want to Team with T-shaped Teammates, you will Take it upon yourself to become T-shaped yourself.

The ideal candidate/colleague/teammate working in BIM and Integrated Design has both of these qualities

  • Deep skills
  • Broad reach

The vertical “I” or “|” represents what you do well – your depth.

The horizontal bar across the top is your reach – reaching out to assist others.

And as importantly being assisted by them.

Place the bar atop the “I” and you get the T-shaped BIM Teammate.

By becoming T-shaped you are putting on two performances:

  • 1. results in your own position (the “I” or vertical stanchion) and
  • 2. results by co- co- conjugating with others on your team (the horizontal bar resting atop the “T”)

T-shaped BIM Teammates do two things really well. They

  • reciprocate in that they are willing to share information and ask for information when needed
  • are rewarded for their own performance as well as for contributing to others on the team

Read more about this important concept here and here.

What causes a person with deep skills but little wingspan to suddenly reach out to share information with her teammates? Namely this: empathy

Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, alludes to the role empathy plays in the T-shaped person

We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T — they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That’s what you’re after at this point — patterns that yield ideas.

You can read more about what Tim has to say On Being T-shaped here and read an incisive interview with Tim where he discusses being Mr. T here

Still not convinced – or for that matter – entertained? Then take this and call me in the morning.

It should be apparent by now that the T-bone concept may be new to BIM – but not to the world of IT and computing. The first citation to T-shaped people goes back almost 20 years to David Guest, “The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing,” The Independent (London), September 17, 1991. Read it here.

Soon, our Integrated Design teams will be made up exclusively with T-shaped individuals.

Made up, that is, of archiTecTs, conTracTors, consultanTs and clienTs with both deep skills and wide reach.

In time, our teams will begin to resemble something of a T-shaped chorus line

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

which, perchance, resembles a bridge or aqueduct

                  TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

an apt image and timeless symbol for carrying the client’s goals toward exceptional results.

Simply sea-changing.

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Confessions of a NYC-RUG rat

Meetings – like building projects – that start well usually end well.

Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on the New York City – Revit Users Group meeting. And boy am I glad that I did.

You might recall a couple months ago we featured Chicago’s BIM-IPD Group here in these pages in The Sweet Necessity of a BIM-IPD Group Meeting. The NYC group meeting doesn’t leave you with the warm and fuzzy feeling of its Chicago cohort and counterpart. Chicago – and most of the Midwest – is still playing catch-up so has all the charm and appeal of an underdog, like the Cubs.

The impression with the NYC group is that they have been there and done that – all business, all the time. Once it started, the meeting ran like a machine – a finely-tuned, well-designed and very-expensive machine. But first there was some housekeeping to tend to…

6PM sharp: The evening’s host, James Vandezande, welcomes everyone and then just as suddenly signs-off for 15 minutes of networking. “Those online can enjoy the slide show”

So the first 15-20 minutes of the meeting was occupied by networking –– which in-person is a great use of such a gathering, but for those of us on muted standby, a bit awkward. I attended the March 2010 Meeting – NYC-RUG is a Meet-Up group – via the miracle of the GoToMeeting webinar. Try as I might to make small talk in the tiny GoToWebinar dialog box, mingling with my muted colleagues, I took my seat and waited for the show to begin.

6:13PM: James tells us to stay tuned for another 5-10 New York minutes.

Just like New York itself, the meeting with its take-no-prisoners approach promised content that would give the participant a leg-up on others in the industry. If you want to know what is happening right now in the world of BIM and Revit, with a whiff of what’s happening next – this is the place to be.

6:17PM: They start the background slide show – just like at the movie theaters before the coming attractions and featured film – only for construction industry computer geeks. Promotional images of local architect’s BIM renderings and trivia questions flash forth.

Q: What was the first release of Revit for Autodesk? (4.5)

Overseeing the festivities is James Vandezande – known to some as James Van – AIA President of NYC-RUG, prolific blogger at All Things BIM at http://allthingsbim.blogspot.com/ where he has recently featured the London RUG.

6:22PM: Weird subterranean webinar sounds emanate from my laptop. Someone doesn’t realize that they have their microphone on.

