Category Archives: design professionals

Why Bring Another Book into this World?

 

Here’s the transcript of the talk I’ll be giving in San Francisco next week at KA Connect 2011,

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

“I’ll Collaborate as Long as I Can Work Alone,”

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Randy

There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

I watched as an architect threw a chair at an invisible enemy

In both cases the speaker used the more generic “Designer” in lieu of the title “Architect”

Where’s the architect? Where’s all of my education and knowledge? Where am I? What became of me?

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

Thoughtfully, the economy stalled my target audience’s crisis long enough for me to catch up

I started by building an online platform

An acquisitions editor on LinkedIn asks – anyone out there with a book idea?

I had one – the publisher turns it down but says those-four-magic-words:

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

I had the enviable position of having a publisher but no book

They say the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas, right?

So I send them 17 ideas for books that will stop architects from throwing chairs

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

The publisher says: “Combine these into a book you’ve got a deal.”

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

Publishing itself is going the way of the dinosaur – books may not exist when my book comes out

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

At the same time the publishing and construction worlds are going through enormous changes

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

And it takes collaboration – many minds – to solve complex problems

I saw my book as a way to collect and diffuse knowledge on this subject in this time of transition

And to teach design professionals the importance of working together collaboratively.

At the same time, buildings are becoming more and more complex.

We’ll only be able to tackle today’s complex problems through collaboration

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

You have to be disciplined, can’t just show up and wing it

There was a gap in learning along these lines in the profession

My book sought to fill this gap.

I may not have originally set out to write a book on BIM and Integrated Design

But together they addressed the three topics my publisher selected from those I proposed

And BIM and Integrated Design go together like peanut butter and chocolate

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

BIM and Integrated Design are two great technologies and processes that work well together.

It is often repeated that BIM is 10% technology 90% sociology

If that’s the case, why is 90% of the energy and resources focused on the technology?

My book comes at a time when few are focusing on the people side of the change equation.

Written from a firm culture standpoint, it addresses BIM as a cultural process.

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

Books provide immersive experiences and expose us to learning that can transform our lives

But at the same time, what we consider a book is changing.

Our communications today are ephemeral

Like writing on a mental chalk board that gets wiped clean each night

And while the internet never forgets, so much of what we write and learn – including tweets and blogs – we forget

I set out to write a book whose message will last – and stick around.

For its content to lead to critical, necessary changes in the profession and industry

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

To do so I had to write the book less like a mental black board and more like a mental bulletin board, with knowledge accumulated over time

Where the latest information in the book builds on what came before.

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

The way people behave in response to new technology, however, does not change.

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

With the dream that I would one day write a book and give a signing there

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

Will the chance to control their chair throwing tendencies compel architects to spend $75 on my book in the midst of an economic downturn?

My network had a lot of people who have worked with the technology and work processes

and have started to formulate their own insights

So I tapped into my network and set out to interview experts

People who were working in it,

leading it, had invented it, hire and retain those who use it

And people who were teaching it.

The book addresses the number one problem of BIM : not technology, but personality

BIM and Integrated Design require a much different mindset, and this mindset requires collaboration, coordination, team work, and knowledge sharing in order to succeed.

Overcoming the real barrier, which are the people who say they want to change but in the end have a hard time doing so.

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

Everyone I spoke with was completely open about sharing their experiences concerning the changes they were seeing in their teams, firms and industry

It’s like the observer effect

People spoke to me openly about the subject because there is a book

And there is a book because they spoke openly with me.

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

But first, this must take place inside ourselves – our seasoned selves mentoring our emerging selves, and vice versa.

Collaboration is an inside game – and my book sought to illustrate this.

My book will provide much needed background into a topic that many architectural firms do not yet fully understand

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

Into the lives of those who might otherwise feel like throwing a chair

In writing the book I was reminded that ours is a universe filled with enlightened minds

It’s just that the individual voices needed to be connected

And what better place to do that than in a book?

What do you think? Are books still the best place to capture and share information and knowledge?

