Monthly Archives: May 2010

He’s just not that into you…or BIM

Today I’m going to introduce you to a new acronym.

That’s right. One more.

Just this last one, then we’re through. Done. Kaput. I promise.

You ready? Good.

JAT

There, that wasn’t so bad. Right?

It’s short for

Just a Tool

As in…

Well, you know.

The oft heard sentiment that

“BIM is just a tool”

Here, it’s the word “just” – not “tool” – that triggers my outrage.

And this rant.

So, fasten your seatbelts.

Not “just.”

BIM is not “just” anything.

This blog’s brand is more horse feathers than high horse, more horse sense than nonsense – so accept what I’m about to say as an exception to the rule.

My anger – and incredulousness (yes, it’s a word) – in online discussions and interviews.

The nonchalance of those who declare that

“That’s not a BIM problem.”

As in

“I have a hospital to design in a seismic zone and I have no time to do it. That’s not a BIM problem.”

 Or

“That’s not an issue brought about by BIM.”

That BIM is “just a tool” – like it’s just a can opener or a pair of pliers or a hammer.

If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

–          Abraham Maslow

“If we didn’t have it – we’d use something else.”

As in

“No Revit? No problem. I’ll use a stapler.”

At least until BIM becomes a staple in the industry.

These dismissives come from those who are immersed in the technology

Like fish who, it is said, cannot discover water – or like Madge in the 70’s Palmolive ads

You’re soaking in it

They swat away the insinuation that what they are using or doing is anything more than a revved-up 2H pencil with an off-handed dismissive sweep of the hand like they were swatting flies.

But a tool?!

The way that the iPhone is just a tool.

Or the GPS is just a tool.

Or the human brain…

Only that BIM is ALL of these in one.

And the add-ons are BIM’s apps.

App-like tools available for every part of the BIM process.

BIM is not a tool, authoring, analyzing or otherwise.

Apps are tools, I’ll concede you that.

BIM is…

BIM is a process

BIM is our saving grace

BIM is our ticket to ride

BIM is our pass out of here

BIM is our card that says pass GO

BIM is our last golden ticket

BIM is our salvation

BIM is the innards of an intricate clock

BIM is the white horse you rode in on

BIM is the deus ex machina – that arrives at the end of the play to save everything

BIM, the enabler

BIM, the balm

BIM makes IPD possible

And also likely, relevant, necessary and inevitable.

BIM is more than what’s happening on your desktop.

No one would say

BIM is just a process.

BIM is just a strategy.

BIM is not just a technology: software is.

BIM is a disruptive technology. And…

BIM requires that you just focus less on Revit, ArchiCAD and their add-ons and more on process and strategy

BIM is a product

BIM is an IT-enabled, open standards based deliverable and collaborative process

BIM is a facility life-cycle management requirement

BIM is a fundamentally different way of creating, using, and sharing building lifecycle data

BIM is just evolving and will continue to as the capabilities of user and technology improve

BIM can serve as a reliable basis for decision making

BIM is a rebirth of excitement and hope. (T/Y Alberto Palomino, master of the poetry and metaphysics of BIM)

No one asks “Can peanut butter exist without jelly?”

Yes, BIM can exist without IPD as IPD can work without BIM

Just as peanut butter can exist without jelly.

But

WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE WANT TO DO THAT?!

And yes,

BIM is a pretty amazing, evolved, in-process of developing, still in-progress

Tool.

But a pretty amazing one at that. And…

Get on your high horses, people – the Age of Aquarius for design professionals is upon us.

Just as HAL – the fictional computer in Space Odyssey – plus one letter in the alphabet is IBM (H<I, A<B, L<M) so too CAD minus one letter is BIM*

*Except for the last two letters. Shucks.

Definitions of Just BIM

No one would ever say

BIM? It’s just a computable representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility.

or

BIM is just information use, reuse, and exchange just with integrated 3D-2D model-based technology. No big deal.

or

BIM is just a single repository including both graphical and non-graphical documents – that’s all.

or even

BIM is just a building design and documentation methodology characterized by the creation and use of coordinated, internally consistent computable information about a building project in design and construction. Nothing more, really.

Why qualify it?

So fuggedaboutit.

There’s no need for the acronym JAT.

BIM isn’t “just” any thing.

So stop saying it.

BIM just is.

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Filed under BIM, defining BIM, process, workflow

27 Reasons to read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 now, before it comes out

What are you doing on August 2, 2010?

That’s the day* Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 – or MARA2011 for short – written by the authorial triumvirate of Eddy Krygiel, Phil Read and the inestimable James Vandezande comes out.

I may not know where I’ll be on August 2nd – but I can tell you this.

On August 1st I’ll be waiting in line at the Winnetka Book Coop awaiting the 12 midnight book release.

Winnetka – with its trophy kids and designer dogs – hasn’t seen anything like this since the last Harry Potter book launch.

There’s been not a little online and offline buzz about the meaning and significance of the launch date.

August 2, 2010 is a Monday. Except in leap years, no other month starts on the same day of the week as August. That’s significant.

Also, the book is being released while the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is being held. That’s too bad for the bikers but gives everyone else an edge.

No Book, No Review, No Business

But if the book hasn’t been released yet – how can I reliably review the book without having read it?

The same way that the book’s authors are giving book signings without the book.

For more on this see Book signing – without the book!