Q: Revit Structural can render which of the following materials? Wood, Steel, Concrete or All of the Above? (All)

James Vandezande, along with industry leaders Phil Read and Eddy Krygiel, is also one of BIM’s three musketeers at the Architecture | Technology blog Arch | Tech where the team approach to blogging is perfectly in sync with the collaborative work processes of the blog’s content matter, if not with the times.

Q: John Travolta starred in which feature film… (OK, not actually)

For those already familiar with this firepower blog, make note: along with the creation of a new domain address architecture-tech.com, they have a new email address for tips, suggestions and commentary on their upcoming and highly anticipated book. Imagine Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio collaborating on a book about mastering baseball. Mastering Revit Architecture 2011 will be out in August. It’s a must-have.

A senior associate at HOK (as was David Ivy in the previous Chicago’s BIM-IPD Group post) James Vandezande was the NYC-RUG’s first presenter at the 1st meeting 2 years ago and a very good person  in the industry to know and follow http://twitter.com/jvandezande. Last night’s meeting took place at the Pratt Manhattan Campus, 144 W 14th St Room 213 – check here for future locations. You might start to get the impression that HOK has a monopoly on these groups. That’s your prerogative. HOK is an industry leader in many ways – making early and exceptional use of Web 2.0 among many other categories – but this is surely a matter of timing or coincidence.

6:25PM: The meeting is about to begin – please take your seats. There’s a full house – standing room only – which speaks to the popularity of this group and the importance of the topic presented tonight. Those attending on webinar are made to feel welcome.

As organized as an executive board meeting, the NYC-RUG meeting started with an agenda

6:00-6:15PM               Networking

6:15-6:30PM               Welcome and Announcements

6:30-8PM                    Presentations

8:00-8:30PM             Q/A and Comments

This particular meeting is a joint event with the NYC metro BIM group, headed-up by Hosney Abdelgelil, NYC BIM lead organizer and co-founder. Hosney explained that BIMPlex is a regional institution which in its completed format is a collaboration forum for academia, industry and the legislature, with a mission to find the best means to guarantee lowest overall cost, optimum sustainability, energy conservation and environmental stewardship through Building Information Modeling Technology. You can learn more about it here.

Before getting to the meat of this blog post – and meeting – we have some housekeeping to tend to.

Those attending received a digital copy of the just-released BIM Deployment Plan: A Practical Framework for Implementing BIM.

Ideas for future meetings can be suggested, discussed and voted upon at the NYC-RUG Meet-Up site.

Which brings us to next month’s do-not-miss meeting: Beginner’s Guide to Revit presented by Revit specialist, Trainer and BIM Architectural Consultant and NYC-RUG member Michael Horta.

Next up is a slide that tells the group who they are and why they are meeting in the first place. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. These guys are good.

The slide says that we are a group of professionals from the construction industry, academia, design and the media. NYC-RUG is a buildingSMART alliance (bS a) interest group, which itself is part of the National Institute of Building Sciences NIBS which has over 5000 members of its own. The group – comprising 550 members and counting – was formed about 2 years ago to meet and network with industry professionals. To see if there is a group that meets in your neck of the woods, the list of 15 current buildingSMART alliance’s Interest Groups can be found here with more on the way.

6:42PM: The presentations are about to begin.

Chuck Mies, Autodesk – BIM Solutions Executive presented BIM and the Application to Lifecycle Management.

Richard Thomas and Aaron Phillips, both of SHP Leading Design, presented BIM Design and Construction Requirements on their experience working with Indiana University, an early BIM owner adopter.

How good were the presentations? Suffice it to say I took 12 pages of notes and the latest bid for a copy is $615 on eBay. The presentations were top-notch, fact-filled, far-reaching, future-oriented, fast and best of all, free. The quality and content was AU level. Here’s my confession: I can honestly say I am a positively changed industry professional for having participated in NYC-RUG. What possibly more can you ask from a meeting?

