Category Archives: collaboration

Too Complex and Fast? Slow Down, But Don’t Oversimplify

oversimplifyTo lead our collaborative future, architects need to decentralize or risk being further marginalized.

Architects know that they need to collaborate to succeed. But how will they go about doing it? How, in other words, will they make collaboration happen? As importantly, how will architects make the changes necessary to become not only more collaborative, but leaders of this effort, amidst disruptive change?

AEC leaders already do a great deal to encourage collaboration amongst their teams, providing vision, collaboration-conducive work environments, collaboration technology, and by removing obstacles – including themselves –when necessary, gladly getting out of everyone’s way. They encourage diversity, discussion – even disagreements – as a basis for moving the project forward. By telling their collaboration stories, leaders paint a picture of what collaboration looks like when it is done well. Most importantly, AEC leaders make sure every team member is making the same project. But AEC leaders cannot assure this happens in every meeting on every project. Who, then, on the team will lead the day-to-day collaboration challenge?

Barriers to Collaboration

We know collaboration is hard and takes time — to build relationships, to clear-up misunderstandings, to listen and to get things done. Past experience can hold teams back, and one of the barriers to collaboration remains organizational silos.

Brand erosion is also an impediment to collaboration. For a designer whose singular voice is her expression through her work, collaboration is equated with joint authorship, to some the antithesis of creative expression, muddying the message of the work, dispersing and diluting the voice and design intent of the creator. This thinking is of course mistaken, as leaders need to make clear. One only needs to compare a Beatles tune with any of the band member’s solo efforts to recognize that teams make better decisions – and importantly, results – than individuals. The real fear in collaborating is that we – and our work – will be mediocre, a race toward the lowest common denominator, and with it, irrelevance: we will be seen as just one more designer among designers.

The truth, of course, is by not collaborating architects become marginalized. Not knowing how to effectively collaborate will lead to their irrelevance.

Complexity and Speed

Of the trends impacting our new world of work – including digital tools, collaborative work processes with attendant blurring of roles and responsibilities, working remotely and together earlier – two trends have made all the others a necessity: complexity and speed. Our technology has an impact on the anticipated speed of decision-making. When still hand-drafting, while facing a construction-related question or dilemma, architects would say: We’ll work it out in the field. This was the architect’s go-to VIF: where the contractor on the architect’s behalf would be expected to Verify In Field. Later, working in CAD, architects would say: We’ll work it out in shop drawings. With little bim: We’ll work it out in CDs. And today, with social BIM, We need to work it out NOW!

In the face of increased project speed, we will be tempted to slow down. And we are well advised to do so. Studies show to make decisions that stick, we’re better off delaying choices for as long as practically possible. According to Frank Partnoy in Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, the best professionals understand how long they have available to make a decision, and then, given that time frame, they wait as long as they possibly can: “we are hard-wired to react quickly. Yet we are often better off resisting both biology and technology.” Since our current technology and integrated work process does not accommodate our waiting – in fact, it discourages it – leaders need to make it safe for their teams to make assured, unrushed decisions.

Likewise, despite construction being wickedly complicated, we should not be tempted to oversimplify. We need to take the complex and make it seem simple – without oversimplifying – resisting the temptation to treat a complex task as simpler than it is, potentially leading to oversights and mistakes.

Decentralize or be Marginalized

Architects continue to see themselves as central to decision-making, whether at the top of the project pyramid or a prominent point of the team triangle. Contracts notwithstanding, architects are not the point. For collaboration to work, architects need to get off the pyramid and go wherever and whenever they are needed.

Decentralization implies the transfer of authority from central to local offshoots who represent the firm and serve as its public face, whether as project manager, project architect or project designer – sometimes any two, or all three. These offshoots – like starfish arms – contain the complete DNA and trust of the organization.