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Design, people, process, workflow

The Perpetual Improvement of Lean Design


I was asked recently to speak at the Lean Construction Institute’s Project Production Systems Laboratory Design
Forum in Berkeley CA next week.

LCI P2SL in leanspeak.

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

Lean design, for short.

Waste is defined here as all the things owners should not – and increasingly, will not – pay for.

Waste is also all the things the earth should not – and increasingly, will not – pay for.

Sure, there’s the lean methodology based on The Toyota Production System (TPS) from which all lean methods evolve.

Unless you believe in intelligent lean design.

But we’ll save that for another post.

If the architect’s design process is inefficient, it is so for many reasons that are outside the architect’s control, including the regulatory process and climate, availability of financing and (in)decisiveness of the owner.

That said, knowing these could be potential obstructions to an otherwise lean design approach, there is much the design team can do in advance to prepare for – and address – these inefficiencies.

So much so that I will make the subject of preparedness the topic of its own future post.

Lean Applied to the Architectural Design Process

The architectural design process is a different creature for a number of reasons.

What makes design less efficient, effective and gets its BMI way up, has as much to do with human nature as it does with streamlining the design process in more methodological ways.

The focus remains the same – on creating client value and working closely with all teammates.

What is different here are all the potential conflicts and complexity brought about by teams attempting to work together in an integrated way.

Call it the human component, the people factor. Whatever you name it, it is a very contemporary issue and one that requires our attention.

Here are a couple questions that one might ask to start a discussion.      

If you have questions that you don’t see here that you would like to see asked – I encourage you to add them in the comments below.

  • ·         What role does ego of design participants play in slowing down the design process? Making it less efficient and effective? Is there a place for ego – and related behavior – such as grandstanding, fluffing of feathers and creating bottlenecks in the flow of progress? It’s complicated. Early in one’s career, it is easy to dismiss such behavior as so much unnecessary theater – that it just calls attention to the person and away from the project. Here’s my take: If it doesn’t take away from creating value for the owner and doesn’t otherwise do any harm? A little ego – with its attendant storytelling and jive talk – is OK, goes a long way, serves as a lubricant to the often lengthy and involved design process and keeps life and meetings interesting.
  • ·         If this were your last project with your client – guaranteed to never work with them again – would you be less concerned about marketing your services, additional or otherwise? Would you be less afraid to ask questions that potentially make you our to be less of an expert you’re expected – or you purported – to be?
  • ·         Is the end project a known entity? Or does it require reinventing the wheel? Some designers need to innovate with each project irrespective of the assignment. But not all projects call for unique solutions. Buildings types should be adjusted for their particular region and location – but do not require the seemingly endless spinning of wheels often associated with projects being re-imagined whole cloth.
  • ·         Important team members arrive at meetings late – sometimes requiring those who did show up on time to review progress made in the meeting up until that point. Other times, their arrival is disruptive, interrupting the progress that had been made. In the Morphosis case study in advanced practice ($14.95 at di.net or view for free here) Morphosis principal Thom Mayne was late and project manager Tim Christ ran the meeting that covered mechanical, electrical, and structural issues of a 68 story tower design. When Mayne did finally arrive, his behavior was telling: He listened briefly to the conversation; he was concerned about various issues related to the cooling and ventilation systems; and he reminded the assembled team about the design intentions for the building. In other words, he made the project (and client value) the focus of attention – not himself. Something rare for an architect of that stature.
  • ·         Not utilizing people’s skills – their interests, their talents, not keeping them motivated and engaged – is also wasteful. And the negative energy they let out can be devastating to the workflow and corrosive to an otherwise tight knit team.
  • ·         Because they often flip projects once completed, developers are often more concerned about first costs over the life cycle of the building: lowest price over value. This practice is wasteful in the long haul, and takes a great deal of the architect and other design team member’s time and resources to convince them to act otherwise.

This presentation on Set Based Design in the building industry from a 2009 LCI Design forum is truly exceptional. Simply put, in Set Based Design a broad range of alternatives are considered, then choices are narrowed until a superior solution is found. It is somewhat similar to Integrated Project Delivery in that the earliest phases are front loaded with information and design options. From a lean perspective, the question becomes:

  • ·         How many alternatives are too many – at which point their production becomes wasteful?
  • ·         Can the design team distinguish between true alternatives – and choices – vs. variations on a theme? The presentation of slight variations alongside alternative designs can be wasteful – especially if the design is not among the contenders.