It is apparently possible to not only sign books that haven’t  been published but also to talk about books you haven’t read – a practice encouraged in places of higher learning and France.

The French masterpiece How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read is considered a work of inspired nonsense that answers the question:

What are we supposed to do in these awkward months before books are released in which we’re inclined to talk about a book we haven’t read?

In other words:

How to talk about How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read if you haven’t in fact read it?

You want to know how I am able to share with you the contents of Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 before its publication date?

It’s one helluva story. Here goes.

You may or may not recall that an entire truckload of copies of the new Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 book, both weighing and costing an estimated one million pounds, had been stolen just months before the eagerly awaited BIM book was due to appear in bookstores.

The good news is that all of the yet-to-be-sold books have been recovered unscathed – with the sole exception of one copy that had not been accounted for until it became apparent that the “invaluable” (attorneys) prototype was left in a Silicon Valley bar by a disgruntled, as yet unidentified 2D CAD manager and later purchased for an undisclosed sum ($37.78) by Bimodo.com who proceeded to take the book apart page by page to study its substantial innards, dissecting it and posting embarrassing pictures and revealing video detailing its impressive features.

I’d link to the videos but I have to consider this blog’s family-oriented audience.

The authors, who closely guard details about their unreleased books, were too busy disclosing the most minute details of their top-secret book in their blogs to be reached for comment.

As chance would have it I happened to be writing this very post at an adjacent table to the 2D CAD manager in the Silicon Valley bar prior to his call to Bimodo.com –  

a call incidentally, shamelessly and stupidly made on the non-functioning prototype of the next generation iPhone that had also been inadvertently left in the same bar

– and was able to observe the following information about the book while he proceeded to make the dastardly, ill-advised call to Bimodo.com on a wall-hung pay phone.

For those who would like to appear knowledgeable about Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 prior to its well-anticipated release, read on.

Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 Factoids

Due to state laws forbidding the transfer of smuggled books over state lines I can only share with you a small sampling of what’s in store.

This much we know to be true:

The book runs 976 pages**

Each author wrote the equivalent of a 325 page book (Eddy no doubt one-upped with a 326th page)

The book is written in English, unless you are unfamiliar with Revit.

27 Reasons to read the book now, before it comes out

REASON 1: Reading the book now, before it comes out, will give you a competitive advantage over your competition.

When your competition returns in September they won’t know what hit them.

REASON 2: Aug 2 is a good book launch date.

Your competition is on the beach relaxing, sipping margaritas while you’re sailing by on your inflatable-of-choice reading away.

So clear your calendar. Leave August – the hottest month of the year – wide open.

You may want to keep in mind that August is the month therapists are on vacation. I’m only saying.

REASON 3: The authors – likened elsewhere to Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle (Yankees) and Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras (Mets) – held nothing back and pulled no punches – in the scribing of their tome.

On August 2nd, you will hold in your hands everything these guys know. Period.

Having given their all, the authors themselves have been reduced to empty shells, mere husks of their former selves. You’re now the keepers of their content – they’re barely haircuts in suits. Enjoy.

REASON 4: For the same reason you work in BIM and Integrated Design – without everything all perfectly worked out.

For the same reason you work in BIM without the assurances of complete interoperability.

For the same reason you work in Integrated Design without signing a right of reliance (you don’t?!)

You find coping mechanisms and plug-ins.

Patches and workarounds.

Patience, faith, hope and confidence that everything will be worked out in time.

Besides, design professionals for a living envision what is not there.

It is one of our core attributes and competencies.

That is what we do.

We don’t need a book to read it any more than we need a building to design it.

Don’t let the pesky detail that the book does not yet exist stand in your way of reading it.

REASON 5: Get a jump start, before the book comes out, and form a study group. In advance – upon return from summer vacation each employee prepares to present a different topic at a lunchtime lunch and learn. Each employee picks a chapter and runs with it. Does the double duty of providing much-needed presentation experience for emerging employees. Until the release date – you can do some prep work – some of the heavy lifting – prepare a work plan, a study plan, look online here at the table of contents to decide where you will focus first. Or read on.

27 Even Better Reasons + 3 Bonus Reasons

Here are all the reasons you need to read this outstanding as yet-to-be-published book – the best book I haven’t read in ages.

Here are all 27 of them from the book’s table of contents

Part I: Fundamentals provides discussions of key BIM and Revit concepts before giving readers a hands-on look at the Revit interface.

1 Beyond Basic Documentation.

2 The Principles of Revit: Tools and UI.

3 The Basics of the Revit Toolbox.

Part II: The Revit Workflow, explores today’s Revit workflows and introduces readers to templates, worksharing, and managing Revit projects.

4 Configuring Templates and Standards.

5 Managing a Revit Project.

6 Understanding Worksharing.

7 Working with Consultants.

8 Interoperability: Working Multiplatform.

Part III: Modeling and Massing for Design dives into modeling and massing and offers detailed information on the crucial Family Editor as well as visualization techniques for various industries.

9 Advanced Modeling and Massing.

10 Conceptual Design and Sustainability.

11 Phasing, Groups, and Design Options.

12 Visualization.

Part IV: Extended Modeling Techniques covers documentation, including annotation and detailing, and explains how to work with complex walls, roofs and floors as well as curtain walls and advanced stair and railings.

