Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Case for CASE

In the Case Study interview I conducted with Kristine K. Fallon, FAIA of Kristine Fallon Associates in my book , BIM and Integrated Design, I asked her:

In the AEC Survival Guide, you wrote that there are three classes of barriers that inhibit the adoption of new technology: technological barriers, organizational barriers, and lack of understanding. Would you say that these are the same barriers to the widespread adoption of BIM and the collaborative work process enabled by it?

Kristine Fallon: These are definitely the same barriers. They’re almost exactly the same as the research I did for the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2007 on the subject of information exchange in the AEC industry. Those were (1) commercial issues (the business and organizational barriers), (2) expectations and change management (the sociological elements), and (3) emerging technology and inadequate technology infrastructure (the technological elements).

Have you found that there’s a hierarchy to these elements?

KF: There’s quite a bit of sociology there, but I really think it’s the lack of understanding. With a computable description of a building we’re dealing with things in very different terms. This is a schema—a framework—that’s totally unfamiliar and people are not taking to it or are not mastering or understanding it. This is what I am seeing even with people who are doing a lot of work on this. I see huge gaps in comprehension of how this actually works under the hood and what’s necessary to make it work well. To make this work you have to get two domains to work hand in glove: people who know how to build a computable description of a building, how to code that up and map it; and the folks who understand how the construction industry operates. The people who get the technology don’t necessarily get the subtleties of those relationships and the fact that you can’t just redefine them on the fly. The folks who are clear on the (construction) responsibilities don’t have a clue and don’t want to know what needs to be done to successfully define the technical aspects.

What would you say is the best method for someone unfamiliar with the technology to learn BIM?

KF: BIM is easy to use. It’s much easier than CAD. It’s pretty complicated under the hood but architects and engineers no longer feel like they need to understand what’s under the hood. I feel that’s a mistake—they do. The firms that are doing well with the technology—it’s because they understand what’s under the hood and they tweak it.

Making the case for innovators of BIM

Kristine of course does all of this and does it remarkably well.

But in making a case for who is a leading innovator of BIM, it would not be an individual but a team.

This would be in keeping with the collaborative nature of BIM, when used to its best and highest use.

The leading innovator of BIM would have to be innovative, not afraid to look under the hood.

Here’s the case for CASE:

To Kristine Fallon’s specs:

CASE understands how BIM actually works under the hood and what’s necessary to make it work well.

CASE has people who know how to build a computable description of a building, how to code that up and map it and folks who understand how the construction industry operates.

CASE gets the technology and the subtleties of these relationships.

CASE is clear on construction responsibilities and wants to know what needs to be done to successfully define the technical aspects of the projects they work on.

Partners David Fano, Federico Negro and Steve Sanderson previously worked at SHoP Architects and established CASE Design in 2008.

Joining them as partner is the formidable Ruben Suare, formerly of 3form.

And with Don Rudder as CTO – which, like Don Draper – makes this already stellar show unstoppable, unbeatable.

Despite their myriad backgrounds, they’re through and through New York, NYers, East Coasters and Ivy Leaguers.

Managing technologies and business practices

Their Twitter profile reads:

CASE is a Building Information Modeling (BIM) and integrated practice consultancy based in New York City

CASE is “a Building Information Modeling and integrated practice consultancy based in New York City” the way that the Yankees are “a ballclub based in New York City.”

Doesn’t say the half of it.

And misses the essence – their real value – altogether.

CASE does so many things so well that it is sometimes hard to tell what exactly they do.

But CASE does something critically necessary in our current working environment:

They help building design professionals – as well as contractors and owners – identify, implement and manage

  • technologies and
  • business practices

that enable more effective

  • coordination,
  • communication and
  • collaboration.

BIM and Integrated Design, this blog and my book, share a basic belief with CASE that BIM is not “a single model or software, it is the process.”

BIM is a process of managing geometric elements and the associated data in order to accomplish specific tasks.

Here are just some of the tasks CASE undertakes on any given weekday (or often, weekend)

CASE innovates – comes up with new software, systems, processes, tools, services, sites – almost daily. Here are just a few:

DesignByMany is a sponsored challenge-based design technology community.

 (Or an addictive, crowdsourced design site depending on whether you won an HP Designjet T790 24” PostScript ePrinter or not.)

