Category Archives: construction industry

Peer Pressure Transforms our World, but Can it Transform our Industry?

In an interview for my book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice (Wiley, 2011) I asked Perkins+Will CIO, Rich Nitzsche:

IT is constantly changing. P+W, founded in 1935 in Chicago, has 20 North  American offices and three overseas, with a total of 1,500 employeesat, is one of the world’s largest firms (#1 in Architect Magazine’s 2011 Architect 50.) How exactly do you turn a firm the size of an aircraft carrier around to embark on an entirely different IT direction?

Rich Nitzsche responded:

“Sometimes you feel like you’re in a dinghy pushing against that aircraft carrier. Not making a lot of progress. We didn’t do anything entirely different.”

“First of all,” he continued, “you have to have buy-in from the top.”

How effective is peer pressure in changing behavior?

“One of the things I’ve learned is we’d be sitting in an operations meeting with the guys who run our offices every day from a practical, bottom-line and staffing point of view.” 

This is where peer pressure came into play:

“One guy would grumble about how BIM is going,” Nitzsche added. “There’s a great opportunity to find the people around the table who have success stories to tell, who have already done the labor to get there. You need to let them shine – and let peer pressure do its work. Not in a mean-spirited way. It’s a way of saying ‘This can be done.’ You’ve done it – why not have a conversation about what it took? Try and highlight the success stories.”

“That’s something we’re trying to do a lot more of in IT – focus on communication. I’m finding that peer pressure is one of the most effective tools to try and persuade other groups to move ahead.”

I was a bit surprised by his response. So I asked:

With reference to BIM and other related technologies, how do you – in your role – create and communicate value for a firm as large and diverse as P+W?

Rich again answered in terms of peer pressure:

“There’s not an RFP that crosses our threshold that doesn’t have BIM as a requirement. And now we’re starting to see IPD show up. So if we’re going to compete with what we consider to be our peer group – and even with people who are smaller than us – we’ve got to be ready on all of these levels. So we’ve got to go in with a great BIM story and not only a great sustainability story but a leadership story about sustainable design. We have a green operating plan and green IT is part of the green operating plan. We’ve done a pretty good job of that. My goal this year is to get us into a leadership position about BIM and IPD – in the eyes of owners and our peers. Because we all measure ourselves to some degree in terms of how we measure ourselves in relation to our peers. And I would say we’re on the front edge when it comes to those two things.”

How did you know Revit was right for P+W?

“We have folks who insist that they can’t design in Revit. And I have other designers – who are just now emerging – who say that they can accomplish 95% of what they need to do in Revit. Designers who have taken it on as their personal mission who say that they’re going to wrestle this beast to the ground and bend it to my will as an architect. As these people emerge, we’ll do the peer pressure thing.”

“That said,” he concluded, “we can’t get stubborn about it and say we can’t use these tools – SketchUp and Rhino – to author your design idea. We would have open revolt.”

Peer pressure can transform the world, but can it transform our industry?

In National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient, Tina Rosenberg’s “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World,” she explores the thinking that human behavior is defined by our relationships with our colleagues and acquaintances.

Why did she make peer pressure the subject of her new book?

“Problems were in endless supply,” she writes. “But it was starting to seem more interesting and valuable to write about solutions.”

Solutions, that is, such as the virtues of peer pressure.

Rosenberg builds the case the most powerful motivator of our personal behavior is the search for status and peer approval.

But can peer pressure assure that we, as a profession and industry, will adopt the new technologies and collaborative work processes enmass?

Motivating through fear

A review in The New York Times pointed out that Rosenberg’s examples, while impressive, also raise doubts about peer pressure’s effectiveness.

“Many of the efforts that she reports on are successes in the short run but not in the longer run, or on a small scale but not a large scale,” reminding us that peer pressure alone cannot transform the world.

The Times review reminds us that our success as a society “depends on the strength of our communities, because the development of our best traits — trust, honesty, foresight, responsibility and compassion — depends upon our close interactions with others.”

So, peer pressure may not be able to transform our industry, but perhaps “it illuminates one crucial piece of the complex puzzle of social ­improvement.”

Join the club

You might recall from your youth peer pressure’s reputation for less beneficial behavior: doing what your friends did to go along with the pack.

Doing something just to fit in, to not rock the boat, to not stand out.

This behavior is perhaps understandable in a large corporate firm, where standing out is professionally ill-advised, and fitting-in the name of the game.

But here’s the rub:

If you have a good reason for using the tools you’re using, you ought to be able to explain and justify your choice.

You shouldn’t give-in to the powers that be because “everybody is doing it.”

It ought to be a choice, one that you make and most importantly, are free to make.

And yet, this admittedly can be difficult.

The concept of peer pressure implies the power of a group to impose its will upon an individual, “to coerce a state of being that might not otherwise exist.”

For as Rosenberg says, “We are all good boys at risk of the bad crowd. Peer pressure is a mighty and terrible force—so powerful that, for the vast majority of people, the best antidote to it is more peer pressure.”

Habits run deep

Many design professionals still refuse to change from their tools of choice – no matter the incentive.

And are just as unwilling to leave their silos and work together collaboratively.

As Rosenberg says in Join the Club, “No amount of information can budge us when we refuse to be budged. The catalog of justifications for destructive behaviors is a tribute to human ingenuity.”

Can an unwillingness to move to BIM, and not taking part on integrated teams, be considered “destructive behavior?”

Absolutely.

Can we be pressured, even coerced, to change against our wills?

I wouldn’t want to wait to find out.

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

Building Model Client-Designer Relationships

You don’t need to be a designer to benefit from the best practices espoused in this magnificent new book. A must-have for designers, those in design management and anyone who works with designers on integrated teams.

What does a book on design strategy have to do with BIM and integrated design?

It turns out – a great deal.

For it turns out that today designers of  all stripes emphasize co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in building strong team relationships.

These qualities are no longer the sole province of those participating in Integrated Project Delivery.