Several years ago, in a project interview for a $100M assignment with the building owner, the owner asked the four of us on the design team a number of questions about our process.

At one point he asked: How many designs will I get? (Ostensibly, in exchange for his $100M.)

As the senior designer of the project, I responded by saying what any red-blooded, self-respecting and (at the time) fiscally irresponsible designer would say:

“As many as you want!”

The project manager reeled it in a bit by saying: one!

“You will get one design.”

The firm’s high-profile partner said:

“Three. We typically find that three is satisfactory.”

The marketing director taught me an incredible lesson: he said – in fact, he asked

“How many do you want?”

That one worked. We got the job.

And after the interview – after we as a team started communicating and listening better and making sure we were on the same page – we helped to assure that the design process was a lean one: in oversight and spirit, if not in methodology.

You learn that most mistakes in judgment in the early design phases are forgivable – as long as you learn from them.

A little every day. It adds up.

What improvements to the design process would you suggest?

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Filed under design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, workflow

Imagine


Imagine.

A design tool.

For early concept work.

That will allow you to design and do quick analysis.

Via the cloud.

That will allow you to orient and sculpt your building to respond to the environment.

In ways that were difficult or impossible before.

That will allow you to compare different schemes for energy performance.

In just a few clicks.

Without requiring you to cobble together separate programs that don’t play well together.

Imagine

You have at your disposal

– today –

A flexible program that produces conceptual models using both geometric and parametric modeling functionality.

At a time when there’s arguably more need for conceptualizing and analysis than for documentation.

That isn’t too big of a beast to work with.

With a light computer footprint.

That doesn’t ignore our economic competitiveness.

That got us back to basic value added activities.

That focused on keeping productivity on an upwards trajectory.

Imagine you had this program.

Right here, right now, to play with.

Providing you with a number of pre-defined readymade masses for you to drag and drop into your project from the project browser.

So easy to learn that you’ll have it up and running in no time.

BIM LT…Less Filling

Imagine a program that didn’t cause architects of a certain age to demur at the prospect of taking on yet another technology.

When retirement is within their sights.

Architects who can be overheard at night, and arising every morning, reciting:

Please, dear Lord, don’t make me learn BIM.

Imagine an app without all of BIM’s bells and whistles.

BIM reduced to its bare essentials.

For use in the early design stages of architectural design projects.

That let users get their hands dirty

– faster –

With easy to navigate UI that only gradually disclosed its underlying complexity.

A lighter, more agile, less imposing user interface.

Love Means Never Having to Say Vasari

Imagine

An easy to use standalone application.

Built on the same technology as a BIM platform.

An on-ramp gateway for BIM.

Designed for students and young designers.

Anyone who considers himself or herself an architectural designer.

Anyone interested in 3d parametric modeling.

Anyone looking for ways to understand performance-based design.

With energy analysis integrated into the product so you can begin adjusting your design as you go.

Seamlessly exporting to eQuest, Energyplus, and gbXML.

But working equally well for someone who, upon seeing gbXML, would like to buy a vowel.

While designed for students and young designers,

It wouldn’t surprise me if mid-career architects, engineers and designers were this program’s biggest user.

Cost and steep learning curve are often cited as the main reasons for contractors and designers don’t even explore BIM.

These impediments have been removed.

Obstacles cleared. Challenges neutralized.

With Vasari, Less is finally More

To simplify, something had to go.

So detailed BIM modeling tools were removed.

No walls. No windows. No doors.

Those who can’t so much as think without walls will be challenged.

Everyone else, stick around.

It all – as with all great and worthwhile adventures – started as a simple question: What if?

Imagine.

Concocted in a lab by an integrated team.

Technicians who, wanting to see what a small team could do in a short amount of time, used the same process to develop their product as they used to build the headquarters where it was developed.

