Category Archives: construction industry

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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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, people, process

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

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

Two Books to Transform the AEC Industry

This past week I had the opportunity to read two significant AEC industry books – one of which I had been meaning to read for several years, the other just having been published.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) are central to each of these books, whereas they were relegated to a single chapter in Barry LePatner’s otherwise excellent book, Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry.

I’ll start with The Commercial Real Estate Revolution: Nine Transforming Keys to Lowering Costs, Cutting Waste, and Driving Change in a Broken Industry, by Rex Miller et al, a quartet of construction industry professionals.

The Commercial Real Estate Revolution

I didn’t read this book when it first came out (July 2009) for one reason and one reason alone: it cost $40.

And for a second reason: I was writing my own AEC industry book ($75!) and didn’t want to be influenced by its findings.

And a third: I found a few words in the title (Commercial Real Estate + Revolution) off-putting. Sounded more 2006 than 2009.

And a fourth (I’ll get to that in a moment.)

Looking back, I should have ignored these reasons and read the book when the ink was still wet.

Observations

The foreword by Metropolis Magazine’s Susan S. Szenasy alone is worth the price of the book  $39.95  ($12 used)

The book grew out of a wide-ranging group of dedicated industry players called The Mindshift consortium (the name was my fourth reason. It sounded vaguely un-construction-like.) That the consortium (not a think-tank but a “do-tank”) grew out of weekly discussions over pancakes (the Pancake Roundtable) at a local diner grounds the book in real people with real concerns.

This book has a big heart. It’s the kind of commercial real estate book that’s not afraid to quote Joseph Campbell on the power of metaphors to induce change.

Unlike LePatner, Miller and his cohorts are not only looking to fix what’s broken in the industry, but transform it. That alone distinguishes this book.

Read Chapter 2: What Every Executive Needs to Know About Low-Bid Contracting, and you’ll never use Design-Bid-Build as a delivery method again.

The Nine Keys

The second two-thirds of the book present The Nine Keys of Mindshift, including Four Principles, Four Tools, One Hidden Revolution

Key 1: Trust-Base Team Formation (Principle) – How you select your team, whom you select, and the process you use to form them into a team is the most important component of a succesful project.

Key 2: Early Collaboration (Principle) – Clear channels of communication and efficient ways of working together must be established to ensure ultimate success.

Key 3: Built-In Sustainability (Principle) – Sustainability becomes a natural result of better design and the elimination of waste.

Key 4: Transformational Leadership (Principle) – Leadership must be flexible, trusting team members to work together and empowering them to solve problems.

Key 5: Big “BIM” (Tool) – Building Information Modeling is a game-changing technology. It facilitates early collaboration and allows the team to rehearse and resolve issues in a virtual environment that carries over seamlessly to real construction.

Key 6: Integrated Project Delivery (Tool) – The “siloed” hierarchy of Design-Bid-Build becomes a round table in IPD as the planning, design, and implementation process integrate all team members’ input and participation. Lean Construction is an increasingly important tool for team members to identify waste and measure performance.

Key 7: Trust-Based Agreements and Client-Centered Incentives (Tool) – All team members assume an equal degree of shared risk and reward, and profitability is inextricably linked to the success of the project.

Key 8: Offsite Manufacturing (Tool) – Fabricating materials offsite and in advance provides an opportunity to change the nature, quality and future of construction.

Key 9: Workplace Productivity (The Hidden Revolution) – When buildings are uniquely designed and constructed with the end-user in mind, the space created can enhance the quality of life and work for those using it and will deliver higher value to the owner. Alternative workplace solutions are one example of the mindshift model that stresses long-term strategic value over short-term transactional returns.

The authors write: “Building, at its essence, is a relational practice. It is creative. And, when done well, it is restorative.” I believe, if you haven’t already done so, that reading this book will be an equally restorative experience for you.

You can find a good summary and background here http://www.haworth.com/en-us/Knowledge/Mindshift/Pages/The-Consortium.aspx

An article providing some background by the author in DesignIntelligence here

And read chapter 1 (“The $500 Billion Black Hole”) here http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/65/04704574/0470457465.pdf

Makers of the Environment

Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard of this book.

Makers of the Environment: Building Resilience Into Our World, One Model at a Time, by BIG BIM little bim author, Finith E. Jernigan was released December 15, 2011 ($9.99 Kindle, though you will want a hard copy of the book so you can scan the QR code-like tags. I’ll get top those in a moment.)

Billed as “the first information model in a book” (where BIM = book information model,) Makers of the Environment is a true 3D reading experience.

You can read the book straight through or, using Microsoft TAGs spread throughout the book, link to the book’s website for richer data, videos, related articles and a deeper look into the subject at hand.