Although collaboration requires the architect to decentralize, it has to start at the top, where firm leaders entrust employees to lead teams. What will it take for architects to decentralize? Successful collaboration requires facilitative leadership. For the architect to take on this role, they must play the part of process facilitators over content creators, becoming in essence co-creators. When each teammate contributes as a co-creator, no single person has to carry the load, including the leader. Decentralization allows architects to join the project – and be immediately effective – midstream. Ideally, the architect is called in before the owner even considers undertaking a building project, but the reality is – due in no small part to their own making – the architect is often called upon when the project is already well underway.

Given the collaborative nature of today’s project teams, consideration needs to be given to the firm representative’s leadership and communication style. As proxy stand-ins for the firm, each team leader needs to be able to communicate effectively at all times, with all in the room. Architects’ often-unconscious communication habits will be increasingly scrutinized and decreasingly tolerated in these tight-knit groups. Architects, working more closely with others from every facet of practice, will need to become more familiar with their communication style, paying particular attention to the ability to adjust one’s style to those of others from other work cultures and walks of life.

FOCI: Multiple-centered – not centerless – leadership

Architects – seeing that others have helped narrow their options significantly – narrow them further by opting to see themselves as single purpose entities. One example of this is described in Victoria Beach’s salvo in the newly published 15th edition of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice where she asks architects to see themselves more as design-focused celebrity chefs and less as engineers assuring the health, safety and welfare of the public. For architects, it’s a both/and, not either/or, proposition.

In fact, architects in the coming years will be needed less as content providers of design intent than as facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators (or FOCI) of this information and process. Architects will have an opportunity to lead this process if they can learn to become better listeners, aggregators and refiners of the information that arises during the various stages of design and construction.

With the blurring of roles brought about by working collaboratively on integrated teams, the architect’s job is to keep decisions – often multiple decisions – in play. Collaboration and digital practice require a formwork on which to base multi-faceted decisions on increasingly complex projects. One such formwork is that of the rubric FOCI: in lieu of a singular central focus of the center, think of the multiple centers of the ellipse. A redefinition of decision-making that takes digital technology and collaboration into consideration creates such a formwork that will help the architect to communicate effectively with multi-disciplinary teams. To move from a circular to an elliptical model, the architect needs to decentralize.

To decentralize, architects also need to move away from the spotlight where they are the central focus. Many architects are introverts and would gladly succumb the spotlight to others. Architects don’t need to be the loudest one in the room to lead, just the one who listens best. To accomplish this, architects need to focus less, and FOCI more, by serving as project facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators. By decentralizing, the architect is no longer decision-maker so much as facilitator of project information and decision-making process. As facilitative leaders, architects can become experts in knowing how to find information as opposed to what the information is. When collaborating, it is not about how much any one person happens to know: projects today are too complex for any one person to know everything. Knowing from whom – and where – on the team to find information is more important than one’s ability to store and retrieve it. Architects will also serve as strategic orchestrators of large teams from the earliest stages, often made up with primary, secondary and even tertiary players. The C in FOCI is in flux: the C can represent collaborators or creators or controllers or coordinators. Architects, of course, are component and system integrators.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

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6 Qualities That Make Architects Ideally Suited to Lead Collaborative Integrated Teams

leadersIn order to effectively lead collaborative teams, architects would do well to downplay possessing specialized knowledge. Knowledge acquired in school and practice should be thought of as the price of admission, not their “Advance to GO” card, as so many on the team in this connected age have access to and share this same knowledge. Along with specialized knowledge, as a professional duty of practice, architects will also need to reevaluate the role of professional judgment, design intent, responsible control, direct supervision, and serving as the hander-down of rulings in the shape-shifting required from working simultaneously on collaborative teams.

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams:

1. Architects can lead collaborative teams by tapping into their ability to maintain two or more opposing thoughts until an amenable solution arises. Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, on the problem-solving power of integrative thinking, describes the human brain’s ability “to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension.” Like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s test of a first-rate intelligence as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” architects need to become even more comfortable working with and maintaining two or more opposing thoughts earlier in their careers. Architects famously can simultaneously maintain two lines of thought – e.g. their own and their client’s; their client’s and that of the public-at-large; the paying client and the non-paying client; the 99% and the 1%; the circumstantial and the ideal; science and art; reason and intuition; evidence and the ineffable; HSW and aesthetics; practical and dreamer. In an interview with the author, Phil Bernstein described the difference between young designers and older designers as the ability to manage an increasingly larger set of variables: “When I was working for Cesar Pelli, that was one of the amazing things about him – he could keep so many things in his head and he could balance them and weigh one against the other, and he could edit out what he called the systematic generation of useless alternatives. He would prevent us from going down that avenue.”