13 Walls and Curtain Walls.

14 Roofs and Floors.

15 Family Editor.

16 Stairs and Railings.

Part V: Documentation.

17 Detailing Your Design.

18 Documenting Your Design.

19 Annotating Your Design.

20 Presenting Your Design.

Part VI: Construction and Beyond, the final portion of the book, discusses Revit for contractors and facility managers, working with Revit in the classroom (high school through graduate), virtualization, working with the API, fabrication for film and stage, and advanced, time-saving tips and tricks

21 Revit in Construction.

22 Revit in the Classroom.

23 Revit and Virtualization.

24 Under the Hood.

25 Direct to Fabrication.

26 Revit for Film and Stage.

27 Revit in the Cloud.

There you have it. 27 great reasons to read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 now, before it comes out.

Want three more reasons to make it an even 30? Here are 3 more bonus reasons:

28 Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011’s focused discussions, detailed exercises, and compelling real-world examples are organized by how users learn and implement Revit, an approach that will resonate with Revit users of all skill levels.

29 The expert authors developed this practical reference and tutorial based on years of experience using the program and training others to do so.

30 Unlike the competition, Mastering Revit Architecture is organized by real-world workflows and features detailed explanations, interesting real-world examples, and practical tutorials to help readers understand Revit and BIM concepts so that they can quickly start accomplishing vital Revit tasks. 

DON’T WAIT

For the same reason that many professionals should avoid waiting until things are perfect and all worked-out with their technology before jumping-in, there is no better time than now – before the book is published and distributed – to read this insightful guide.

The release date will come sooner than you think – the future is nearer than you think – so act now.

Click here and free yourself.

If you are an instructor, you may request an evaluation copy for this title.

In the meantime, come August 2 – you will have the immaculate door-stopper and show stopper.

Follow the book on Facebook by checking the book out on the Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 Facebook page

And while at it, follow them on Twitter http://twitter.com/masteringrevit

Don’t wait. BIM operators are standing by.

* Important Update: Now you really can read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 before it comes out! I just learned from a very reliable source (the publisher) that this post identified the official announced publication date (when they pop the champagne) as August 2 – which remains accurate – but in fact failed to mention that you can get Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 from the Wiley website as early as July 12, and from Amazon very shortly thereafter and at most stores where books are sold by July 26. See comment below for more on this. Do not drink and read.

** The final official tally is 1080 pages – the equivalent of each author having written a 360 page book!

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Filed under BIM, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, workflow

Fixing our Gaze on BIM and Integrated Design

I want the unobtainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat, and that’s the end. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat, the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible.

–          Claude Monet

I’ve come across a book that I’d like to share with you. A science book that has some pertinent lessons for those working in BIM – or seriously considering doing so.

In Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan R. Barry with a foreword by Oliver Sacks, Barry describes how miraculous it is after 50 years to suddenly be able to see in 3D for the first time.

The memoir is a fascinating account of Sue Barry’s acquisition of stereo-vision at an adult age.

In the book she reveals step-by-step how this new 3D world was revealed to her. And shows how her experiences are not, in the end, unique.

Barry, a neuroscientist, was born with her eyes crossed and literally couldn’t see in all three dimensions. The author, a professor of Neuroscience, remained unable to see in 3D for most of her life.

She was missing depth perception, that visual ability to judge what is closer and farther away.

Everything appeared flat to her.

Snow, for example, would appear to fall in a flat sheet in one plane in front of her.

Barry tells the story of how she was able to learn from others how to successfully correct her vision as an adult.

And how she recovered depth perception when she was 50 after visual therapy with a developmental optometrist.

In her late 40’s Barry was referred to an Optometrist not far from the University where she taught and did research. The Optometrist evaluated her and determined that with a prescribed program of vision therapy, Barry might gain binocular vision. After some hard work, Sue Barry was able to see in 3D.

The book asks and answers: If deliberate effort can rewire sensory processing at 50, what other astounding feats might our brain manage with the right training?

11 Lessons from Fixing My Gaze

“…the brain is a marvelously plastic organ that can continue to change its wiring and thereby its function throughout our adult life.”

–          Eric Kandel, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine

Read Fixing My Gaze if interested in learning how the brain can adapt and change at any stage of life due to the plasticity of the brain through training.

The story of “Stereo Sue” regaining her depth perception at age 50 and astonishing the medical community was first told in a 2006 article by Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker.

Hear Sue’s story on NPR Morning Edition

Or read on for 11 LESSONS that can be extracted from the inspiring book.

Lesson 1: While working in 2D made us all bystanders, working in BIM puts you in the middle of things.

In the book, a visit to Manhattan surprises Barry with skyscrapers that no longer appear as a flat backdrop.

Before acquiring 3D vision, Barry’s 2D existence felt as though she was looking into a snowfall.

From the outside. On the outside, looking in.

Whereas once she trained herself to think in 3D, she felt herself to be within the snowfall, among the flakes. She found herself surrounded by and immersed in life.

Working in BIM once again makes us participants in the design and construction process.

Lesson 2: The Eye in BIM

While the “I” stands for information, could it also stand for “eye?”

Appreciate the many ways that BIM allows us to see things that we were formally unable – or unwilling – to see.

Lesson 3: The Vision Thing

Hindsight, Insight, Foresight.

It’s not for nothing that our projects are located on a site.