Based on over 100 interviews with designers, researchers and educators, The_Strategic_Designer by David Holston provides an overview of the design process and designer’s best practices.

The Strategic Designer: Tools and techniques for managing the design process, published by F+W Media and HOW Design, is billed as a Strategic Graphic Design Thinking book.

Despite this categorization, the subject matter transcends graphic design and can be universally applied to any of the design trades and professions including architectural design.

The book description will sound familiar to anyone working in architecture and related design professions: on integrated teams

As designers look for ways to stay competitive in the conceptual economy and address the increasing complexity of design problems, they are seeing that they must not only be experts in form, but must also have the ability to collaborate, to design in context and be accountable through measurement. By adopting a process that considers collaboration, context and accountability, designers move from makers of things to strategists.

The book focuses on the designer’s workflow, ideation techniques, client relationships and methods for measuring the success of their projects.

But it doesn’t stop there.

An excellent foreward by Shawn M McKinney, alone, is worth the investment in the book.

Each chapter covers a specific design phase emphasis, providing a practical step-by-step approach, complete with tools and techniques.

  • The Conceptual Economy – where those who have the ability to collaborate and manage the increasing complexity of design will have greater opportunities
  • Overview of the Design Process – a process rife with opportunities for misinformation, dead ends, and divergent tracks, as well as amazing outcomes
  • The Value of Process – the benefits of having a well-defined design process
  • The Collaborative Designer – emphasizing co-creation, communication, mutual benefit, respect and trust in a strong client-designer relationship. This is a particularly rich chapter, addressing and answering such questions as: What makes a Good Designer? What Makes a Good Client? and Clients to Avoid. There’s a wonderful sidebar on: Seven Principles for Managing Creative Tension.
  • Empathic Design – explaining how research provides a path and imperative for moving forward
  • Understanding the Business – includes a breakdown of basic strategy techniques and an explanation of the purpose of business analysis as understanding and defining goals of the client
  • Designing with the End User in Mind – with an emphasis on facilitating and moderating participatory and collaborative work sessions. The Designing for People chapter focuses on research as a valuable tool for gaining insight into the organizational needs of clients and their prospective audiences.
  • Managing Ideas – especially when ideating with others in a participatory or collaborative setting, relying heavily on the experiences and knowledge of people involved.
  • Making Strategy Visible – how the designer takes an empathic approach to design that connects business goals with user needs.
  • Design Accountability – asking: Why is design hard to measure? And answering by sharing significant research findings and metrics. Salient quote: “The price for a seat at the decision-making table is accountability.”
  • Planning in a Turbulent Environment – the days of using a linear design process are over. Strategic designers face increasingly wicked problems. A helpful framework offered by project management.
  • Refining Your Process – so it can provide a common understanding for “how things get done” mitigating wasted efforts while creating value for the client and user alike.

Holston’s text anticipates your questions and concerns and places each topic in a larger context. He is clearly in control of his subject.

The author places the book and subject squarely in Dan Pink’s Conceptual Economy, a term describing the contribution of creativity, innovation, and design skills to economic competitiveness, especially in the global context.

In his book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explains how the economy is now moving from the information age to the conceptual age.

Later in The Strategic Designer, Rotman School of Management dean Roger L Martin says that the world is moving from the Information Economy to a Design Economy. A small distinction, but one that unnecessarily complicates matters. I would look to a book such as this to clarify the playing field, at the very least to acknowledge that the labeling of epochs and phraseology are still a work-in-progress.

The book’s strength is not in creating new knowledge – but in repackaging what is largely already known, experientially by every designer – in an easy to carry tome.

In this sense, the book is not a product of the Conceptual Age, but instead is a well-designed, convenient and accessible agglomeration, aggregating both explicit and, perhaps the greater achievement here, tacit knowledge on the subject.

The design world – including the universe of BIM and IPD – is a much better place for having this book at its disposal.

The Strategic Designer is a must-have book for designers, those who manage design projects and those who work with designers in a collaborative setting. It will benefit anyone participating in integrated teams by placing them in a multi-disciplinary mindset. Highly recommended. 

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Filed under BIM, BIM organizations, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, workflow

BIM and Integrated Design: The Week in Tweets

Here are some of my Tweets that had the most impact from May 16-22 2011, all 140 characters or less.

BIM and IPD-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)

Take a look. If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it.

And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch

“We’re stuck in a mode where we’re using old systems of understanding learning to try to understand new forms.” ~ Douglas Thomas

Relating to people: #Construction sector gains soft skills w mentoring. Program helps workers w communication http://bit.ly/kODaWT#AEC

#BIM lawsuit: You read the headline? Now, read the +70 comments http://bit.ly/jRqH85 (Then, if necessary, read the article.)

Presentation recorded at the NYC Revit Users Group May 2011 Meeting: New Features in Revit 2012 http://vimeo.com/24012603#BIM

Finally, some good news for the hard-hit design profession: Firms are hiring again! Architecture Employment on the Rise http://bit.ly/lZ4caM

100% of UK government projects to use #BIM within five years http://bit.ly/lfzAk7

“America seems very rich but I never see anyone actually making anything.” from Making Things in America, PAUL KRUGMAN http://nyti.ms/mrka7v

You’ve heard it before: learning is a change you’re introducing into a work culture. #Learning Strategy Buy-In http://bit.ly/jpFLm8

Sustainable Performance Institute promises to deliver on the promise of sustainability http://www.sustainable-performance.org/#green

Looking Beyond the Structure: Critical Thinking for #Designers & #Architectshttp://amzn.to/iAkbEE

Computational Design Thinking: influential thinking on the formation of today’s computational #design discourse http://bit.ly/mLKtNq

Excellent review of AIA 2011 Convention: Thomas Friedman’s Keynote & Energy-Related Technologies @AECbyteshttp://bit.ly/m0Wp5m#AIA2011