2. Architects are problem identifiers. Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Frequently, the problem assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.

3. Architects see the big picture. Solution-oriented engineers sometimes have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context coup d’oeilcourt sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. Architects, by the end of their formal training, have begun to develop this ability, by thinking laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. Neither exclusively right- nor left- – architects are whole-brain thinkers. In the midst of prolonged analysis, architects can help to keep things whole.

4. Architects draw by hand, mouse and wand. Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, architects are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get the point across. Because architects envision what is not there, they help bring nascent ideas to life. Today, we cannot talk of leadership without the technology. We lead from the technology and the tools we use. In this way, architects lead collaboration from the middle by leading from the model.

5. Architects can lead collaborative teams by thinking like other team members, anticipating their concerns and questions before they arise. Architects see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others. They have both deep skills and wide wingspan breadth. Architects are the only entity who serve not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) In trying to predict the consequences for any course of action, the architect needs to anticipate the responses of each of the integrated team members. To do this, an architect must know enough about each discipline to negotiate and synthesize competing demands.

6. Architects don’t lead collaborative teams because of their specialized skills, technology know-how, or privileged knowledge, but rather because of their comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Architects are best suited to lead collaborative teams by being able to extrapolate from incomplete information, and won’t let the lack of complete information stop them from moving forward.

The architect leading collaborative teams has implications for education in that independently trained professionals are inclined to remain independent in practice. According to NCARB’s contribution to the NAAB 2013 Accreditation Review Conference (ARC), over 80% of architects rated “collaboration with stakeholders” as important/critical, yet only 31.5% of interns and recently licensed architects indicated they had performed collaboratively prior to completion of their education program. This would need to change.

Let the Team be the Architect

The single most important issue confronting AEC leadership is, as Michael Schrage asked, how to pose problems and opportunities in forms that will elicit and inspire a collaborative response. Consultant Ed Friedrichs describes this as the ability “to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client.”

Concerning collaborative teams, leaders need to ask of themselves – as well as prospective hires – are you the glue or the solvent? If architects are to be respected as leaders, their challenge is to communicate with their collaborators as equal partners in design.

In his book Architecture by Team, CRS’s William Caudill wrote: “The so called ‘great man’ approach must give way to the great team approach. From now on the great architects will be on great interdisciplinary teams.”

That was written in 1971. Buried on page 288 is the title of Chapter 109:

“Let the team – designers, manufacturers and builders – be the architect.”

So let the team be the architect, and the architect be the facilitative leader. And act soon, for we may not have another 40 years to see this out.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process

What Will You Do That’s Extraordinary?

onelifeArchitects and others in the AEC industry are well-aware of the forces at work changing the way they go about their business.

Forces brought about primarily by the advent of the computer.

When in all pares down, there are three approaches you can take to participating.

You can work by hand, collaboratively with machines, or allow machines to do most of the heavy lifting.

In other words:

1. Analog

2. Man-machine collaboration, and

3. Machine

While in 2014 it is still possible to design a building and complete a set of documents by hand, you can also add, subtract and multiply on an abacus.

Doing everything by hand is a legacy from a bygone era.

While hand drawing is still a desirable skill to have in one’s toolkit, it’s an unrealistic proposition if you are going to compete in an industry where the only hand drawing is done primarily on tablets.

Working without the tools that are available in our era is an act of protest.

And regret, for living in an age dependent on all things digital. So going analog is no longer an option.

At the other extreme, firms like Aditazz recognize that computers can be put to use to help design projects – and discern the best alternatives – in less time, using less manpower.

An approach that can be especially useful when addressing complex building assignments.

Most architects, engineers and construction professionals today fall somewhere between the two extremes of analog and machine.

They recognize that computers have helped them to become more effective at what they do.

But that computers can’t make all the calls – ethical, contextual – at least not yet.

Working digitally today is a given, even if the AEC industry itself hasn’t become more productive or effective since the 1960s despite the introduction of computers into our workflows.

Computer Aided Drafting/Design (CAD) never lived up to the hype or promise to make architects, engineers and contractors more productive.

In many ways, CAD just became a digital version of what architects had long done by hand.

Even with BIM, when I ask architects how they are being more productive or effective working in BIM, they’ll mention that they create templates for repeatable portions of their projects (for example, in housing, kitchen and bath templates – with rules of thumb, building code and ADA constraints indicated.)

Which is great. A process that should be automated in the near future.

But one wonders if this is just the digital equivalent of the “sticky back” boiler-plate details we used to attach to mylar sheets in our documents back in the 80s?

As the saying goes: Measure twice, draw once – and use it over and over if you can.

Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times discusses Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s new book, “The Second Machine Age.”

Authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, their new book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives our economy…and our industry.

The book focuses on three massive technological advances that recently reached their tipping points, advances they describe as “exponential, digital and combinatorial.”

A commenter at the Times website wrote:

A time is coming when most routine tasks can and will be done by computers.

This is really how computers can best support design and construction professionals.

Becoming an architect, for example, was never about aspiring to address routine tasks.

Routine tasks – whether running prints, drafting bathroom or column details – were in the past taken-on by architectural interns.

Today, due to their considerable smarts and technological know-how, these same emerging professionals are working on entire buildings.

They’re the first lookers and early responders inside digital building models.

All the more reason that routine tasks ought to become automated.

Freeing-up design and construction professionals to do what they do best.

The article commenter continued:

What happens then to the average people in the world? Extraordinary people will find ways to take care of themselves, but not everyone can be extraordinary.

Not everyone.

But you can.

You can be extraordinary. In fact, for those who want to work in the AEC industry, it’s a requirement.

Being extraordinary at what you do doesn’t change due to the technology you use.

Being extraordinary is all the more important in the workplace and at the jobsite today.

To distinguish oneself.

To differentiate yourself.

What will you do that’s extraordinary?

Bringing your weaknesses up to a level where they’re not so glaring, where they can no longer trip you up and undermine your career ascension, will only get you so far.

Working on your weaknesses will only make you ordinary.

Not extraordinary.

This year, identify a strength and develop it.

Take it as far as you can.

Seek help. Get training.

Track your progress.

Share your results.

Most AEC professionals today who are gainfully employed are already extraordinary people who are extraordinary at what they do.

The trick is in remaining so.

Heed the words of poet Mary Oliver, and ask yourself:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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The Poughkeepsie Principles

pkpsWe are in a race now to produce better and better information, instead of better and better buildings. – Paul Fletcher, RIBA architect

There is a school of thought that contends that BIM is not an authoring tool or software platform or an industry standard, but an approach to creating and managing information.

This way of thinking has blossomed in recent years – from an emerging movement to accepted wisdom – in the AECO industry.

Not that architecture itself is getting the short shrift.

Despite the advent and subsequent diffusion of digital tools in the design process, some of which have a more intuitive design interface than others, we shouldn’t worry about losing our ability to design exceptional buildings anytime soon.

In fact, when it comes to architectural design, there is ample evidence that we are in the midst of a Renaissance (re-Renaissance? Re-naissance?)

Just scroll through archdaily or archinect or archidose or architizer or architonic or archello or abitare – or thumb through this – I think you’ll agree:

Architecture isn’t suffering.

This New Architecture is all about better buildings because we can produce better and better information.

Because we can use this information to convince clients to go along a path that they would otherwise – without the metrics, the benchmarking, the information and data – not take.

But before we can lead owners down this path, we ourselves have to make an important choice.

A Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, describes two paths: one well-trodden, the other less travelled.

You may remember this poem from school. The author takes the path less travelled – the one that “wanted wear” – and, for the author, that has made all the difference.