You can imagine my surprise while scanning one of the codes to find it lead to one of my own blog posts (i.e. a surreal experience.)

Read more about it here.

Observations

The book presents straightforward short chapters on various topics. These are followed by scenario plans that take place in the near future – or the recent past – and are populated by characters devised by the author. Here’s how it is described:

Makers of the Environment shows how an organization in a small, depressed rural county can pull together to take advantage of the opportunities to become a world leader in the management of information to change our world. With systems and processes such as Makers describes, we for the first time in history can define and manage real-world assets. The book’s central design future forms the backbone for three scenarios show how to use the information to improve the world.

Three of these scenarios are presented in the prologue, even before you hit the first chapter (which opens with another scenario.) It’s admittedly a bit rough-going, but well-worth the journey when you arrive at the expository writing and tags. That’s when the book really transforms (some, such as the tag on Georeferencing, are spectacular.)

The book presents a world of making or makers that is wholly inclusive and democratic. The book presents an industry where laypeople – real people – are participants who engage creatively and productively in the making and preservation of their world, and in doing so receive value directly from their involvement.

Technology is leveling the field for everyone. No longer must we rely on experts talking at us as we find solutions to today’s most vexing problems. We can all participate directly in the decisions, with real data, to get greater certainty of outcomes.

That said, one wonders if the title ought to have been Stewarts of the Environment or Makers of the Built Environment?

Some caveats: There is a great deal of repetition (whole sentences and even pages: p. 21-22, for example, are mysteriously repeated at length on p. 23-25) and the book, self-published, could have benefitted from some heavy editing and copyediting. Why, for example, are some chapters in grey background and others not? Some of the technology discussions come across as infomercials. Some of the scenarios sound as though they are taking place next week rather than in 10 years (this can be disconcerting for the reader who is constantly being asked by the text to place themselves in time.) The book’s sentences – that make up the paragraphs – don’t have a great deal of variation or differentiation in length. In this sense, the book sometimes feels as though it was in fact an information model in that it can feel as though it were written by a computer. This is a book that has enough valuable information to recreate the world – but, nonetheless, is still in search of a heart.

Kudos to the author for taking the innovative and creative route – it is always the more difficult to be a trailblazer.

It is very hard in a brief review to summarize what comes across as a comprehensive worldview – a view of the near-term future. Here’s how the book is described:

Makers of the Environment merges storytelling with everyday reality to offer a moment where we can rethink our expectations to understand how technology can and should be used to improve our world. The book makes the extraordinary ordinary, offering a vision on how society can take advantage of new and emerging technology to create a better, more sustainable world for our children.

I’ve barely touched on some of the major themes and ideas presented. You truly have to read the book for yourself to fully grasp it’s breadth, potential impact on your thinking and vision of the near-term future: the next steps for our industry and planet.

Forgiving some of the book’s more experimental and editorial shortcomings, I highly recommend Makers of the Environment for anyone and everyone working in – or around – the AECO industry.

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Filed under BIM, business model, construction industry, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people

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

BIM’s Blue Ocean

After I give one of my talks on building information modeling the question I’m most often asked is:

What’s the best BIM business model?

What is the best way to make a profit utilizing building information modeling on projects in their organization?

In other words, how can we leverage the technology to reap the greatest financial reward?

It goes without saying that they have invested a great deal of money in soft- and hardware – and time in getting comfortable with each – and now want to know what the return is on their investment.

Is it the Free business model?

The Long Tail business model?

Or something altogether different?

It’s actually a lot simpler than any of these.

It’s called “coupling.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, let’s take a quick look at two books that use the sea metaphor to help explain how businesses can best address our industry’s ongoing sea changes.

Then we’ll turn this metaphor on to design and construction professional’s situation to see how they can best benefit from the emerging technologies in their organizations.

C-Scape

A book every design and construction professional ought to read is

C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, a book that shows how businesses can survive and thrive in the digital media revolution.

Don’t be turned-off by the book’s emphasis on media – especially digital and social media.

It’s the metaphor that’s applicable here.

The book’s storyline goes something like this:

Not so long ago, the business landscape was easier to chart.

That landscape has been upended, and in its place a “C-Scape” has emerged—a world where

  • Consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where
  • Content, not distribution, is king; where
  • Curation becomes a primary currency of value; and where
  • Convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business.

Taking a more in-depth look at each of these 4 Cs:

Consumers choose what, how, and when they consume information. This has given consumers more power than ever in the relationship with content creators and information sources. Those who don’t respect this new relationship will perish.