WHObyYOU is the best way to find service professionals from your network.

Sfter provides content on your terms.

These are just 3 of (nobody knows how many exactly) innovations produced by CASE.

Then there’s their influential blog DesignReform

DesignReform is a digital design publication created & maintained by CASE exploring parametric design through 3ds Max, Revit, Rhino and more.

They recently relaunched the site with a whole new look and feel consistent with their brand.

Read about all things BIM and BIM workflow.

But truthfully, most go to DesignReform for the authoritative yet scrappy and free tutorials.

No innovation stagnation with CASE

As David Brooks in the New York Times writes,

“The roots of great innovation are never just in the technology itself. They are always in the wider historical context. They require new ways of seeing.”

 In making the case for CASE, it is easy to see that they do this. And do it well.

 One can only hope that their serial innovations continue to keep people – the end user, human needs and interface – top of mind, front and center.

Do you  agree? Who would you propose making a case for? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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MoneyBIMball

With Moneyball in theaters, the playoff season in full swing, and the 2003 book by Michael Lewis climbing in standings, data geeks are all the rage.

This fact cannot be lost on architects and others in the construction industry.

In the movie and book, the 2002 Oakland Athletics overlook the former criteria for player selection (brawn, looks and stature) in favor of data and information.

Doing so was unorthodox to say the least. The equivalent of design professionals proceeding with a design based on data over visuals.

But in doing so, the Athletics managed an all-time record winning streak and made the playoffs with the major’s smallest budget.

Which leads us to ask of ourselves two questions:

  • Is it time we honor our inner geek?
  • Is it time we get creative with our data?

Information and Process Builders

In his brilliant undated letter to the profession entitled “BIM ball,” Kimon Onuma’s focus was not on the 3D nature of BIM, but almost entirely on the “I” of BIM:

“Information and data integrated with 3D” models.

Due to the threatening ‘evolve or dissolve’ resolve of the subtitle, this fact was lost on the average reader.

A few cogent lines from the letter tell the story:

  • We charge our clients 6% plus of construction costs to assemble information into documents
  • Most of the knowledge and information that is assembled for a project goes into the lines of a CAD file that essentially has only one use
  • The value in architectural services rests in the knowledge and experience to assemble information and execute projects
  • The only possible solution is to solve this using the technologies available in Building Information Modeling, standards and interoperability.
  • Architects are positioned at the center of the design and construction process not as the “master builder” integrating and organizing all the disparate pieces of the building but now as the information and process builders and coordinators in this process

From this we can deduce that information is at the heart of our evolution as a profession and industry.

Which leads us to ask:

What will we do with the information available to us?

To continue the base hits of visualization and clash detection or home runs of analysis?

Reevaluating Strategies that Produce Wins on the Field

Just as Moneyball 

  • focused on the general manager – our story ought to focus on the BIM manager
  • focused on the team’s modernized, analytical approach to assembling a competitive team – our focus ought to be on the BIM analytics
  • has done wonders for unorthodox analytics – our use of BIM ought to do the same for analysis
  • team used statistics that are relics of a 19th century view of the game – our industry continues to use methodologies for estimating cost and anticipating schedules and predicting accuracy that are relics of centuries past.
  • central premise is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (players, managers, coaches, scouts, front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed – our focus ought to be on the fact that our own collective wisdom has not led to increased value or productivity nor reduced waste
  • isn’t really about baseball or statistics, but about challenging conventional wisdom with data – our understanding ought to be that BIM isn’t about technology, but rather challenging design and construction professionals to use information available to them to increase productivity and reduce waste.

Like the general manager in the movie, it’s time we give the data a long hard look.

Like the 2002 Oakland A’s, we as a profession and industry ought to be re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field.

Anything but a Field of Dreams

There’s a fear that BIM does away with design in favor of data.

This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.

As long as architecture remains an art, it will always maintain the element of the will.

Architectural design is an essay in willfulness.

Design work that is described and then either justified (with information) or rationalized (with pedagogue and agendas.)

Or post-rationalize out in the field.

This last option – our industry’s history up until now – has been anything but a field of dreams.

In 1896, Louis Sullivan asserted:

Form Follows Function

In 2011 (and beyond) in order to reach home:

Firms Follow Information

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