(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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1 Comment

Filed under BIM, collaboration, IPD

One response to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) BIM, LEED and Collaboration

  1. Randy,

    Excellent post. As usual. There’s an old saying that relates to your quote about mindset.

    “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, some people build windmills.”

    Chris

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