The book teaches us that Sue, like many others, who want to experience their worlds in 3D find ways to work around their uncoordinated vision.

The brain does amazing things to compensate for visual deficiencies and retraining shows what’s possible.

Just like those of us working in BIM, by coming up with makeshift, piecemeal workarounds.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 Those who have a ‘why’ can bear with almost any ‘how.’

–          after Viktor Frankl

Lesson 4: Just a Tool

To say BIM is just a tool is like saying the eye is just a tool.

It’s the profane, rational thing to say.

And it’s wrong.

When you take in their complexity and all that they can accomplish – it is easy to see that both the eye and BIM are more than tools.

We ought to treat them that way.

Barry says that those with 2D vision and those with 3D vision speak different languages.

BIM and sight are processes – not singular things. The more dimensions we afford them, the easier this is to see.

Lesson 5: Fixing our Gaze

As with the three-letter acronym BIM, the three-letter word “fix” has many definitions.

Fix can mean – in need of repair, as in fixing it

To restore by replacing a part or putting together what is torn or broken.

The implication is that we’re broken in some way and we need repair.

To be fixed.

There’s a great deal in our profession and industry that requires fixing.

Your role working in BIM is to fix what doesn’t work. Don’t limit yourself to just one dimension or definition of what it means to work in BIM.

There’s the common use of fix to prepare or cook, as well as to situate: put something, somewhere firmly.

To fasten, to firmly attach, as to a cause.

Hitch your wagon to a star.

–          Emerson.

But to fix can mean to fix our gaze.

To set it, stop it, position it.

On what is important.

Lesson 6: The future is closer than you think

Like the Far Side Cartoon of the car side mirror filled with the huge bug eye with the caption that read: Objects in the mirror appear further than they actually are.

In transforming ourselves from 2D to 3D – from thinking in 3D to communicating in 3D – and with it the attendant realities, there’s no more faking it – in BIM there’s nowhere to hide.

Our models are warts-and-all stories.

Closer to reality than to fantasy, threatening to our associative sensibilities.

Lesson 7: Seeing in 3D takes courage

We don’t give ourselves enough credit.

If author Barry could acquire stereo-vision – the ability to see in 3D – so can you, no matter your role or career position.

Those of us brought up on 2D CAD are committing to fixing our gaze and acquiring stereo-vision.

Going from analog-vision of hand drawing and mono-vision of 2D to stereo-vision of working in 3D.

The book tells a story of perseverance in overcoming obstacles. Obstacles we all must overcome in moving from 2D documentation to 3D design and virtual construction.

Like the author, find and identify success stories of your own.

Lesson 8: We take seeing in 3D – and working in BIM – for granted

Barry had to learn to see in 3D, something that most of us take for granted.

We as design professionals and those working in the construction industry suffered from our own lack of depth perception.

In that we’re not looking at our tools deeply enough.

By viscerally identifying with her 2D life and appreciating her 3D discoveries, as readers we’re able to understand a little of the 3D world to which we’re currently blind.

As with Flatland, many of us still find ourselves seeing in only 2 dimensions, as though we were stuck in CAD.

Ask yourself: When did you first realize that you couldn’t see in 3D?

Architects see in 3D from near the beginning of their careers. What they don’t necessarily do is work in 3D.

All you have to do is think of people like Sue Barry to realize:

You have advantages others do not have and take these for granted.

The book covers the science behind our vision, particularly how it is that we see in three dimensions. Science that we take for granted.

If you have acquired the software.

If you have implemented BIM.

If you have mastered it.

Take a moment now to honor yourself.

You have accomplished something great and profound.

Something that will not only help you, your firm, the contractor and owner but also the profession and industry.

When you learn to work in BIM you are helping others achieve their goals.

Mastering BIM – as you help yourself – you are helping others.

Lesson 9: Depth Charge

From the time of the Renaissance, artists have made use of tricks and cues to create a sense of depth to endow their art work with a sense of life.As BIM endows a stalled profession with a sense of life.

Working in 3D ought to invigorate our senses and shake up our composure.

Professor Barry’s renaissance with her newfound abilities will motivate you to be a serious student again in all it is you still have to learn.

Working in architecture becomes exciting again.

Give yourself the gift of depth perception.

Lesson 10: Keep Things Whole
 
Once, seeing – and working – in 2D was all we knew.
The equivalent of working in little bim without taking the additional dimensional leap into BIG BIM.

Working in BIM completes us as design professionals.

BIM is the quality that gives the architect dimensionality.

Design plus construction. Tool plus process. BIM plus IPD.

Look for that hidden wholeness.

Lesson 11: Knowing vs. Doing

Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us. It is something that we do.

–          Alva Noe, Action in Perception

Today the 3D world of BIM is revealed to us in myriad ways.

In articles, webinars, classes, training sessions, in blogs, in books, in the office.

But knowing BIM is not enough.

Sue, a neuroscientist, knew practically everything there was to know about seeing in 3D or stereopsis, but her world and joy of seeing changed profoundly when she experienced 3D vision.

Knowledge of BIM is not enough – you have to experience it for yourself.  

 

 

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, BIM trainer, construction industry, defining BIM, design professionals, education, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD

The Surprising Civility of Primal IPD

When we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

Verlyn Klinkenborg

After you. No, please, after you.

Have you ever approached a 4-way intersection at precisely the same time as another driver and played that game of Who Goes First?