Content becomes king. With the Internet able to directly bring the buyer to the seller, the need to have a better product, not just one that is distributed better, will become paramount. Those who had distribution advantages will struggle so long as they are averse to focusing on competing with direct distribution.

Curation cures information overload. Businesses will need to monitor and curate conversations about their brands in order to prevent major blunders.

Convergence revolutionizes every form of communication. New forms of storytelling will emerge as all forms of communication converge on a single platform for the first time. Companies need to learn these new ways of telling stories about their products and brands.

You’ve probably experienced some of these forces yourself, on your teams and in your organizations.

There are some obvious overlaps with the construction industry.

But that’s not where we’re going with this.

While these concepts are astute, they represent the digital media’s C-landscape.

Not our own (unless you consider the idea that every organization is now in the media business.)

Design and Construction’s Seven Seas

Design and construction has its own seascape or C-Scape.

But its seven C’s don’t stand for consumers, content, curation and convergence.

Our seven C’s stand for:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Community
  • Complexity
  • Co-location
  • Co-creation

C-words, make note, all beginning with “co” – for “together.”

While Construction is another one (Coupling is as well) these 7 C’s represent our seascape or blue ocean.

Why?

Because in our profession and industry collaboration and the other six concepts are virtually uncharted waters.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant,

You might recall is a book where the blue ocean metaphor represents a vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate.

Unlike “red oceans,” which are well-explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” stand for “untapped market space” and growth.

A few of the book’s basic concepts – implying where we are today and where we are headed – can be summarized as follows:

  • Compete in existing market space >>> Create uncontested market space
  • Beat the competition >>> Make the competition irrelevant
  • Exploit existing demand >>> Create and capture new demand
  • Make the value/cost trade-off >>> Break the value/cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a company’s activities with its choice of differentiation or low cost >>> Align the whole system

BIM isn’t our blue ocean.

Collaboration is.

Why?

Because BIM has become – or is fast becoming – ubiquitous.

And collaboration is still largely uncharted territory.

For BIM to live up to its promise, we must make it our goal to use emerging technology to address analysis such as building performance and energy use.

As Phil Bernstein FAIA predicts, “as these platforms get more robust and analytical algorithms get more sophisticated the whole analysis problem moves from things we understand right now – things like airflow and the modulus of elasticity – to building codes and air quality.”

To accomplish this we’ll have to share what we know with one another.

There’s no other way for our industry – and for us – to move forward.

In order for us to achieve our goals and in order for BIM to realize its promise, we will have to first accept, then relearn, how to communicate and share information.

The best way for design and construction professionals to accomplish this is by working together.

By leveraging each other’s experience and expertise.

By keeping an open line of communication and exercising it constantly.

By looking to one another for insights and solutions.

If we are to survive and overcome the forces that are remaking the design and construction landscape, we will do whatever is in our power to learn to work compatibly and effectively.

Together.

Coupling Design and Construction

Design professionals, especially, like to go it alone.

They find the idea of sharing design input, and more so, responsibility threatening.

“Let me take it back to the office and study it” is their onsite mantra.

Concerning our desire to peel away and sequester ourselves, I love this quote from the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.

Four small words that were barely noticed when she said them at the Jackson Hole Symposium:

“Decoupling is a myth.”

Making the case for the key issue for the world economy:

Everything is coupled to everything else.

As futurist and iconoclast Stowe Boyd notes, “the steps taken to date have not decomplexified the economic tarball. No real steps have been taken to make the world economic system less connected, and that is the only path to a safer world.”

Like the rest of the world and economy, we are all in this together.

Connected.

There’s no extracting any one entity from the collective.

For design and construction professionals, it’s all “co” from here on out.

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Filed under analysis, BIM, BIM organizations, business model, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, modeling

This Week in Tweets

Here’s a smattering of the BIM and IPD-related tweets that my followers on Twitter have retweeted to their followers.

In addition to technology and collaboration, my tweets focus on creativity, architecture, design and construction.

Oh, and books, writing and poetry.

We’ll save those for another post. The following tweets are on BIM and IPD.

By browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it.