“Building Industry Future Belongs to Contractors Who Know BIM.” Really? Not architects? http://bit.ly/kOsWWc#AIA2011

Learn how to protect your organization contractually from risks & legal challenges that come with #BIMhttp://bit.ly/l6Dcgm#revit#AEC

Is the Legal Risk of Building Information Modeling Real or Imagined? http://bit.ly/l6Dcgm#BIM

Daunting mountain to climb? Break it into molehills. Change Management and the Power of Small Wins http://bit.ly/jlEofm

The problem wasn’t #BIM, but poor communication. “Design team never discussed installation sequence w the contractor” http://bit.ly/ijYpiW

Description of Integrated Project Delivery course at California Polytechnic State University http://bit.ly/k10moh#IPD

34 days 18 hours 31 minutes 28 seconds 27 seconds 26 seconds…left until Revit Tech Conf 2011! http://bit.ly/cJGu7L#RTCUSA2011

3 reasons to attend Revit Tech Conf: 1. in California 2. spend 3 days w other Revit users 3. LOTS to learn http://bit.ly/cJGu7L#RTCUSA2011

The biggest challenge architects face today is making themselves relevant to owners.

Call for Presentations: submissions for the AIA 2012 National Convention in Washington, DC are due July 1

By adopting a process that considers collaboration, designers move from makers of things to design strategists http://bit.ly/jAG7dG

Ryan Schultz is the mastermind behind collaboration platform @Opening_Design. Check out his profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanschultz

OpeningDesign.com is a community platform where #AEC professionals can collaborate with fellow building professionals. http://bit.ly/iXbciV

My book already ranked by Amazon Bestsellers Rank #669,047 in Books – and it doesn’t even come out until September http://amzn.to/kCKUuP

Click here to read the AUGIWorld May 2011 issue >>> http://bit.ly/fpjryJ#BIM#IPD#Lean#AEC

GREAT post by Case’s uber-BIM fanboy @davidfano Practice 2.0: “BIM is an opportunity, not a problem” @ArchDailyhttp://ow.ly/4WKKO

Owners didn’t ask for #BIM or for #IPD. They asked for less waste & adversity, more predictability & value. http://bit.ly/c4AHUq

Due to complications & risks associated with #IPD‘s multiparty contracts some are pushing integrated delivery (ID) http://bit.ly/iPPUSM

How to Reap the Benefits of #IPD w/o Pitfalls of a Multiparty Contract? http://bit.ly/kl4PWS & presentation http://bit.ly/k0ng2o

Launch event of the world’s first Masters program in BIM and Integrated Design on 7th June http://bit.ly/lBTnA9 & http://bit.ly/mfbl7G

Every Public Private Partnership project is by definition an Integrated Project Delivery project. Without #IPD#PPP would not exist.

Alternative Project Delivery Methods for Public Works Projects on difficulties of implementing #IPD in public sector http://bit.ly/mFnV4Q

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

First Fire, then the Wheel, and now BIM

Owners didn’t ask for BIM.

Nor for IPD.

Never did.

Not then and not now.

Its part of the disconnect we’re experiencing in the profession and industry.

BIM may be purpose-built,

But nothing’s purpose-driven until it’s owner-driven.

And right now, other than healthcare and government mandates, very little is being driven by anybody.

So while owners didn’t ask for BIM or for IPD,

What they did ask for was less waste and adversity, more predictability and value.

We said we can give you that.

And we did.

Or so we thought.

Because we didn’t give them less and more of what they asked for.

We gave them BIM and IPD.

To us – they’re the same.

One leads to the other.

But to them – there’s a difference.

And that difference takes the form of a gap.

A gap we’ve yet to fill.

We as a profession and industry may be making great strides in adopting, implementing and using the technology and collaborative work processes necessary to make BIM and integrated design a reality.

But we’re doing little when it comes to explaining what BIM and IPD can do – what they’re capable of – to the client.

Go on.

Take them out of the box for the owner.

Give them a demonstration of how they work.

Put in the batteries and turn them on.

BIM first.

Then, once you got that going, show them how BIM enables IPD.

In giving owners BIM and IPD, we gave them exactly what they wanted and needed.

We gave them fire.

And we gave them the wheel.

Only they don’t know that yet.

Because we haven’t told them.

And until owners know what BIM and IPD mean to their goals and to their businesses, they won’t value them.

After taking BIM and IPD for a spin, they’ll be back into the bin with the other toys.

Folks,

This wheel’s on fire
Rolling down the road
Best notify my next of kin
This wheel shall explode!

Bob Dylan, who wrote these lyrics, an evocation of chaos, turns 70 this week.

If BIM and integrated design hope to see their 70th birthday

We need to do a better job of describing, explaining and justifying just what they mean.

What they do.

And who they do it for.

Design professionals and constructors are visual types.

If words were our strong suit, we’d be on the owner side ourselves.

But what is obvious to us may not be clear to them.

We need to become better storytellers – for that’s really how one learns best.

And not by berating with bullets and numbers.

The LinkedIn group, BIM for Owners, and James Salmon’s Collaborative BIM Advocates are a start.

We need to convince our owners to not only join, but join the discussion and participate.

We need them to understand how they, and their project, can benefit.

And while data and hard numbers help, in the end it’s not a rational choice.

But one of trust, gut and intuition.

Above all, we need to enchant and woo and wow our clients,

So that they in turn proactively request BIM and IPD on every job.

Until owners no longer have to ask for them.

Because BIM and integrated design will be – a foregone conclusion – part of the atmosphere.

As ever-present, prevalent – and necessary – on design and construction projects as windows and doors.

Then, and only then, we’ll have something to celebrate.

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

Building Knowledge in Architecture

Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

Cradle to Cradle, subtitled Remaking the Way We Make Things, is printed on waterproof paper for this reason.

Poetry anthologies served this purpose after 9/11 as did commonplace books carried by soldiers.

In fact, the book I’m about to introduce you to defines the original use of the word “communication” to mean bringing something to the “common place, to the community, to make it part of the larger social group.”

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

On the academic side, Foqué is a professor and dean emeritus at the Henry van de Velde Higher Institute of Architecture at the University College Antwerp.

On the practice side, Foqué is the founder and honorary principal of FDA Architects (now OSAR), one of the largest architectural firms in Flanders.

Richard Foqué’s work is characterized by the integration of architecture, art, design and science and reflected in the book “Bringing the World into Culture”, dedicated to Foqué and in which 21 eminent scholars, architects and designers bring a tribute to his work. An interdisciplinary thinker, Foqué lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.

But don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because of his credentials.

Read this book because Richard Foqué is the first poet to write beautifully and meaningfully about the architect, design, creativity,

And as importantly, digital design tools such as BIM and collaborative work processes such as integrated design, design-build, lean construction and design thinking, subjects at the focus of these discussions.

You had me at Introduction

A book, like any of us, competes in a marketplace for attention.

Building Knowledge in Architecture, until today, appears to have been satisfied waiting patiently to be discovered on library shelves.

Book, wait no more.

To stand out and distinguish yourself, says consultant and author Sally Hogshead, you get only 9 seconds.

Because that’s how long our attention spans today have been shortened to.

Reader, here I’ll introduce you to what will surely become a fine traveling companion and fellow conversationalist in the weeks ahead.

But I’ll need 9 minutes to do so – not 9 seconds. So please bear with me.

Man Measuring the Clouds

A passing glance at a sculpture, Man Measuring the Clouds, inspired Foqué to reflect on architecture and what it means to be an architect today.

“The architect works in the field of tension between imagination and reality. The architect’s task is to convert the dreams and often unreachable wishes of the client into a buildable concept, which should be functional, technically resolved, and in compliance with all building and safety codes, but at the same time must inspire a sense of well-being and have the necessary aesthetic qualities to contribute to and enrich its context.”

Foqué then asks:

“Is the architect the person who is measuring the clouds all the time? Is architectural design, per se, an impossible task to perform? In other words, what is the essence of being an architect? What are the skills, competencies, and knowledge an architect needs to perform as a true professional?”

Aware of the access to practical knowledge readily available to other fields such as medicine, business and law, things can be otherwise for the architectural profession, the author sets out in search of a robust knowledge base architects can access:

“In my own practice, I have endeavored to use my professional experience and accumulated know-how in an innovative way for every new commission. But I have always been left with a feeling of discontent: Could I have done better? Did I use all the creative potential and knowledge at my disposal, and did I not overlook essential elements?”

Foqué concludes that the architectural profession no longer has a shared knowledge base. Building Knowledge in Architecture asks all of the important questions:

“Why did we abandon or sacrifice (this) knowledge base? Why is the architectural profession drifting? Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious? Why do we struggle to cope with contemporary technological evolution, and why is it so difficult to integrate in a satisfactory way new findings and insights into our design solutions? Why are we losing ground, and why are essential responsibilities of our professional practice being assumed by others?”

One page into the book, you realize you have underlined every line. It is one of those books.

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

In Part 1, Building Knowledge in Architecture serves as a practical overview of contemporary architectural design methods, and proposes design – apart from science and art – as a third way to investigate the real world.

“Perceiving themselves as practitioners of a ‘creative’ profession, architects hover between science and art.” p. 25

This is one of the very few books that discuss new digital design tools such as building information modeling (BIM) from academic, theoretical and practical standpoints (discussed for the first time on p. 93.)

But also integrated project delivery (IPD) or at least a facsimile of the same.

In the section called The Exteriorization of the Design Process, Foqué indicates that recent evolution of communication information technology processes forces designers

“…to interact increasingly with his environment. He has no escape, so to speak, but must engage in a permanent dialogue with his surrounding world.” p. 82

Foqué points out that the concept of transdisciplinarity – and the way specialized knowledge can be integrated – harkens back to the work of developmental child psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1970’s.

Where, according to the author, specialized knowledge needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive body of integrated knowledge, “within a global system of values and well-considered choices.”

Per Piaget, those who have taken part on integrated design teams will recognize the suggestion that multidisciplinary collaboration is, at root, child’s play.

Key quotes:

“Learning should be revalorized in the sense that the creators of knowledge should also be held accountable for the application of that knowledge.” P. 24

“It is recognized that at the modern university, there exists a hierarchy of knowledge, which starts with the basic and fundamental science at the top, applied science in the middle, and technical skills at the bottom.” P. 26

Explaining why digital design tools, while used extensively, are infrequently taught at the university.

“…grounded in the field of tension between ‘technical’ performance and ‘artistic’ creation. It is exactly in that field of tension that every professional discipline grounds its own knowledge base.” P. 26

Foqué defines a critical component of the architect’s arsenal, intuition, as “a not-yet-conceptualized and not-yet-systematized form of knowledge.” P. 27

Beautiful.

Before I go on to quote every line in the book, I want to point out an additional pleasure in reading a book written with a poet’s sensibility.

In describing the synergistic integration of art, science and technology, Foqué uses the seemingly simple example of learning to ride a bike.

“If you describe every part of a bike in extreme detail and add these descriptions together, you will by no means have produced an appropriate description of a bike.”

He concludes this explanation:

“In other words, it is not by knowing the why that you master the how. You need to add the artistic dimension, the art of bike-riding.”

As only a poet – who is also an architect, educator, scholar – could have written.

Foqué explains the now familiar story of how architects abandoned responsibility, and in doing so, relinquished authority, over the past 40 years.

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

Part 2 of the book presents his case, so to speak.

Reinventing the Obvious

In Part 2, Building Knowledge in Architecture makes the case for case studies in architecture.

The case goes something like this:

Because case studies are used as teaching tools at law, medicine, and in MBA programs, architectural training should also include more reading and creating of case studies.

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

In the introduction, the author asks: Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious?

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

Architecture curriculums already make use of case studies. I know, for example, when I taught an integrated design/technology studio, we made great use of them.

They are not only, as the author argues, a practical tool for documenting complicated building projects, finding solutions to technical problems and expanding a firm’s expertise.

They are also excellent opportunities for having architecture students work in teams and learn how to collaborate on a project team while still in school.

The complexity of building projects almost guarantees that the teams will be multidisciplinary.

An example is Aaron Greven’s course in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Integrated Building Delivery program, a class that focuses on integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building project participants, for the Masters in Integrated Building Delivery program, a post-professional program that is in its pilot phase.

While the example does not prove the rule, I have previously reviewed these case study presentations here.

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

The book does an excellent job explaining case study research as a means to establish a knowledge base and, as importantly, develops a practical method to do so.

“Architecture is no longer considered a true discipline, based on a comprehensive knowledge base, as it was for more than 2000 years. It is clear that this situation is no longer tenable, if architecture wants to survive in the Information Age, and in a quickly changing globalized world. A key question regarding the discipline of architecture today is how we can build a store of knowledge again.” P.174

But for me, proving the case for use of case studies in architectural education is not the reason to read this book.

This point has been made before here and more importantly, here.

Perhaps it is not case studies that are needed but a knowledge management and information system that can readily access the design professional’s accumulated knowledge.

There are people out there who do just this.

But this book does provide the rationale as well as a unique approach to constructing case studies, grounded in the arguments and methodology presented in the first part of the book.

And more importantly, this book explains how we can build knowledge in our profession and industry through the use of case studies.

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

Weaknesses first. For all of the wonderful discussion about design and creativity throughout the first part of the book, there is nary a general mention of or reference to either in the index. It is almost as though the index was created for academics who might scrutinize sources for perfunctorily academic reasons but alas, not for the general reader’s ease of use.

Likewise, many of the otherwise wonderfully rich sources cited, are from the 1970’s or earlier. The book would have benefitted the reader (but no doubt not fellow academics) by referencing more contemporary examples of the same ideas or even the cited author’s more recent work.

On the strength side, the book’s diagrams are truly spectacular and help to illustrate many of the book’s finer concepts.

Another remarkable and no doubt unintended strength of the book is it is eminently tweetable.

A book of well-composed sentences, Building Knowledge in Architecture is remarkably aphoristic, and there are literally hundreds of quotable 140 character lines that are just crying out to be tweeted on Twitter:

“Intuitive thinking and rational thinking are not opponents; they are the twin poles between which the artist structures reality.” http://amzn.to/lyhDEl

Foqué explains that in earlier craft societies, severe penalties were imposed on those members who reveal knowledge in public. P. 93

Today, we are rewarded for the same by being retweeted.

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture even if you don’t learn anything new by reading this book (you will.)

Because you will come to realize that by doing so, you will know what you know for the first time.

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

It is absolutely critical that you read this book. Why?

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated above.

For the reason that it tells us where we have been, where we are today and where we are headed.

And for this reason:

When drowning and you are thrown a life preserver you don’t say, “no thanks, I’ve seen one of these before,” and toss your line to safety aside.

Do so and you’ll surely drown.

A strength of this author, as mentioned, is that he has one foot in academia and the other in practice, a perspective evident in nearly every sentence:

“Professional disciplines…reduce the gap between real world problems and academic research, research increasingly captured by its own agenda.” P. 25

A book such as this can go a long way starting to fill the gap between education and practice.

That the author is a published poet can be seen in the book’s nearly perfect prose – so clear that you will not need to go back and read any sentence twice.

But you will do so anyway.

Because the sentences are so well-written they’ll strike a chord in you.

And you will find yourself rereading them for the sheer wonder and pleasure.

So don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because it develops a general design theory, a theoretical framework and practical instrumentation to establish a knowledge base for the discipline of architecture.

Read it if you want to improve your understanding of the impact and motives on decision making so that your designs are more responsive to real needs.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because you are an architect, an educator or student.

Read it because books like this are why we still have books.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because we as a profession are adrift and this book has been thrown to us as a lifeline.

Read it because at a time when the publishing and construction industry are experiencing upheavals, it is heartening to discover a book that is as well-written and well-illustrated as it is well-constructed and physically beautiful.

The book feels good in the hand, like a book by Peter Zumthor.

When you hold it in your hand for the first time it will be as though you have done so before, as though the book is being returned to you after a long absence.

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

The book, Building Knowledge in Architecture, was recommended to me by Ryan Schultz, founder of http://www.openingdesign.com/ via Twitter

@randydeutsch Hi Randy, speaking of books… ran across this one today in the library… looks right up our alley: http://amzn.to/hX0YG2

@theoryshaw P. 78 of Building Knowledge in Architecture (Design as a rational Process: The Triangle Broken) could be your mission statement. Thanks!

Ryan, with fellow IPD maven Oscia Timschell, is launching a beta version of the new site in time for the AIA National Convention. Check it out and follow Ryan on Twitter @theoryshaw

FYI This blog was posted for readers at my other blog by a different name.

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Is IPD dead?

Le IPD est mort. Vive le IPD!

So where are we with Integrated Project Delivery?

Is IPD losing steam?

Yes.

The evidence – however anecdotal – is threefold.

First, Google Alerts containing the term are sparser and less frequent.

There are fewer content providers, with rare exceptions, writing on the topic.

Back in January 2010 AIA issued IPD Case Studies.

These provided what everyone was seemingly eagerly awaiting:

An examination of real-world, completed building projects that used Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) in as pure a form as possible.

Projects illustrating – showing, not telling – the successful application of IPD in a variety of building types and scales and in diverse regions of the country.

These were followed by dozens of posts announcing the release of the IPD Case Studies.

Followed soon thereafter by an inexplicable silence.

R.I.P. 2010. Case (studies) closed.

Since then, there have been what seem to be fewer and fewer activities related to IPD.

Which brings up the second reason:

No doubt due in part to the economy.

In the doldrums (where doldrums = dumpster.)

Face it: there are just plain fewer opportunities to use the IPD delivery method.

Even if they were building, there is a tendency for already risk-averse owners – who need to lead this process – to go all conservative on us in tough times.

Translating as conventional design-bid-build.

Without educated, intelligent, willing owners to drive its use – not only is IPD dead, but so is building, and by extension, architecture.

Hedging on IPD

My blog (and book) were deliberately called BIM + Integrated Design, not BIM + Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) for two reasons.

To call attention to the fact that Integrated Design is not only a delivery method but a collaborative work process enabled by technology.

But also because I was hedging.

Hedging on the fact that IPD would one day give way to something else.

Some other way of working together, one with a different name.

But why hedge?

With the exception of fellow Wiley author George Elvin,

Who remembers the term Integrated Practice?

(Markku, no cheating.)

Exactly.

R.I.P. 2007. Case closed.

What would we truly miss if IPD would go away altogether by, say, tomorrow afternoon?

Wiped from our collective memory, Google searches and treasure trove of resources.

The whole shebang wiped out as though a giant D/B meteor hit it front and center.

Where it hurts.

Gone forever are all the IPD seminar presentations you never bothered to see.

The Next Great Delivery Method

If not IPD, what then?

Let’s be honest.

The basic tenets – the fundamental principles that form the basis of IPD and NGDM (Next Great Delivery Method) – are what made IPD something special.

And perhaps difficult to enforce contractually.

You: “The contractor’s not being trustworthy!”

Attorney: “Umm…?”

Principles that have been around a lot longer than 2007.

Because they are not only part of IPD’s DNA (t/y Zigmund Rubel) but because they are part of our own DNA.

Familiar to everyone by now, they include:

  • ·         Mutual Respect and Trust
  • ·         Mutual Benefit and Reward
  • ·         Mutual of Omaha
  • ·         Collaborative Innovation and Decision Making
  • ·         Open Communication
  • ·         Organization and Leadership

As well as others perhaps unique to IPD:

  • ·         Early Involvement of Key Participants
  • ·         Early Goal Definition
  • ·         Early to Bed
  • ·         Intensified Planning
  • ·         Appropriate Technology 

As to this last one, while it can include communication software and management tools, what is meant by Appropriate Technology is a not so subtle reference to

BIM.

Why?

Because BIM is most valuable when shared across disciplines.

But at many firms there is no sharing.

BIM is used for narrow purposes rather than for the benefit of the project.

What can be done about that?

Scrap it, Sell parts

The third and last indication that IPD may be losing its way was triggered by something said at a panel discussion I recently moderated at the NTAP conference in Washington DC.

With Phil Bernstein FAIA, Howard W. Ashcraft Jr and Jonathan Cohen, FAIA.

Cohen, who conducted the research and authored the report for the AIA Case Studies, said:

“I don’t think ‘pure’ IPD will predominate by 2015 – but all of the project delivery methods will have learned something valuable from IPD.”

Cohen continued:

“Should we not find ways to apply elements of IPD to CM@Risk, Bridging Design-Build, etc? Owners, particularly in the public sector, are asking for this.”

What is a Lamborghini without an engine?

An Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato without wheels?

I was a bit surprised, even taken-aback (full disclosure: also shocked and dismayed,) by the NTAP panelist’s assertions that IPD will not catch on whole cloth.

Even among those who created it.

Not that IPD is DOA.

Not that when we search “ipd” Google will henceforth ask: do you mean “iPod?”

But that there are perhaps only parts of IPD that work.

In a recent post, Hafez Daraee states,

“Integrated Project Delivery (‘IPD’) has been the topic of much discussion over the past several years. Despite being heralded as revolutionary, IPD has not become the gold standard in construction project delivery; it remains just a great idea that is sparingly used.”

But due to the economy and dearth of imagination you could likewise say:

Architecture has not become the gold standard in building; it remains just a great idea that is sparingly used.

Heck, for the past 12 months I have been sparingly used.

Daraee concludes,

 “IPD is gaining a foothold but more slowly than it should, and the economic upheaval of the last few years has not yet ended. Until contractors believe they will be more efficient and more profitable by using IPD, it will be hard to convince them to take a chance and bet on IPD.”

There might be something to say after all for all the IPD-ish and IPD-lite projects being pursued.

Perhaps we ought to scrap IPD and sell off the parts?

IPD is dead. Long Live IPD.

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BIM in a Time of Disruption

What’s meant by Disruption?

Why not just say Disturbance?

Or Difficulty, Dissonance, Disorder?

Why not just fall back on the old chestnut, Turbulent?

Why introduce a new adjective when an old one will do?

Tumultuous?

Because the times we are facing as a profession and industry are just that.

Disruptive.

Requiring unusual levels of exertion on our part.

Marked by a shifting.

Resulting in displacement or discontinuity.

A break with the past.

A rupture (dis-rupture.)

Interrupting and impeding progress.

Leading to undesired consequences.

Facing challenges that act on us.

Not consecutively, in sequence, but simultaneously.

Preventing learning from taking place.

And a restful night’s sleep.

Placing us squarely outside our comfort zones

Feeling that things are not entirely in our control.

Like having your legs knocked out from under you.

What changes and doesn’t change

What doesn’t change in these disruptive times?

  • Values
  • Ideals
  • Goals
  • Culture

One thing that does change is the environment we’re living and working in.

Our context.

A shift in context

Think of the world we’re living and working in as our context.

The context in which we operate is shifting.

The challenge is how to remain productive and engaged while the world around us is changing.

Individuals, teams and organizations all over the world are faced with unprecedented levels of change in today’s social, economic and technology environments.

Here’s a quick survey through the litany of current disruptions to our familiar way of doing business.

Here’s the new context as I see it for working in BIM and Integrated Design.

3 types of disruption

  • Social
  • Economic
  • Technology

or S.E.T.

As in

  • mindSET               (social)
  • skillSET                  (technology)     
  • reSET                     (economy)

How to face the current disruptive challenges

  • social mindSET  
  • technology skillSET                         
  • economic reSET                               

And how to recognize them.

Like our president, design professionals today are confronting multiple problems at once.

Confronting us from all sides.

Compounding upon itself.

1. Social disruption

Workflow challenges.

Due to the fact that BIM has a completely different workflow from CAD.

And that senior management doesn’t understand this.

Caused by fellow teammates asking questions every 20 seconds.

Individual user frustration over inflexible access to elements needed for their work.

And team-wide loss of productivity while waiting for updates to complete.

Model data integration goes up.

Flexibility of workflow and performance in collaboration go down.

Work-sharing issues.

Working more collaboratively.

And focusing on creating new strategic collaborative relationships.

Interdisciplinary teams come together earlier in the process — at the onset of project team development.

Collaboration between architectural firms and other disciplines involved in the built environment ensue.

New types of agreements that promote cooperation.

Participation from all three major players – owners, architects, and constructors – simultaneously.

For the 1st time in history there are now 4 generations in the workplace at the same time.

Mutual mentoring.

Demand for accountability.

Quality problems often follow hastily put together reduced fee models worsening the problem and perception.

Architects finding their title shared with other industries.

Decisions expected to be more evidence-based.

Measured and then monetized.

Results-based compensation.

When we’re compensated.

2. Economic disruption

Brought about by the economic downturn, recession.

Running cold to hot.

From frozen credit and promotions to outright firing people.

Firms facing increasingly stiff competition.

Cutting fees to the bone to get new work.

Experiencing brand erosion.

Individuals and firms.

And still losing work to firms who low-balled fees.

Firms doing what they need to do to keep from having to layoff employees.

Shortened work weeks.

Furloughs.

Replacement of full-time technical employees with contract or outsourced workers.

Clients carefully considering the cost/benefit ratio of the services they buy.

Feeling more squeezed and threatened.

Wanting more but desiring to pay less:

The new less is more.

Client procrastination.

Clients want more for their money.

More complicated buildings delivered faster.

Schedule acceleration.

Unrealistic client expectations.

Turnover increasing.

Backlogs reducing.

Training considered an overhead cost.

Employees considered an overhead cost.

Feeling vulnerable and anxious.

Survivor’s guilt.

Making adjustments.

Working hard to maintain creative standards of design.

Striving to increase productivity of senior management.

Taking on more work, less time, less appreciation, less perks, less pay, rising expectations and fear.

More closely managed projects lead to more micromanaging, more oversight of senior management, less freedom and more scrutiny, less autonomy.

And happiness.

Taking on more risk to stay viable.

Or just to stay.

Going after work outside our area of expertise.

Smaller projects.

Outside your comfort zone.

In project type, in services rendered, in locations where you do business.

In the technology we use.

3. Technology disruption

Brought about by staying current with new tools.

Investment in new technology.

The sudden advent of building information design tools and digitally-driven fabrication of building components that integrate the design-to-build supply chain.

BIM, while not yet a ubiquitous tool, settles in.

Although still underleveraged.

And misunderstood.

HR thinks BIM is just the latest software.

As does senior management.

Clients start to expect BIM models as part of the deliverables. 

BIM helps meet quality, speed of delivery, energy consumption, sustainability and capital cost goals.

Design and construction marketplace, historically slow in its pace of disruption and change.

Suddenly isn’t.

BIM and Integrated Design require the use of collaborative tools.

Employees spend the day on Skype or in GoToMeeting sessions.

The firm sounds different with more frequent conference calls over speakerphone and web conferencing.

1000’s of clashes, conflicts and coordination errors are aired publicly in front of the whole team.

Like hanging your dirty laundry out to dry.

For everybody to see in the main conference room.

Employees are told this is part of the new process.

And not to equate the airing of clashes, conflicts and coordination errors with being criticized in public.

It’s best for the project.

We look for impact on morale.

Projects are better now for making course corrections in design rather than out in the field.

No longer worn-down by contractor RFIs and change orders.

While working in BIM, we learn about construction and constructability and sequencing.

And if it’s hard to build in BIM it’s hard to build in the field.

As Eric Hoffer said: “In times of change,

learners inherit the earth

while the learned find themselves

beautifully equipped to deal with

a world that no longer exists.”

Social, Economic and Technological Disruption

This is a time of economic, technical as well as social transition for practitioners.

Dealing with disruption requires

  • Agility, flexibility, adaptability, resourcefulness
  • Playing smarter, not only better
  • Listening, being observant, asking questions
  • Being attuned to the present so that we can anticipate the future
  • Perhaps most importantly, the right mindset and attitude

And yet, despite all of this disruption, according to Gallup, employees are still very much engaged.

How could this be?

Employees know what is going on.

But they don’t see much of the disruption.

They’re protected from it.

This is our new role in the age of BIM.

To do all we can to protect each other from the disruptors that are all around us.

In this time of less, we accomplish this as much by what we do

as by what we don’t do.

We do this by not doing or saying anything

unwittingly or purposefully

to demotivate or disengage one another.

Primum non nocere. “Do no harm.”

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A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design

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

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

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

This post is for them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they very well may be on to something.

Their approach to BIM is the subject of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

Read on anyway.

A Better Way

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

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

OK it has an overtly 60’s sound.

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

This is just not the case.

Meditate on this

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

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

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

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

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

Command I. Master BIM

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

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

Whether you

»        haven’t tried BIM yet,

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

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

»        have mastered BIM and are teaching it

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

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

Increase you personal and professional mastery by mastering BIM.

Command II. Honor your Inner Contractor

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

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

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

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

So work with checklists, and honor your inner contractor.

You’ll feel more complete.

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

Command III. Choose your Guide Wisely

When the student is ready the teacher appears.

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

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

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

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

Plan your own journey into BIM and IPD.

Determine what works for you.

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

From these you will carve out your own path.

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

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

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

One that has your best interests and goals in mind.

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

Command IV. Let Go

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

Holding on to what came before. It is said,

A change here is a change everywhere.

So let go.

And let the program do the heavy lifting of coordination.

Freeing you to do what you do best.

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

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

No excuses. No blame.

BIM is the end game.

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

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

To approach BIM with beginner’s mind.

For you cannot approach BIM with a CAD mindset.

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

So let the new way in.

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

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

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

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

The best way to learn something is to teach it.

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

Even a seventh grader.

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

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

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

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

Command VI. Chop BIM, Carry IPD

Enlightenment can be found in the practice of BIM.

So practice BIM as though it were an art form.

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

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

Make BIM your practice and IPD your path.

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

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

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

You were meant to be many things.

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

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

We hear a lot about BIM objects.

The essence of BIM isn’t objects but emptiness.

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

Just as the air between the spokes forms the wheel.

Use BIM to give shape to the space between things.

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

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

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

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

Your choice.

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

What’s easier? Changing you or changing Autodesk?

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

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

Command IX. BIM is not a Destination but a Journey

BIM is a tool as well as a process.

But what sort of process?

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

A process for getting more work and becoming more profitable.

And a process for remaining relevant.

A process for working cooperatively with our teammates.

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

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

BIM is an inside job.

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

That’s SketchUp.

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

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

You do not stand apart from it.

Nor do you see yourself as separate or isolated.

It is not that you become one with the model.

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

Instead, become part of the process itself.

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

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

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

With BIM everything is both connected and interconnected.

Command XI. The I in BIM is for Building

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

BIM plain and simple is about the experience of Building.

Building, not destroying or tearing down.

Building, however virtually.

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

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

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

So put yourself into the model.

Don’t talk. Don’t draw. Build.

Command XII. BIM is the Path back to Purpose

We were doing ourselves a disservice.

We were designing irresponsibly.

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

So many of us have abandoned this reason.

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

Than to pursue our dreams.

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

BIM gives you the opportunity to design and build honestly.

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

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

There is a hidden wholeness in all you do.

You job is to discover it and uncover it.

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

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

We have for too long been incomplete, part architects.

Make it your goal to become whole again.

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

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

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

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

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

Whole architect. Whole contractor. Whole building.

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

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

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

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

Observing the order of construction, layers of materials.

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

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

Because you were doing so in the drawing.

You have a newfound appreciation for what comes after design.

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

On your bouncy ball.

Command XVI. Flow and Working in BIM

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

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

Or disappears altogether?

That’s flow.

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

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

Aspire to ask questions every 30 seconds.

Then one every minute.

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

And won’t aggravate your colleagues as much.

Work in BIM. Melt into the moment.

Command XVII. Approach BIM and IPD with Fearlessness

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

Here, now, on earth.

As a design professional or construction worker.

Everything changes…

Be bold.

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

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

This is not the time to be a wuss.

Command XVIII. Listen to your Body

BIM is intense work.

Taxing on the eyes, neck and wrists.

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

Do not underestimate the wear and tear on your body.

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

Command XIX. “Live the Questionsrather thanSeek the Answers

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

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

Try this.

Come to them with solutions – suggestions – not questions.

Not how do I do x?

But when I tried x this happens WTF?

Not is there a better way?

But rather is this a better way?

Provide alternative solutions as you seek to understand.

Command XX. Create a Supportive Community

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

Join BIM groups in your city or community.

But don’t just join – participate.

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

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

Make sure there’s plenty of Dos XX.

If for no other reason than to remind yourself:

You are not alone.

It is up to you to let everybody know:

We are all in this together.

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Fixing our Gaze on BIM and Integrated Design

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

–          Claude Monet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything appeared flat to her.

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

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

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

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

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

11 Lessons from Fixing My Gaze

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

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

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

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

Hear Sue’s story on NPR Morning Edition

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

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

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

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

From the outside. On the outside, looking in.

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

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

Lesson 2: The Eye in BIM

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

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

Lesson 3: The Vision Thing

Hindsight, Insight, Foresight.

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

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

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

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

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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

–          after Viktor Frankl

Lesson 4: Just a Tool

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

It’s the profane, rational thing to say.

And it’s wrong.

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

We ought to treat them that way.

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

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

Lesson 5: Fixing our Gaze

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

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

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

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

To be fixed.

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

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

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

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

Hitch your wagon to a star.

–          Emerson.

But to fix can mean to fix our gaze.

To set it, stop it, position it.

On what is important.

Lesson 6: The future is closer than you think

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

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

Our models are warts-and-all stories.

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

Lesson 7: Seeing in 3D takes courage

We don’t give ourselves enough credit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have acquired the software.

If you have implemented BIM.

If you have mastered it.

Take a moment now to honor yourself.

You have accomplished something great and profound.

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

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

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

Lesson 9: Depth Charge

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

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

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

Working in architecture becomes exciting again.

Give yourself the gift of depth perception.

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

Working in BIM completes us as design professionals.

BIM is the quality that gives the architect dimensionality.

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

Look for that hidden wholeness.

Lesson 11: Knowing vs. Doing

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

–          Alva Noe, Action in Perception

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

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

But knowing BIM is not enough.

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

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

 

 

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The Surprising Civility of Primal IPD

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

Verlyn Klinkenborg

After you. No, please, after you.

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter what they were driving.

The Architect drove a Porsche 911.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rules of the Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the really amazing thing.

You ready?

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

That’s it.

There is no way around it.

Gestures and communication.

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

To each other.

Ideally, openly. Transparently.

And gesture. Communicating however one can manage.

For this is the new rule of the road:

You’ve got to go primal to proceed.

BIG IPD little ipd

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

But that was before everything changed.

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

A long, long while.

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

They’re finding workarounds.

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

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

That someone has got to make the first gesture.

It’s all about leadership.

Primal leadership.

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

Call it little ipd.

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

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

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

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

Social etiquette.

The Four-Way Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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