That’s precisely what happened the other day at a crossroads just outside of Chicago.

As will sometimes happen, an Architect, Engineer, Contractor and Owner pulled-up in separate vehicles to a 4-Way intersection.

It doesn’t matter what they were driving.

The Architect drove a Porsche 911.

But what they were driving doesn’t matter to the outcome of the story.

The Engineer in a pre-Ford Volvo, the Contractor was in a Ford pick-up and the Owner in a 700 series BMW.

So, as the architect’s custom-painted lobster red 2-door sports coupe Carrera revved its engine…

But it really, really doesn’t matter what they were driving.

Or that the owner picked-up his Beamer in ‘09 for $46,500. [Lucky bastard.]

What matters for this story is that, as would have it, they all arrived at the intersection at precisely the same moment.

And somehow had to come to an agreement on how they would proceed.

Fortunately, all four were present at the intersection – for while three were otherwise engaged with their iPods, two were texting and one was on their cell – they could all nonetheless see each other’s gestures, eyes and facial expressions.

Rules of the Road

Now, the default rule to establish the right of way at intersections – where you defer to the person on the right – doesn’t apply here since they were all right of each other.

The “person on the right goes first” rule would result in everyone moving forward at once. No good.

Normally, whichever vehicle first stops at the stop line has priority.

Rules of the road would tell you that if two vehicles stop at the same time, priority is given to the vehicle on the right.

If three vehicles stop at the same time, priority is given to the two vehicles going in opposite directions.

What about when 4 vehicles come to a stop at the same moment?

This is the really amazing thing.

You ready?

If four vehicles stop, drivers use gestures and other communication to establish right-of-way.

That’s it.

There is no way around it.

Gestures and communication.

Given all of the advanced technology available to us today – the fact that our vehicles are really just giant computer chips on wheels – the only way four people in modern civilization can proceed to move forward from such a situation is to…talk.

To each other.

Ideally, openly. Transparently.

And gesture. Communicating however one can manage.

For this is the new rule of the road:

You’ve got to go primal to proceed.

BIG IPD little ipd

In the past, the A, E and C would have deferred to the Owner to lurch forward into the intersection – to go first.

But that was before everything changed.

For today it sometimes feels like if you were to wait for the Owner to make the first move you might be sitting there, at the intersection, for a long while.

A long, long while.

And so others at the intersection – and this junction in time – are taking matters into their own hands.

They’re finding workarounds.

They’re finding ways to gesture themselves forward even if all the legal and contractual ramifications aren’t all hammered out.

For all four to proceed, it doesn’t matter who goes first, so long as someone does.

That someone has got to make the first gesture.

It’s all about leadership.

Primal leadership.

Move – do something – while keeping everyone informed, and the others will follow.

Call it little ipd.

In IPD, all 4 (AECO – count ‘em) arriving at the table day one of an Integrated Design project are all equals.

At the start – before the contracts are drafted and signed – in order to proceed, in order to move forward, they must defer to their higher selves. Their humanity.

While it is easy for the foursome to get caught up in legal language and a focus on contracts, it is best to think of the arrangement at first as a social contract rather than a strictly legal one, whereby each team member desires to maintain order and so subjects themselves to a higher order – or higher law – in order to maintain this order.

Before the team grows beyond its initial core, and everything gets all complicated, there’s a magical moment at the start of every project when the team members defer to simple etiquette.

Social etiquette.

The Four-Way Team

After the last post was inspired by a Neil Young song, it is only natural that this one references a Crosby Stills Nash and Young live album: 4-Way Street.

CSNY, a quartet, with their 4-part harmony. Working together, acknowledging the other players in the band.

CSNY, the first true folk-rock super-group formed by four guitar-playing singer-songwriters from other popular bands.

[David Crosby came from The Byrds; Stephen Stills and Neil Young came from Buffalo Springfield; and Graham Nash was a member of British pop band The Hollies.]

Much like the mix and match make-up of an Integrated Design team where it is more important that team members have BIM experience than the loyalty of a longstanding relationship.

And like OAC, they were originally a threesome: CSN.

AECO, where a quartet is more harmonious than an OAC trio, and the architect and engineer are distinguished and independent of one another.

For, when we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

Afterword

Here I’ll repost in its entirety After You, a short essay from the New York Times and the source of this last quote, by our very own 21st century Emerson/Thoreau, Verlyn Klinkenborg.

Recently, I have been considering the four-way stop. It is, I think, the most successful unit of government in the State of California. It may be the perfect model of participatory democracy, the ideal fusion of “first come, first served” and the golden rule. There are four-way stops elsewhere in the country. But they are ubiquitous in California, and they bring out a civility — let me call it a surprising civility — in drivers here in a state where so much has recently gone so wrong.

What a four-way stop expresses is the equality of the drivers who meet there. It doesn’t matter what you drive. For it to work, no deference is required, no self-denial. Precedence is all that matters, like a water right in Wyoming. Except that at a four-way stop on the streets of Rancho Cucamonga everyone gets to take a turn being first.

There are moments when two cars — even four — arrive almost simultaneously. At times like that, I find myself lengthening my own braking, easing into the stop in order to give an unambiguous signal to the other driver, as if to say, “After you.” Is this because I’m from the East where four-way stops are not so common? Or do most California drivers do this, too? I don’t know. What I do know is that I almost never see two cars lurching into the middle of the intersection as if both were determined to assert their right of way.

I find myself strangely reassured each time I pass through a four-way stop. A social contract is renewed, and I pull away feeling better about my fellow humans, which some days, believe me, can take some doing. We arrive as strangers and leave as strangers. But somewhere between stopping and going, we must acknowledge each other. California is full of drivers everywhere acknowledging each other by winks and less-friendly gestures, by glances in the mirrors, as they catapult down the freeways. But at a four-way stop, there is an almost Junior League politeness about it.

And when the stoplights go out at the big intersections, as they do sometimes, everyone reverts to the etiquette of the four-way stop as if to a bastion of civilization. But there are limits to this power. We can only gauge precedence within a certain distance and among a very small number of cars. Too many, and self-policing soon begins to break down. But when we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

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The Needle and the Damage Done

I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
Neil Young “Needle and the Damage Done”

Ready for today’s physics lesson?

I’ll try to keep this simple (think of it as Physics for Architects.)

Think of a weight suspended from a pivot – so it can swing freely.

Think of it swinging .

Now, on one extreme is design and on the other construction…

 The Physics of Working in BIM

Like a pendulum, what architects sometimes need is that initial push. Just a little nudge.

Who will supply it?

Where will it come from?

Who will convince the architect to move from his complacent static state?

BIM?

Not so fast. BIM is not the impetus but the enabler.

BIM is not the push – but the reaction to unforeseen (except for the industry’s seers) circumstances.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves in this lesson.

Bob the Architect

Recent changes in the AEC industry have displaced the architect from his position of resting equilibrium.

Let’s call this industry stalwart Bob.

Let’s subject Bob to a restoring force.

That accelerates Bob back toward the equilibrium position.

With me so far? Good. Let’s continue.

When released, the restoring force combined with the pendulum’s mass – Bob – causes it to oscillate about the equilibrium position, swinging back and forth.

Now, normally oscillating isn’t something you want to strive for.

Normally when architects oscillate it means they can’t make up their mind – while the building has not only been modeled and built but is well into its first renovation having recently received the 25 Year Award.

This isn’t that kind of oscillating.

But it is that very back and forth motion – swinging between the opposite poles of design and construction – that describes the architect’s current predicament.

DESIGN <———————————————————–> CONSTRUCTION

The time for one complete cycle, a left swing and a right swing, is called a period.

When working in BIM, depending on your focus and LOD, it can feel like your period is very, very slow.

Like, as in never.

But in reality, for every move in one direction, there’s a corresponding move in the other.

In reality (we’re getting quantum here) – the two poles don’t exist – they are one and the same. When you work in one, you’re working in the other. But we’ll get to that in a moment. (This, in journalism, is known as a teaser.)

I know. Don’t tease me bro.

Here’s one cool thing: the period is independent of Bob’s mass. In other words, it doesn’t matter if Bob’s a heavy weight or a light user, if a senior member of the team or just starting out – the swing back and forth is the same.

Hanging with Bob

The word ‘pendulum’ is from the Latin pendulus, meaning ‘hanging.’

A reminder that architects will hang themselves by not making a move toward construction.

If there is a message here: Get your weight moving!

And fast. Not to one extreme OR the other: but like BIM, back and forth, back and forth. Ad nauseum. (Or is that ad infinitum?)

Ad infinitum.

But back and forth at a constant amplitude.

Because it’s all about your amplitude and mindset.

What’s so cool about the pendulum, once started, it will never stop*

*Unless it does. Subjected to friction and drag – which all architects can attest to experiencing from time to time.

The weight (Bob) keeps moving – back and forth – at a constant positive amplitude.

So what happens when Bob, a rigid body, has a bad amplitude? And is unwilling to move from his position or to change?

Bob dies.

He disappears. Nada. Ixnay. Bob no more.

No more Bob.

Do You Swing?

For many architects, their pendulum only swings in one direction – left of center – toward design.

And that is because – as most clients and contractors and consultants and courtesans know – architects are addicted to design.

Only they’ve seen the needle but not the damage done. The damage to designer’s reputation, responsibility, reliability and resulting reward.

If they’ve seen it, they’re not letting-on. Not by changing their behavior anyway.

Nor their negative amplitude.

Architects need to find a new balance – and equilibrium – between design and construction.

Not one over the other (to those who would say upon learning BIM, “If I wanted to know how to build I would have become a contractor!”) but moving, back and forth, continuously between the twin poles.

For continuing to hover only to the design side of the meter is not only impossible and unsustainable – it’s unnatural and perhaps most offensive of all to the design set, inelegant. Like a lopsided clock.

Or one even more sinister and dire.

Perpetual wallflowers, architects need to crash through their real and perceived barriers. Through education and training. And working on their amplitude.

This will require crashing through the proverbial electrical and invisible wireless dog fence that separates wi-fido from swinging into the adjacent construction yard. (“Has your architect made you sick with worry? Wandering around the neighborhood, visiting all his construction buddies leaving you scared because you don’t know where he is?”) As if! Not a chance.

Designer Drugs

Many clients know that, for their architects, design is their drug of choice.

And treat them accordingly.

Owners have been known to withhold it when they want something and want to be assured of getting it.

I know of one client who would – for sport, bemusement, vindictiveness – give an architect a design assignment at 5PM on a Friday and say they needed it by 8AM on Monday and when that time rolled around they never called. The only thing rolling was the client in hysterics on the carpet.

And the architect’s tired eyes.

How did they know the architect would spend all weekend working on it, for, say, no pay?

They were once architects themselves.

Or – as clients – still are.

There are interventions for architects who need to wean themselves off the designer drug and the best 12-letter, 12-step program I know of is spelled C.O.N.S.T.R.U.C.T.I.O.N. (count ‘em.)

Con-str-uct-ion.

Create

Orchestrate 

Navigate 

Solve

Translate

Resolve

Utilize

Collaborate

Trust

Interpret

Organize

Negotiate

When you break construction down to its constituent parts architects realize it is less threatening because construction is really design’s missing twin and other half – opposite swing – of what architects do.

Construction contains the very essence of what defines design – and vice versa.

To see design and construction as somehow separate has been a convenient, ill-advised and largely wrong-headed contrivance for the past half-century. A century for architects that apparently has yet to end.

Design contains construction, and construction contains design. They are both part of each other, of the pendulum swing, dependent on one another.

Lesson wrap-up: If you have the sort of pendulum in which most of the mass is concentrated in Bob, the center of oscillation is close to the center of mass, and Bob swings more freely between design and construction.

To put that another way, if the decision to move (toward BIM, toward IPD, toward the Future) comes from within – if it is an inside job – and not forced, coerced or manipulated from some outside source, Bob is more likely to continue moving.

Moving is good. It means you’re not dead yet.

And not dead yet is a good thing.

Gyration? Spinning? Dizziness?

One of the earliest known uses of a pendulum was to sway after being disturbed by the tremor of an earthquake far away. Think of recent changes – economic, political, environmental, technological – as a not too distant earthquake. These changes in the AEC industry and the profession are enough to get Bob moving into action.

Or so you would think.

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake could occur right beneath your pendulum and for some reason Bob just sits there, like nothing’s happened.

There is an explanation in physics for such inexplicably erratic behavior.

But this is a family BIM blog.

Like BIM itself, pendulums (penduli) had many uses – and also like BIM, most were not immediately utilized. Besides the low hanging fruit of determining the location of distant earthquakes, pendulums were used to locate satellites (before they were invented!), the turning of tides, as power sources for operating reciprocating saws and bellows, for pumping.

And for adorning end tables and nightstands.

But with its use for timekeeping, the world experienced something of a pendulum-mania much like the BIM-mania we’re experiencing today.

The Curious Case of Collaborative Pendulums

Is it possible to take a metaphor too far?

Just watch.

Think of Integrated Design as coupled oscillators.

Fancy this. Two pendulums placed on a mantlepiece soon acquire opposing motions.

That is, the pendulums beat in unison but in the opposite direction, 180° out of phase.

Kind of like when architects and contractors were at odds years ago back when they worked in something then called the “Design-Bid-Build” delivery method.

Regardless of how the two clocks were started, observers found that they would eventually return to this state, thus making the first recorded observation – outside of an architectural partnership – of a coupled oscillator.

The cause of this weird, inexplicable behavior was that the two pendulums were affecting each other through slight motions of the supporting mantelpiece.

Which just goes to show that collaboration requires a strong foundation – built of trust, but oak will do – in order to act in unison. For more on pendulums go here.

Trust the Pendulum

Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr, a Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers – featured here in a recent post and mentioned here in a recent interview in the now defunct** BD+C  ‘IPD is light years ahead of traditional delivery’ – that for architects, the needle has swung too far away from responsibility.

BD+C: Do architects and engineers need to “own” their risk more often?

Ashcraft: The needle has swung too far in the direction of insulating oneself from liability and separating oneself from the other parties in the construction process. That really has not been a successful strategy. The needle needs to swing more toward accepting responsibility for the entire process and making sure that the bad events—cost overruns, failures, and the like—don’t occur.

About the needle metaphor. While a meter is strictly 2D-like CAD, a 3D metaphor would be closer to the pendulum-like BIM.

Between designers/practical artists/architects on one side and contractors on the other.

In a recent blog post by the inestimable Jonathan Fields, he wrote about online marketer Wendy Piersall who said something that resonated deeply with Fields:

“She was talking about how she swings from being massively public and conversational to relative introversion. ‘Over the years,’ she said, ‘I realized I don’t have to be one or the other. I’ve learned to trust the pendulum.’”

It’s the idea that the pendulum is within you – and you have to learn to trust it – as you would yourself.

Trust that you will be able to move back and forth, as we’re discussing here, from design to construction and back.

Fields adds:

“Most of us turn away from the our internal pendulums, giving in, instead, to the pull to follow whatever action, response or expected behavioral convention is laid out by the communities we seek to thrive within.”

Turn toward your inner pendulum and we will all succeed.

**We live in tumultuous times. The needle metaphor used in this post comes from an article printed in a popular online industry journal that no longer exists. Click here for a press release about now defunct Building Design & Construction, also known as BD+C, and how it became that way. Adopting BIM and Integrated Design assures that architects will never need to issue a similar press release.

Moving images and pendulum trivia courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Learning to Be Roughly Yourself

From the moment you meet at the big table in the big room with the big team of stakeholders and fellow professionals, you’re there for one reason and one reason alone.