If you like what you see, please follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch

Collaborative #Learning for the Digital Age http://bit.ly/q7jsiH#SM#education

The End of the #Architecture Firm? http://lnkd.in/FR6th7#AEC#architects

Stewart Brand: “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” #BIM

Giving a talk about my #BIM book http://bit.ly/oHqJJ0 in #Chicago 9/12 at IIT Architecture | Master of Integrated Building Delivery

Lateral thinking and problem solving, perhaps. But #creativity is one lesson you ‘can’t teach’ http://bit.ly/qFUxBC

#BIM for Infrastructure http://bit.ly/o9I19I#construction#AEC#engineering

Building performance as brand http://bit.ly/qwaK1Q#performativity

Conference Addresses #Performativity of #Architectshttp://bit.ly/oMNrkQ#ACSA > SHoP Architects http://bit.ly/pOQl8v

Attend Integrated Project Delivery: A Catalyst for Collaborative #Design & #Constructionhttp://bit.ly/qdG9jl#IPD#architecture

Barriers to Successful #BIM by BIG BIM little bim author Finith Jernigan http://bit.ly/r1ctWH & http://amzn.to/ra2vTb > helpful checklist

MIT Unravels the Secrets Behind Collective Intelligence – HINT: IQ Not So Important http://www.singularityhub.com #collaboration

Enjoyed doing the panel yesterday with @newvoodou & @pwnakazawa at #SMPS2011 on “Trends: What to Look for When You Don’t Know What’s Coming”

If each GC firm wore their #BIM Score on a jersey, what would yours say? Where is your firm along the spectrum? http://bit.ly/pjP3le

 “Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?” http://bit.ly/h7fpwL#IPD

 “People may accept or resist a technology not for what it does but for how it makes them feel.” Sherry Turkle in http://amzn.to/qML0XV

@threefourteen New in that it involves all stakeholders from earliest stages each of whom has input into what goes into making the decisions

@threefourteen Can get confusing…with integrative design, integrated buildings, integrated design process, integrated practice & IPD!

#BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice available pre-publication as an eBook http://bit.ly/pxOcxp#IPD

@Neil_BIM Great question. Due to length I had to cut the international BIM chapter but the remaining content is still applicable. Thanks.

Program Management Integrated with #BIM, demonstrating use of BIM-based PM tools via @jvandezande@HOKNetworkhttp://bit.ly/nZ31xp

Finding Your Way Around #BIMhttp://bit.ly/pqlKnb#IPD

Read Finith E. Jernigan’s book, Makers of the Environment, free http://bit.ly/rndf1q executive summary http://bit.ly/qbwA3Q

Design futures: Finith E. Jernigan’s blog, Makers of the Environment helps us look into the future http://bit.ly/reeZwM

Makers of the Environment is an information model whose foundation is a printed book. A book information model http://bit.ly/reeZwM#BIM

How seriously has recession damaged the construction industry? 65 markets suffer #construction declines of >75% http://bit.ly/rqCNMb

read the first chapter of my book free http://bit.ly/pIdOc1

#BIM & #IPD have a 8-in-10 chance of completing a project on schedule & within budget, an improvement fr previous stats http://bit.ly/pIdOc1

Let’s collaborate: AUGIWorld August 2011 #Collaboration issue is out! @AUGIhttp://bit.ly/fpjryJ http://www.augi.com/ #BIM#IPD

John Moebes, director of #construction at Crate & Barrel, will be a presenter at Integration Utah ACEO 9/20 http://bit.ly/mYO5xp#IPD

John Moebes highlights successes & challenges of #IPD. Crate & Barrel’s presentation on Integrated Project Delivery http://bit.ly/mYO5xp

Is IPD the right fit across the board? What It Means to #IPDhttp://bit.ly/nhv9qI#AEC#construction

As you start to integrate projects, remember Communication—Integration—Interoperability—Knowledge—Certainty drive #BIMhttp://amzn.to/qbFIxX

Tradition and legacy systems must not overshadow good business decisions. http://amzn.to/qbFIxX#BIM#CAD

You can only become expert in a limited range of issues. This makes #collaboration others a necessity not a luxury http://amzn.to/qbFIxX#IPD

Scripting Cultures: Architectural Design & Programming. Computer #programming integral to the digital #design process http://bit.ly/pHC30K

Mastering Autodesk Revit MEP 2012 from @WileyDesign – best tutorial & reference providing coverage of #BIM#MEPhttp://bit.ly/qBWS8i

Good discussion on whether #architecture school is the best place to learn #BIM and #IPDhttp://bit.ly/rkSZk3#AIATAP

One architect’s favorite iPad apps for #architects and #architecturehttp://bit.ly/odqWdT

@case_inc brought on board by Advanced Cast Stone to provide all LOD 400 #BIM#fabrication modeling > see the results http://bit.ly/hZmJ3y

Due to seismic shift, #BIM Migrates to Apple Platforms | Building #Design + #Constructionhttp://bit.ly/pIZoHg

eBIM™ Existing #BIM launches in UK > focuses on growing demand for accurate surveys of existing buildings http://bit.ly/o21h1i#AEC

What is #BIM about? Is it about software? Is it about technology? Is it about #Revit? > It’s about people @revit3dhttp://bit.ly/oK3Asy

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD