A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design

If BIM isn’t a spiritual practice why does it have so many dimensions? – Anonymous

The vast majority of design and construction professionals are happy to put in their time with the model and go home at the end of the day knowing they’ve contributed their share.

A small handful suspect there is something more to BIM than that.

This post is for them.

If you count yourself among the few – consider yourself a seeker.

Seekers recognize that BIM is not just technology, the next generation software.

For these select few, BIM is not an end in itself but a means to a higher end.

For seekers, BIM is a calling: an opportunity to tap into – and act on – their higher selves.

They may not be able to articulate what this something more is – they’re seekers after all.

Call their approach Zen and the Art of BIM Modeling or Modeling on the Contractor Within – titles admittedly as trite as they are timeless.

But they very well may be on to something.

Their approach to BIM is the subject of this post.

While I’m going to get a bit new-agey on you here

– seeing that this is a why-to not a how-to blog –

I won’t ask you to model crystals or bead curtains in ArchiCAD.

If the last time you were so incensed was when you got miffed at someone in the field,

And if you have no patience for pseudo-spirituality, sentimentality, proselytizing, fanaticism, holier-than-thou delusions and spiritual tourism,

Read on anyway.

A Better Way

This post is for those who are seeking a better way – to live, to work and to practice.

Let me start off by saying that the word “seeker” has a vaguely 60’s sound.

OK it has an overtly 60’s sound.

While it may seem like the only seekers these days are job seekers,

This is just not the case.

Meditate on this

I suspect if you’ve come here –and read this far – that you may be a seeker too.

Wherever you find yourself on the BIM path – considering it, adopting it, implementing it, mastering it, transcending it – you are on the right path.

While BIM has only been in the collective consciousness for a little more than a quarter century – the wisdom of working in BIM is ageless – having been passed down by master builders from generation to generation since the beginning of recorded construction.

Passed down today in the form of twin tablet computers each inscribed with Ten Commands.

Here, for the first time, are the 20 Commands every seeker ought to grok when working in BIM and Integrated Design.

Command I. Master BIM

For those more familiar with modeling programs and computer monitors than prayer books, BIM returns the user to a reverence for architecture and construction.

Whether you prefer your Testament Old or New, add a black silk tassel and you’ll find yourself on the critical path.

Whether you

»        haven’t tried BIM yet,

»        have been trained in BIM but aren’t using it,

»        are working in BIM but have not yet mastered it, or

»        have mastered BIM and are teaching it

start on page 1, and make it your goal to work your way through – tips, techniques and tutorials – from beginning to end until you have achieved Mastery.

Accept BIM. For whatever you accept, you go beyond.

Increase you personal and professional mastery by mastering BIM.

Command II. Honor your Inner Contractor

The days of freewheeling design – without a conscience, without acknowledgement of impacts to the environment, budget, schedule, material and labor availability and construction methods – are over.

Architects claim these were top-of-mind when putting pencil to paper and they may well have been.

But perhaps not so much when they were maneuvering a mouse.

Construction has become too complicated to keep everything in one’s head.

So work with checklists, and honor your inner contractor.

You’ll feel more complete.

And when contractors honor their inner architects we will all be as one.

Command III. Choose your Guide Wisely

When the student is ready the teacher appears.

Just as Google is our main map to the information highway, what is your map or guide to BIM?

Consider this guide, or a teacher, trainer, mentor or Sherpa.

Every pilgrim needs a map when first starting out, to chart a path in troubled times.

Make it personal – after learning the basics, learn your own way, and take your own path.

Plan your own journey into BIM and IPD.

Determine what works for you.

Just as America is a cross-pollination of religious, political, psychological, metaphysical, and ancient traditions that have flowered into contemporary life, you bring to your study of BIM and IPD years of schooling, work experience, indoctrination, beliefs, preferences and prejudices.

From these you will carve out your own path.

Create from this a contemporary, personalized approach to practicing BIM and Integrated Design.

Who will be your guide – your guiding light in these dark times? Who will help guide you on your charted or uncharted path?

Find a guide that sees themselves as a conduit to your professional education and fulfillment.

One that has your best interests and goals in mind.

To find a guide, look for signposts along the way.

Command IV. Let Go

Too many grasp – hold too tightly – to CAD, our old way of doing things.

Holding on to what came before. It is said,

A change here is a change everywhere.

So let go.

And let the program do the heavy lifting of coordination.

Freeing you to do what you do best.

The reason you went into this career in the first place.

It’s a scary proposition: BIM frees you to be what you were meant to be.

No excuses. No blame.

BIM is the end game.

You can think of working in BIM as dealing with loss – losing what came before.

But it is better to think of working in BIM from the perspective of a beginner.

To approach BIM with beginner’s mind.

For you cannot approach BIM with a CAD mindset.

There’s an art to starting over. It’s the art of letting go – of the old ways of doing things.

So let the new way in.

Relinquish the past and the future and work in BIM in the here and now.

Command V. The Best way to Learn BIM is to Teach BIM

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother. Einstein

Spending the past year writing a BIM book I have had to explain the concept to far too many grandmother types.

The best way to learn something is to teach it.

It is a priceless exercise to hone what you know by communicating it so simply and clearly that anyone could understand.

Even a seventh grader.

Most journalists are instructed to write so that a 7th grader could understand.

Could you explain what you do to a seventh grader so that they understand?

Volunteer at the local campus, sit in on crits, give a lunch and learn in your own office of that of a competitor, or help out those in the workplace by mentoring up or down.

But whatever you do – in order to learn BIM – you’ve got to teach it.

Command VI. Chop BIM, Carry IPD

Enlightenment can be found in the practice of BIM.

So practice BIM as though it were an art form.

But also practice BIM as you would do the dishes or brush your teeth.

Think of practicing BIM and working in IPD as nothing special.

Make BIM your practice and IPD your path.

Be present when working in BIM and mindful when working in IPD.

Bring awareness to every move you make in the model and at the table.

Command VII. BIM Marks a Return to the Shaping of Space

You were meant to be many things.

But perhaps most of all you were meant to be a shaper of space.

Working in BIM provides you – once more – with the opportunity to shape space.

We hear a lot about BIM objects.

The essence of BIM isn’t objects but emptiness.

BIM empowers you to work with all that is absent, what is not there.

Just as the air between the spokes forms the wheel.

Use BIM to give shape to the space between things.

Command VIII. Change the way you look at BIM and BIM itself will change

Use BIM to help you simply see things most people do not.

Look at BIM as just a tool – and that is what it will be for you.

Look at BIM as something more – a process, a path – and that is what it will be for you.

Your choice.

Don’t try to change BIM – it’s hard enough to get hold of someone at Autodesk – change the way you see it.

What’s easier? Changing you or changing Autodesk?

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change. Max Planck

Working in BIM and IPD should provide a peace that comes from seeing the world differently, more openly.

Command IX. BIM is not a Destination but a Journey

BIM is a tool as well as a process.

But what sort of process?

BIM is a process for reaching personal, professional and organizational goals.

A process for getting more work and becoming more profitable.

And a process for remaining relevant.

A process for working cooperatively with our teammates.

Make working in BIM your process, your journey, your path and you will prosper.

Command X. To Work in an Integrated Manner, Work from within – not without

BIM is an inside job.

Working in BIM will teach you that a building is not a rectangle with a roof and entry added any more than a bird is not an ellipse with head and tail added.

That’s SketchUp.

BIM is instead yet another form of your inner being, which you first have to identify yourself with in order to become a silent link of the creative flow.

In other words, you have to see yourself as integral to the design and construction of the model.

You do not stand apart from it.

Nor do you see yourself as separate or isolated.

It is not that you become one with the model.

That’s when you misidentify with what you are creating which can only lead to frustration.

Instead, become part of the process itself.

Not additive – though it may seem this way – but integrated.

You are working toward making a complete, whole work of art and architecture.

Not a building with things that can be blown off in a strong gust of value engineering.

With BIM everything is both connected and interconnected.

Command XI. The I in BIM is for Building

Enough has been written and said for now about the “I” in BIM.

BIM plain and simple is about the experience of Building.

Building, not destroying or tearing down.

Building, however virtually.

When you build in BIM you are building virtue-ly.

Not just with one’s eyes or hands alone, but with all of one’s senses, heart and spirit.

BIM allows you to put all of yourself into the model.

So put yourself into the model.

Don’t talk. Don’t draw. Build.

Command XII. BIM is the Path back to Purpose

We were doing ourselves a disservice.

We were designing irresponsibly.

We went into our chosen field – architecture, engineering or construction – for a reason.

So many of us have abandoned this reason.

Because it became more important to make rent or mortgage or associate.

Than to pursue our dreams.

BIM allows you to honor yourself. Your higher purpose. Your reason.

BIM gives you the opportunity to design and build honestly.

BIM and IPD together offer the chance to work honestly, with trust, with reward.

Command XIII. When you Work in BIM you Make Things Whole

There is a hidden wholeness in all you do.

You job is to discover it and uncover it.

Just as Michelangelo said every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it, so too it is your role in BIM to discover the building inside.

As it is your role in BIM to discover the builder inside you.

We have for too long been incomplete, part architects.

Make it your goal to become whole again.

More complete architects as Winter Street Architect’s Paul Durand put it so aptly in BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011.)

Command XIV. BIM and Integrated Design’s Holistic Approach to Construction

Integrated Design is where a building is designed holistically using input from key stakeholders, including architects, contractors and owners.

A Whole Building Design approach involves immediate feedback from stakeholders on design decisions – an iterative process that draws from the wisdom of all involved throughout the life cycle of the project.

Resulting in greener projects, projects with less conflicts and needless cost expenditures.

Whole architect. Whole contractor. Whole building.

Command XV. BIM as a Discipline by which the World of Construction may be Rediscovered

BIM doesn’t teach you to draw, it teaches you to see.

Working in BIM helps you to learn to focus your attention while drawing, designing and constructing the model.

BIM teaches you that it is more important to be concerned with what you are observing than what you are putting down on paper or feeding into the monitor.

Observing the order of construction, layers of materials.

The steps taken in your seat are the steps taken in the field.

You understand why trades tripped all over each other at the jobsite,

Because you were doing so in the drawing.

You have a newfound appreciation for what comes after design.

Because you are at the jobsite when seated at your monitor.

On your bouncy ball.

Command XVI. Flow and Working in BIM

With BIM, there’s workflow. And, with BIM, there’s flow.

When so engrossed in what you are doing that time stands still?

Or disappears altogether?

That’s flow.

Get to the point where you are challenged by the work at hand.

But not so much so that you have to stop and ask questions every 20 seconds.

Aspire to ask questions every 30 seconds.

Then one every minute.

Doing so feeds the soul on a level akin to meditation.

And won’t aggravate your colleagues as much.

Work in BIM. Melt into the moment.

Command XVII. Approach BIM and IPD with Fearlessness

Look boldly at these tools and processes we have been given.

Here, now, on earth.

As a design professional or construction worker.

Everything changes…

Be bold.

Master the art of BIM to produce positive changes in our profession and industry.

Master the art of IPD to produce positive changes in our world.

This is not the time to be a wuss.

Command XVIII. Listen to your Body

BIM is intense work.

Taxing on the eyes, neck and wrists.

Long hours at your workstation, face in monitor – takes its toll.

Do not underestimate the wear and tear on your body.

Honor yourself. Play foosball. Take a prescription painkiller. Take a break.

Command XIX. “Live the Questionsrather thanSeek the Answers

A wise colleague estimated that when first starting out in BIM there will be one question every 20 seconds.

That can be taxing on you – and your more knowledgeable teammates.

Try this.

Come to them with solutions – suggestions – not questions.

Not how do I do x?

But when I tried x this happens WTF?

Not is there a better way?

But rather is this a better way?

Provide alternative solutions as you seek to understand.

Command XX. Create a Supportive Community

Join BIM groups on LinkedIn such as BIM Experts or AUGI.

Join BIM groups in your city or community.

But don’t just join – participate.

As with all things when you co-join you are helping to create community.

Meet with colleagues and peers after hours in your breakout room.

Make sure there’s plenty of Dos XX.

If for no other reason than to remind yourself:

You are not alone.

It is up to you to let everybody know:

We are all in this together.

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14 Comments

Filed under BIM, BIM instructor, BIM trainer, construction industry, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, people, process, workflow

14 responses to “A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design « BIM + Integrated Design -- Topsy.com

  2. Cesar

    I just had an appiphany; Really, your posts this year just blow my mind, man!:
    Forget about reaching the ZEN of BIM; you just created a new path to a higher sense of BIM-being. A path into the next Dimension of state of mind:)

    I shall call you the First Prophet of BIM & I will be your Apostle spreading the your BIM Creed that you have just now put forth. I am not worthy, LOL!

    On a more serious note, your writing is an enlighenment to us all. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  3. MML

    Phenomenal words!
    Wonderfully contagious commands!
    Thank you!

  4. How funny and what serendipity! I just saw a tweet from @imadnaffa who sent out this great top 10 steps to be a designer blog. The same Universal Traveler book is mentioned. In fact I just added it to my wishlist of books for Amazon.

    I wonder if the author is Jim Bagnall from Cal Poly San Luis Obisbo. For if it is — I studied under him at a high school Architecture camp back in 1998.

    How amazing such 1960 – 70’s thoughts are being re-discovered with technology. Now back to learning Python!

  5. randydeutsch

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for stopping by. And yes, very serendipitous!

    Bob Borson http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/tag/bob-borson/ just tweeted and Oscia Timschell http://oscia.tumblr.com/ just posted 60’s hippy/architect-related items. Does this mean the Age of Aquarius is dawning?

    And yes, I believe that is the very same Jim Bagnall. Very small world.

    Make sure you when learning Python to watch episodes of Monty Python in equal doses. Studies show we retain info better when we laugh. Be well!

  6. Opps, forgot to add the 10 steps blog.

    Thx for the great links below! We’re working on a group project and we’re adding a bunch of Monty Python references so I’m catching up on You Tube. 🙂

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  8. Hi Randy
    I’ve just started my blog and am a regular reader of yours. In fact as soon as I figure it out how to do it you’re going to be first on my blog roll.
    Thanks for having the fortitude (backed up by the penmanship) to capture some important ideas in this post. None more so than the possibility of the time we live in to be very positive indeed.
    I hope as my blog moves between a why-to and a how-to over the next few months you’ll get a chance to drop by and comment.
    Cheers
    Richard

  9. mark hesselgrave

    I was tickled to see, in this age of BIM, my old “textbook” from Cal Poly pop up. That is most definitely the same Jim Bagnal. Would love to see a new generation embrace its teaching, the yin to BIM’s yang.

    Peace

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  11. Dan Frawley

    This is great Randy,

    It seems BIM has finally taken the leap of faith (or tipping point).

    It brings to mind Jungs collective unconscious and also Raymond Kurzweil’s ‘Singularity’.

    The seekers are the ones who stand out, are futurists, have an element of the Tao and can see the great synthesis to whole whole equation.

  12. Jason Green

    Love it! ….great post

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