You’re an expert at something.

You didn’t get to where you are because you’re “well-rounded.” You’re there because of your deep skills, because you’re good at something. That something – whether it is in BIM management or BIM coordination, building design or building detailing – I wrote about in an earlier post.

For projects that were traditionally delivered – whether in BIM or not – that was well and good.

But it is becoming increasingly apparent that being an expert at what you do isn’t going to cut it in the BIM and Integrated Design world.

Moving forward, with BIM and Integrated Design, you are still required to present your best and highest self, working from the place of your core competency, however you – or those you work with or for – define that.

But just as importantly, while working in IPD, the person who shows up to the table needs to be a little less well defined. Something or someone closer to a rough approximation of yourself.

Why?

Because there – at the table – you’ll be wearing more than one hat. You’ll have more than one title and you’ll be playing several roles. In fact, your title and role when you enter the big room become blurred.

You’ll still need to be yourself and play your part as you always have – it’s just that your margins are a little less well defined, your guard will come down.

And the hard line that formerly defined you is perforated and permeable.

You will be able to do this because for the first time you’ll be able to – completely and unconditionally – trust those you are teaming with.

In BIM and Integrated Design you have to be more than just your role.

You have to see ideas, possibilities and actions from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.

And make a concerted effort to not only couch what you say with your audience in mind – something you have been doing for ages – but consider the consequences for your line of action when it still just a line of thought in your mind.

It is a higher order of operating that is expected when you are at the big table.

The other day at a BIM-IPD/RUG meeting, I listened as several design professionals discussed their concerns about where the profession and industry is headed – while each spoke from their own perspective.

That may be well and fine for CAD. But with BIM and Integrated Design there is a constant need to keep others in mind as one speaks. With one ear focused on what you are saying and another on the meta message – the message heard by others at the table, and what that message might mean for them, and why it is they are sitting there silent at the table, not participating. Perhaps they are bored. Or frightened or even threatened by what they are hearing. Or perhaps something is stewing inside that at any moment might bottle up and explode.

Whether you are working with an IPD Facilitator or not – and until that day comes – it is up to each of us to develop this ability – to facilitate ourselves – in ourselves.

And we are completely capable of handling this. While the brain is hard at work putting our ideas out there, or thinking up the next thing to say, the mind is aware – on another level – of the potential impact – positive, negative or indifferent – this will have on those seated around you.

One eye focused on the BIM model while the other is on the reactions of those seated around  the table – who together have the will and power to make your suggestion a reality.

You do this by thinking about your concerns from others’ perspectives – potential clashes before they even occur in Navisworks, when they’re still in your mind

Think of it as the virtual conversation you have before it is acted upon, becoming real. You’re having a VDC – Virtual Design Conversation.

To adjust our communication style to that of the group, you first need to assess and know your own. If unsure or what to re-assess, here’s a good place to start.

My wife used to work at a company where employees walked around with coffee mugs that announced their communication style and language preferences to each other – so that, with your coffee, you could adjust your speech to whoever you ran into in the kitchen or in the hall.

I myself am an expressive. If I just talk – without adjusting what I say to my audience of 1 or 20 financial types don’t know what to do with me. To negotiate, to sell my design ideas, I have to talk in their terms.

Is this disingenuous? No, nor dishonest. It is about communicating – what you need to do – to talk, to think, in other’s terms. We do this all the time with those we  are closest with – and professionally with clients and owners.

Phil Bernstein – in a recent AIA podcast with Markuu Allison – spoke of the need for those at the table in IPD to be roughly an architect, roughly a contractor, and so on.

It is about architects developing their inner contractors and contractors developing their inner architects.

It  is also about letting-go – of our self-limiting titles and roles.

Be who you are – yes.

Maintain your expertise – certainly.

But be open to others.

Architects in particular are used to playing many roles – or at least thinking like others – from the start of projects onward.

As a senior designer – in the go/no-go early phase of projects before the fee could support a full team – I would often have to play project designer, project architect and project manager until the project was given the green light.

In BIM and Integrated Design, it is almost as though you have to embody the characteristics of each of those at the table. And the list, in Integrated Design teams, can be considerable. Start with the core team of owner, contractor and architect – and move out from there.

In a recent LinkedIn discussion at the knowledge architecture/knowledge management KA Connect group for the AEC industry (which I highly recommend you join,) group and KA Connect founder Christopher Parsons suggested that

You’ll meet three types of people in a knowledge-driven firm – writers, librarians, and teachers. Writers create. Librarians capture. Teachers share. The teaching part, the commitment to systematically sharing, is what’s missing. We are two-thirds of the way there. We just need to finish the job. “Go the distance.” 

While this may be true for the way things have been done in firms up until now, with BIM and Integrated Design teams there’s no time at the table to be “just” a librarian, “just” a writer or “just” a teacher. You have to nurture the development of all three within yourself.

Perhaps James L. Salmon of Collaborative Construction (another LinkedIn group you ought to be a part of if you aren’t already) said it best when he said you achieve IPD in 3D by leveraging existing skills on a cross disciplinary basis.

How you learn to do this – cross-pollinate cross-discipline – is just starting to become apparent in the AEC industry. What we do know, though, is that it is becoming increasingly clear that this is a skill, an ability and talent we cannot survive without. Learning to be roughly ourselves – we must.

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