We, too, have the choice before us – to continue on the well-trodden path of practice –

Whether that means designing using our well-worn visualization tools, working in CAD, or delivering projects by design-bid-build –

Or going outside of our comfort zone, exploring a new way of working.

Our industry’s less travelled path.

Taking the less travelled path

A while back on a sojourn from NYC to Albany, due to inclement conditions I was forced to pull over on the side of the road.

Seeing that the rain wasn’t letting up any time soon, I made a mad dash to a lodge on the edge of the woods.

Inside, locals huddled over coffee weren’t in any hurry to head out. Nor was I.

Battened-down into a booth, I composed the following principles on a napkin.

Principles I swore to – and ascribe to – ever since that fateful day. I call these

The Poughkeepsie Principles

1. BIM is not an authoring tool or software platform or an industry standard, but an approach to creating and managing information.

2. BIM puts information in place to coordinate the digital process from design through operations and beyond.

3. That information comes from somewhere.

4. Digital processes in architecture not only enable, but also determine the way we design, construct, and work together – and relate with our tools.

5. Despite the near-constant temptation, don’t put your tools before people.

6. Everything points toward more expansive ways of digital production.

7. Digital processes alter how we work with one another for the good of all.

8. We collectively determine the meaning of the good of all.

9. Digital networks are there to improve communication and to assure that we communicate with one another. So communicate.

10. Those with digital capabilities work collectively, not autonomously, for the highest good.

11. We collectively determine the meaning of the highest good.

12. Those with digital capabilities will find themselves catalysts for a new organization and industry order.

13. Those with digital capabilities will not find themselves catalysts for a new world order.

14. Where you end up in that order will be determined by your capabilities and collaboration quotient (CQ).

15. Call it collaboration quotient, not CQ. Your colleagues will thank you.

16. Designers will continue to author the design of projects.

17. In the new digital workflow, everybody is a designer.

18. Semi-autonomous algorithmically driven design workflows deeply embedded in a collective digital communication infrastructure will continue to create alluring objects.

19. But designers will be needed to determine how these objects look, scale, function, shed water, stand up and meet code.

20. In other words, designers will still be needed to design.

21. The proliferation of advanced digital modeling tools has enabled designers to conceive and create designs that would be messier to do using Koh-I-Noor Rapidographs on mylar, Razor Points on napkins, 2/HB soft/hard black pencil in Moleskines, lead holders and electric erasers.

22. And drafting dots.

23. Digital modeling tools require less cleanup, therefore, save time.

24. There is a time and place to use Rapidographs on mylar, Razor Points on napkins, 2/HB soft/hard black pencils in Moleskines. This isn’t one of them.

25. Go ahead, experiment with algorithmic and simulation-driven design. Just remember your client and users are waiting.

26. They’re still waiting.

27. Computational design is considered to be a design tool, and also a series of instruments that can be applied in the creation of architecture.

28. The previous principle is both redundant and superfluous. It is redundantly superfluous.

29. Computational design enables architects to incorporate performance analysis and knowledge about material, tectonics and the parameters of production machinery.

30. That’s just a fancy way of saying information, alluded to in the first principle.

31. Computational design really needs to say what it means.

32. In the new world of integration, architects become hybrid- – not hyphenated- – practitioners.

33. In other words, hybrid-practitioners, not hyphenatedpractitioners.

34. Architects can counter the traditional model that isolates architects from the economics and construction of buildings by positioning themselves towards the operational center of each project.

35. To do so, architects need to become developer-architects or contractor-architects, (see hyphenated-practitioners.)

36. Architects need to define what it means to be hybrid practitioners without the hyphen.

37. Use nothing out of the box. All software shall be customized. See principle #6.

38. Customizing computational tools can create more responsive designs.

39. Learn how to customize software for your specific needs and the needs of the project.

40. New digital tools are new and shall remain so until they aren’t.

41. Computation is indeed changing the way architects design, only nobody can say how.

42. There are digital design tools and there are results. Focus on the results, and the tools will take care of themselves.

(To be continued: the napkin on which I was writing was full.)

Published works that inspire – and uphold – these principles include, but are not limited to:

– Digital Workflows in Architecture, Scott Marble

– Digital Fabrication in Architecture, Nick Dunn

– Computation Works: The Building of Algorithmic Thought, Xavier De Kestelier, Brady Peters 

– SHoP: Out of Practice, Shop Architects

– Inside Smartgeometry: Expanding the Architectural Possibilities of Computational Design, terri Peters, Brady Peters

– Material Strategies in Digital Fabrication, Christopher Beorkrem

– Digital Fabrications: Architectural and Material Techniques, Lisa Iwamoto

– Material Computation: Higher Integration in Morphogenetic Design Architectural Design, Achim Menges

– Digital Manufacturing: In Design and Architecture, Asterios Agkathidis

– Manufacturing Material Effects: Rethinking Design and Making in Architecture, Branko Kolarevic  

– From Control to Design: Parametric/Algorithmic Architecture, Michael Meredith

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, defining BIM, modeling, Uncategorized, workflow

BIM and Integrated Design Top 10 Posts for 2011

2011 was an exciting year for BIM and Integrated Design.

For both my book and blog.

As well as for me, personally:

My book was published in September to great reader response and reviews

In 2011, I created the first-ever musical book trailer video for a BIM book, as well as:

  • Well-received speaking gigs on BIM, IPD, Thought Leadership, Lean Design and Construction at Berkeley, AIA HQ in Washington DC, Northwestern University, IIT and several others in Chicago
  • Not one but two BIM-related articles published in DesignIntelligence
  • Contributed to an article in Residential Architect magazine
  • Had a couple posts featured on Bob Borson’s blog, Life of an Architect
  • Co-founded an integrated AEC school in Chicago
  • Became a Top 10 AEC influencer on social media sites PeerIndex and Klout primarily through my involvement (and your support) on Twitter
  • Began writing a couple articles on BIM and IPD for AIA’s The Architects Handbook of Professional Practice 15th Edition to be released in 2013
  • Grew my consultancy, Deutsch Insights, that I co-founded 12 years ago by working with some of the best universities and BIM experts in the country

But none of this would have happened without you. Readers who continue to visit the blog and engage with its content.

For this and so much more, I thank you.

In case you didn’t catch all of these, here are the top 10 BIM and Integrated Design blog posts for 2011:

36 Arguments for the Existence of BIM

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/02/24/36-arguments-for-the-existence-of-bim/

Design and construction is made up of two kinds of people: 1. those who see BIM as an evolutionary tool and 2. those who see BIM as a revolutionary process. Or in more familiar terms there are BIM atheists and BIM apologists. Which are you?

How to Learn Revit in 1000 Difficult Lessons

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/03/01/how-to-learn-revit-in-1000-difficult-lessons/

There’s no getting around it – we each make learning difficult by not honoring the way we best learn.

For AEC Industry, Is Trust the Killer Mobile App?

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/06/21/for-aec-industry-is-trust-the-killer-mobile-app/

We’re all worried about how we’re going to build buildings when we ought to be focused on building trust.

First Fire, then the Wheel, and now BIM

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/05/16/first-fire-then-the-wheel-and-now-bim/

Owners didn’t ask for BIM. Nor for IPD. Never did. Not then and not now.

The Perpetual Improvement of Lean Design

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/01/05/the-perpetual-improvement-of-lean-design/

While much has been written about waste – resources, material, time, money – in construction, relatively little has been written about reducing waste in the design process. Here’s a start.

System Requirements for IPD to Flourish

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/03/09/system-requirements-for-ipd-to-flourish/

We all know with each release of software the computer system requirements increase. But how about for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)?

BIM and Integrated Design: the College Curriculum

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/02/22/bim-and-integrated-design-the-college-course/

MoneyBIMball

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/10/02/moneybimball/

This movie raises two questions we need to answer: Is it time we honor our inner geek? Is it time we get creative with our data?

2011-12 BIM Conferences

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/08/12/2011-12-bim-conferences/

The announcement of the launch of BIM and Integrated Design: the college course gets me thinking about the role of BIM and IPD in academia.

Is BIM in 10 Words or Less Still BIM?

https://bimandintegrateddesign.com/2011/09/15/is-bim-in-10-words-or-less-still-bim/

When you pare Revit down, what’s lost in translation? Actually, very little.

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Filed under BIM, BIM conference, collaboration, defining BIM, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD

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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Filed under analysis, BIM, BIM expert, BIM instructor, BIM trainer, collaboration, Content Creation, modeling, workflow

Is BIM in 10 Words or Less Still BIM?

Recently I was asked to summarize my 240 page book in a single sentence.

It’s the sort of reductionist thinking that can lead to some less than satisfying outcomes.

Analogically, new software is being introduced that promises to be the AutoCAD LT version of Revit. 

Interested in testing and providing feedback for a technology preview of a lighter version of Revit?

Thought so. Go here.

Or see A Revit LT-ish Product Available for Download from Autodesk Labs.

In other words, when you pare Revit down, what’s lost in translation?

Actually, very little.

That is, unless worksharing is important to you.

Then you’re out of luck.

Have no need for photo realistic rendering?

Good – because it doesn’t support it.

Nor view filters, groups, in-Place families, massing, analysis, trusses or shared coordinates.

Nor point clouds, sun path, API, parts/assemblies, design options, adaptive components, simplified export, links, content, phasing or materials.

To reach that agile level of lightness and simplicity – and pare the program down to essentials – much of value is lost along the way.

The whole emphasis on lean practices is to reduce waste and increase value. Right?

What is lost is this:

Communicating, sharing and collaborating.

In other words, what makes BIM BIM.

The same can be said of most reductionist definitions of BIM.

The focus of a recent Linkedin BIM group challenge asked:

Is it even possible to describe BIM in TEN words or less?

Is something lost when you try to pare BIM down to its essentials?

Are 10 words enough to meaningfully describe, explain or justify BIM?

50 words, maybe.

For 24 definitions of BIM in 50 words or less look here.

14 words?

Possibly.

But restricting a working definition of BIM down to 10 words means that people only describe what is important to them.

Not to each other.

Does BIM need to be enabled by bloated software?

If by ‘bloated’ you mean that it also communicates, allows for sharing and collaboration?

Then afraid so.

Here’s a smattering of the 10-word definitions. You decide if any capture the magic of BIM.

In terms of software:

BIM

“generates and manages building data throughout the building lifecycle”

“provides coordination to the nth degree”

“is a federated data models of an asset throughout its life cycle”

“creates, develops and manages all building information digitally”

“3D + Data + Relationship”

“is an acronym for construction utopia”

“forces people to communicate throughout the building process”

 “is the digital representation of a facility’s physical and functional characteristics”*

 “is 3D coordination before construction prevents surprises in the field”

“is everything you need to know about your building, forever”

“is the bridge between design and close-out at your fingertips”

As an activity

BIM

“is building a building twice: first in 3D, then real life.”

In terms of a process

BIM

“is the process of gathering and managing building lifecycle information”

“is a process that federates information for a buildings lifecycle”

Some are contrived

BIM

“digitally builds the facility before gets built”

Some are downright tortured

BIM

“prebuild virtually with end-user mentality, incorporate product data, add value”

In terms of information

BIM

“is complete information about building and that can be repossessed anytime”

In terms of knowledge

“is structuring and relating data to maintain information and generate knowledge”

Some unnecessarily obfuscate

BIM

“is an ontology based knowledge management infrastructure for virtual construction based on standardized business process workflows”

Some define BIM in terms of what it is not:

BIM

“isn’t Software it includes people, processes, standards and methods”

“IT’s NOT SOFTWARE, it’s process, methodology and collaboration”

My favorite

I like this (albeit a compromise at 14 words)

“Regardless of the tools you use BIM requirements enforce that you collaborate with others”

But for BIM to succeed, perhaps a little compromise is in order?

* a reworded version of the definition provided by the National Institute of Building Sciences.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, definition, workflow