The recording of the meeting will be posted soon here. Watch the NYC-RUG Meetup Message board for an update as well as for members to submit an idea for an upcoming meeting with the Ideas tab in Meetup.com. Here’s something nifty: If you want to know how to create a GoToMeeting/Webinar recording and how to convert it at a later date you can do so here.

8:07PM: A lively Q/A and closing comments.

It’s timely that next month’s meeting is the Beginner’s Guide to Revit because attending a NYC-RUG meeting is a lot like learning to use Revit. You have to put in some time upfront – some housekeeping to tend to. But once it starts moving the pay-off comes in droves.

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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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BIM’s Evolving Double Standard of Care

Holly Hunter: You totally crossed the line with that piece….

William Hurt: It’s hard not to cross the line when they keep moving the little sucker, don’t they!?

Broadcast News, 1987

Here’s a conversation I overheard the other day between a guy and girl on the inbound platform while awaiting a train, late due to mechanical malfunction.

SHE: Well, I have higher standards of care that you’re expected to follow.

HE: Define your terms.

SHE: Simply put, what I expect of you. What others expect of you based on your supposed intentions.

HE: I don’t get it.

SHE: It’s the degree of care required of guys like you who are recognized by others as being serious about their intentions and purpose. It’s the degree of caution that a reasonable guy would exercise in a similar situation so as to avoid screwing up.

HE: So why do you call it a double standard of care?

SHE: Because you want to boast of your capabilities but not to the point where you actually take responsibility for what you produce in terms of its ultimate result. You guys are all alike – you want to have it both ways. That’s your double standard of care.

HE: Why do you think we act this way? Because we can’t commit, right?

SHE: You guys claim you’re not benefitting any more to do what’s required to meet our higher expectations.

HE: So why do you say it’s evolving?

SHE: Evolving, moving. Whatever.

HE: Moving? Where’s it moving?

SHE: Where it’s headed – we’re only just now starting to get hints of. That it is moving is a foregone conclusion. We used to let you guys get away with having your cake and eating it too. What’s that line you used to use – Why buy the cow when you can milk it? Well, no more, bucko. Now – if you want to dance – you have to come to the wedding. (Train pulls in.)

This got me thinking about a talk design professionals need to have with their contractors and with their clients.

What’s in it for me?

Architects are by nature – or choice – risk averse. They operate in pencils, not bricks. Owners and Contractors don’t much like risk either and make it their goal by day’s end to make sure risk is doled out, wherever possible, evenly amongst others.

Most by now recognize that there are benefits and there are benefits. While the technological, business and social/cultural benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM) are legion – and most of these benefits are seen by Owners and Contractors – design professionals are also seeing their fair share.

Some benefits are well-known by now:

  • Design visualization, analyze and visualize project digitally before it is constructed
  • Increased coordination with clash detection, resulting in fewer RFIs and change orders
  • By starting earlier in the process, everyone at the table day one, design input occurs earlier in process
  • Improved cost control
  • More integrated buildings

Other benefits are perhaps less top-of-mind because they’re the result of social impacts brought about by BIM and the collaborative work-process enabled by it. In my forthcoming book, BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011,) I call these co-benefits because they are indirect social results of the more familiar technical and business benefits. To name but a few:

  • Recent graduates work alongside experienced designers and train them, resulting in emerging professionals just starting out learning how buildings come together earlier in career
  • These emerging professionals as BIM operators are the canaries in the coal mine, learning of clashes, conflicts and unintended design results before anyone else
  • The mutual training and informing between the two results in mentoring up and down

Other related benefits include

  • Increased productivity, cut man-hours and manpower by reducing team size
  • Takes less time overall, resulting in more time to design and compressed construction
  • More assured decisions provide basis for more accurate fabrication

BIM’s most important benefit

One major benefit to design professionals – acknowledged and recognized but not often mentioned by design professionals – is that by working in BIM, design professionals are able to stay in the game.

By working in BIM design professionals are able to stay design professionals and not, say, consultants to contractors.

So they work in BIM. Design professionals, to garner new business, are promoting their BIM experience and expertise. As well they should. And yet this is where the double standard comes in.

BIM and its own evolving double standard

Where the standard of care (SOC) is moving will be determined in large part to precedents that are set in court. Case in point: Laura Handler’s excellent reporting earlier this year in her BIMx blog on the first batch of BIM Claims presented at a recent BIMforum session. We now know the general direction that the SOC is moving – toward greater expectations on the part of the architect.

BIMSOC –Building Information Modeling Standard of Care

vs.

BIM2SOC – Building Information Modeling Double Standard of Care.

Design professionals, take heed. Along with the boasting of BIM capability as a competitive differentiator come the double entendre of BIM responsibility.

Because with the responsibility come some other things design professionals don’t want: exposure, added risk and liability.

But also this: their having to come up with the value proposition – and subsequent conversation with their clients concerning the additional work required – to build virtual models to this new standard.

A crucial conversation

So here’s the crux. BIM’s Double Standard of Care isn’t so much a legal, liability or even responsibility issue as one of communication. Design professionals need to have a conversation with their clients about getting remediated

  • to hire the staff capable of meeting this higher standard,
  • to properly train to meet this higher standard, and
  • to produce virtual models to this higher standard.

As implied in the reporting on BIM Claims presented at BIMforum, had the designers been adequately compensated they would have attempted to meet the higher standard.

Because the designers balked – when the contractor requested that they verify their work – due to not being compensated to do so, it apparently became a question of motivation.

In the past, conversations of this sort went something like this:

Design professional tells owner that the contractor expects a higher level of detail in the model than the architect is used to providing. The owner says they always expected that level of detail, thought that that was what they were getting in the past and if they weren’t getting it, why not?

Checkmate.

In the future, if design professionals are to survive, this crucial conversation must start with the contractor – early on in the process – about their expectations and needs for the virtual model.

For the crucial conversation with the owner to have a different result, the design professional has two choices: They can have this conversation on their own (see checkmate above) or moderated, in the venue of marriage counseling – with the attendant referee and rule book.

In other words, in the Integrated Design process.

This is why Integrated Design is so important: because it creates a structure whereby these conversations will happen, when they ought to happen – early and often – where everybody is in the same room at the same time from an early date hammering out these issues.

Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is my gift, my curse.

BIM is the marriage of conceptualization with construction. The stitching together of creating and constructing Joshua Prince-Ramus alluded to a previous post.

BIM requires one to be more – and think more – like an architect and a contractor.

No more Architects are from Venus and Contractors are from Mars.

No more You Just Don’t Understand with architects wanting one thing and contractors another.

No more misunderstandings between the players arising because architects like to connect emotionally through design while contractors prefer to impart construction knowledge. Like the sexes, contractors and architects are essentially products of different cultures, possessing different – but equally valid – communication styles.

Design professionals and contractors essentially want the same thing. It’s how they get to these results – and the roles that they play, not the amount of responsibility each is willing to cover– that differ. Neither want to be ultimately responsible and so, in lieu of passing the responsibility – and along with it the liability – around, they agree to share it, mutually.

BIM is the great equalizer and Integrated Design the safe haven where working together collaboratively – if it is ever going to happen – is most likely to happen.

Integrated Design’s the right place for this marriage. I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

BIM. This is our gift, our curse. Let’s own it.

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

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) BIM, LEED and Collaboration

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello 

In much of the Northern hemisphere Spring will be soon upon us. Along with it comes the tendency to let go of our self-defining and self-improving resolutions (those not already long abandoned) and tend to our less bookish, self-incriminating pursuits as we head for the great outdoors.

I’m glad I caught you before you head outside for this post is a last-ditch effort to get you to prepare your bed for spring.

Metaphor alert

This is a blog post, not a PhD dissertation – we’re allowed to give it away. In fact, you can be too subtle in a blog.

For those immune to metaphor, I’d like you to take a moment to consider embracing the future. Your future. Our future. In this equation:

Winter = Our Now

Spring = Our Future

Because our future is almost here…Are you ready?

I didn’t think so.

That’s OK. There are some easy things you can do right now to help yourself along the (r)evolutionary path.

All levels – individuals, design professionals, firms, organizations, profession and industry – serve to gain from the widespread use of BIM and Integrated Design process enabled by it. But there is one tier that benefits the most from the advent of these processes.

It’s not the owner and it’s not the contractor. And it’s not even the architect, engineers or consultants.

Who is it?

In an interview for my book, BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011) a lecturer, architect and technologist had this to say about the best place to start:

If you don’t start at the bottom tier, which is that person sitting behind a machine, trying to work through a problem – if the benefits don’t accrue very directly at that level; the rest of the stuff is just theory. The direction to move has to be a top-down thing. The agreement about philosophical alignment has to happen at the supply chain level, or even at the firm level. But the benefits – the day to day working benefits – have to start on the desktop and flow up.

That’s you.

It is up to you.

It all starts with you.

It all begins with you.

Not with the other guy.

Not with someone telling you, you got to do it

(including me.)

Not waiting for the other guy to do it first.

Not waiting for your boss to tell you, you have to do it.

Not your shrink or your executive coach or management consultant.

It’s you.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet 

Our Last Weeks of Winter

Spring is our awakening – or epiphany – our realization that, to survive

  • we need to work collaboratively
  • we need to share tools such as BIM
  • we need to work more efficiently and leaner
  • we need to work more sustainably as in LEED

Let’s queue the sun.

But first, let’s take advantage of these last weeks of bitter cold and snow to address some inside work.

Before the outdoor work that lies in store.

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do – or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.  Stanley Crawford 

There are a few places in the country where it is already too late to start any BIM initiatives, delve into IPD case studies or study for the LEED exam – where Spring has already arrived. That’s too  bad.

Now is the winter of our discontent. Shakespeare 

Where I live, just north of Chicago, it might as well be December but for the sun that has been coming out more frequently and sticking around longer – reminders that the time is ripe for studying, researching, reading, training, learning, inquiring, considering, contemplating, scrutinizing, musing, mulling over, meditating and speculating. These are all winter words. Who’s going to hit the books in April?

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

A Contractor’s State of Mind

There is a visceral fear amongst architects that contractors are taking over.

With the newly graduated lining up at contractors’ doors, with lively construction-related online forum discussions, contractors have embraced change and are reaping the rewards.

Architects – in these very same online forums – in comparison sound hurt, tired, fearful, victimized, at the end of their rope.

Architects worry that they will become no more professionals in their own right than consultants to contractors, the small-d design in design BUILD.

This is ironic, given that contractors are in a similar situation – in fact, as some would have it, worse – in that they are anywhere from 9-12 months behind architects in terms of when their work (constructing buildings and projects that architects plan  and design) returns.

So why don’t things sound dire for contractors?

Resources? Absolutely – contractors have depth.

Numbers? They have ‘em in droves.

But you know it’s something else.

Mindset.

And testosterone. From all those steak lunches at Carmichael’s.

Mindset…and gumption.

Changing Seasons/Seasons of Change

Architects need to change

  • contractors and others are eating their (steak) lunch
  • design-build appears to be the delivery method of the future
  • the old way of doing things doesn’t work any longer

Architects don’t want to change

  • uncomfortable, like to do what’s familiar
  • feel that working faster, leaner will lessen quality
  • believe  that design will get the short shrift/scant attention

Architects have to change anyway

  • Learn and master working in a BIM environment
  • Work collaboratively and openly with all in IPD
  • Be stewards for the built and natural environment

How is this change going to come about?

  • Survival instinct
  • Survival skills
  • Ingenuity/creativity that comes naturally to the architect

Start now – today.

How? A few suggestions – a few resources – to get you started.

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus

Don’t just do something, sit there

It is about taking your career into your hands

Recognizing the things you don’t have control over – building cycles for one.

Focusing on the things you can do something about: get your LEED accreditation.

Not ready to start studying for the LEED exam? Start by reading an inspiring book on sustainability – just to get yourself motivated. As Architecture Record editor Robert Ivy featured in this month’s letter from the editor as well as relayed on Twitter the other week:

Reading David Owens’s book entitled Green Metropolis. Essential reading for anyone thinking about, or designing for, the urban condition. 

Start by teaching yourself Revit, download for free from Autodesk’s assistance program – Navisworks, Ecotect – yours for the asking. Get Paul Aubin’s latest book on Revit. Not a Revit fan? Invest in the scaled-down and MUCH cheaper ArchiCAD START edition 2009 available for ‘Entry Level’ BIM (suggested retail price under $2,000.)

Read – really study – the IPD Case Studies. Learn the process.

What’s to fear about collaboration?

I have always believed that every project I have worked on over the past +25 years has been improved by the input of others.

In recent years Pritzker prizes have been awarded to solo architects Glenn Murcutt and Peter Zumthor – two architects that have primarily devoted themselves to smaller projects working alone  – perhaps sending the wrong message about lone designers with the attendant need to control every detail at a time when we ought to be supporting collaboration.

Scott Berkun touched on  this topic in his breathtakingly good The Myths of Innovation. In the section entitled The Myth of the Lone Inventor:

“Everyone knows that Neil Armstrong was the first person on the moon. But how many people helped him get there?” Berkun goes on to list the crew, mission-control staff on the ground, people who made the complicated parts needed to construct Apollo 11, managers, designers, planners. Berkun continues:

“The numbers add up fast. More than 500,000 people worked on the NASA effort to put a man on the moon. For Armstrong to succeed required contributions from an entire metropolis worth of people.”

Architects are right to be concerned – about loss of relevance, about not being invited to the dance.

But one thing they need not fear – on the contrary ought to drop what they’re doing right now and embrace with both arms open wide – is collaboration.

Collaborating is the way things will get accomplished from here on out.

Tools to get you started

This is your last chance to catch-up on some marvelous sources on the subject of collaboration.

Collaboration Presentations and articles

Learn about how to select the right tools for internal and external collaboration – watch this presentation.

See Collaborating with Contractors for Innovative Architecture to better be able to evaluate the pros and cons of collaborating, including insurance and legal issues.

Become familiar with the myriad types of collaborative project delivery – including integrated project delivery – the most collaborative of all.

Collaboration Books

The Culture of Collaboration by Evan Rosen showing how collaboration creates value in business. Rosen consolidates the latest ideas on collaboration and brought them together into an informative, well-illustrated, easy to read and practical book. Aimed at anyone interested in fostering collaboration in their workplace.

How to Make Collaboration Work by David Straus offers five principles of collaboration (Involve the Relevant Stakeholders, Build Consensus Phase by Phase, Design a Process Map, Designate a Process Facilitator, and Harness the Power of Group Memory) that have been tested and refined in organizations everywhere, addressing the specific challenges people face when trying to work collaboratively. Each can be applied to any problem-solving scenario.

Collaboration How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen With approx. 37,000 books on the topic of Collaboration sold on Amazon.com this one is considered by some to be “the” book on the topic. Hansen bases his analysis in an economic analysis of when collaboration creates value that includes not only a project’s benefits but also the costs of collaboration and the cost of foregoing alternatives. Hansen is realistic about collaboration’s limits and attests that over-collaborating id a potential hazard: “Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration.” Great book – a must-read. And as books go – a beautiful book to behold.

Not convinced? “This book represents the culmination of fifteen years of some of the best research on the topic of effective collaboration. It does not matter whether you lead a business, conduct an orchestra, guide a school, operate a hospital, command a brigade, run for public office, direct a government agency, coach a sports team–every complex enterprise requires collaboration.” –Jim Collins, Author, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer is completely different from the previous books. A practical, inspiring book about how innovation always emerges from a series of sparks—not a single flash of insight. Based on his experiences with jazz ensembles and improv comedy. For Sawyer, creativity is always collaborative–even when you’re alone.

And finally, The Collaborative Habit by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Life Lessons for Working Together. It’s a light book, airy, with as much white space as words – you could read it in an hour. But the stories are potent, the lessons memorable. You really get the sense here that she has lived every word of this book. These are hard-won, and heart-worn, lessons that will live on with you long after you put the book down. I recommend it.

So where is “the harmony, the sweet, sweet harmony?” Ask Elvis Costello – who collaborated to great effect with Twyla Tharp on a piece called Nightspot. You see, the harmony – it starts with you.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, IPD