Software architects using something approximating design architects Integrated Project Delivery.

As with IPD, working with a co-located cross disciplinary integrated design team to increase collaboration, blurring roles to foster innovation, focusing work on a shared information repository, sharing equally in the risk and reward.

IPD in everything but name.

Developing a product that’s BIM at its core.

Revit at its core.

Import and export Revit files directly.

Create complex massing models, put them into Revit, add walls, doors, windows and structure.

Start with Project Vasari and then continue with Revit 2011 to make more detailed models.

Imagine

An easy-to-use, expressive design tool for creating building concepts.

And cloud-based integrated energy and carbon analysis.

So that your designs can be analyzed using the built-in energy modeling and analysis features.

Providing design insight where the most important design decisions are made.

Imagine

If Autodesk created an answer to SketchUp that works seamlessly with Revit.

Watch it here.

And here to see an excellent series of quick start video tutorials of the design and analysis tool.

Download it here.

Available as a free download and trial on Autodesk Labs until May 15, 2011.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, process, workflow

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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Filed under BIM, BIM organizations, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Design, process, workflow

Is BIM the Machine in the Garden?


The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet
. – Cyril Connolly

Some design professionals resent the intrusion of technology into their practices.

Things, for them, were fine as they were.

It wasn’t always this way.

At first, when CAD was first introduced, we thought that computers were machines in the garden of architectural Eden.

Our reactions to BIM are all over the map.

Some are enthused and have readily adopted it as the next technology.

They may not be utilizing the information in BIM, but are well on their way to doing so when the opportunity arises.

But for some folks, BIM is seen as an unwanted intruder.

Mary Shelley’s monster was a creature of technology after all.

The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America by Leo Marx examines the difference between the pastoral and progressive ideals which characterized early American culture.

And which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental debates of contemporary society.

Where pastorialism represents the yearning by civilized man to occupy the space in between “art” and “nature.”

The book illustrates how American writers and artists came to grips with the penetration of the machine into the garden.

And talks about the “middle landscape,” where many find themselves between primitivism and progressivism.

A purgatory of sorts where many design professionals find themselves today.

This could easily be describing the introduction of technology into contemporary design practice.

It has been almost 50 years since architects considered their profession a new Eden that would redeem mankind.

For them, as the title implies, technology today is an unwelcomed guest in Eden.

Others would less generously call BIM the proverbial fly in our professional soup.

That BIM, and now IPD, are crashing our party.

We used to have such a nice profession – look what BIM has gone and done to it.

Waxing Nostalgic

For the most part, design professionals have readily, seamlessly, adopted the new technologies.

With relatively little kicking and screaming.

But for others, BIM represents a line drawn in the topsoil.

Irrespective of the many surveys that indicate well over 50% of the profession – and construction industry – is already making strides with BIM, there continue to be hold-outs.

And I suspect that deep down, below the espoused reasons for not getting on board the machine, are overriding fears that somehow BIM is a foreign intruder in architecture’s garden.

Where their fear of BIM is almost xenophobic.

They’re concerned about the insidious effects of industrialization on the spirit, as it were.

They feel threatened by BIM.

BIM, they believe, commoditizes what they do.

Allowing others to make and then eat their lunch.

And Integrated Design (IPD) all but silences their already weakened voice at the table, lessens their power and ability to negotiate.

Making them even more invisible than they already feel.

Hear this, resellers:

For BIM to truly catch fire, we will need to address our fellow practitioner’s emotions.

For all the perfectly sound reasons we have for moving forward with BIM.

For BIM to truly work for our profession, it’s

more a matter of the amygdala and emotion than of the cortex and thought.

Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly, first published in 1938, is famous for listing the adverse elements that affect the ability to be a good writer.

The overarching theme of the book is the search for an explanation of why Connolly, though widely recognized as a leading man of letters and a highly distinguished critic, failed to produce a major work of literature.

The book lists the factors that can stifle a writer’s creativity.

Warning writers to be on the lookout for them.

A representative quote from the book: There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.

You can almost hear design professionals today complaining that

There is no more somber enemy of good architecture than BIM on the ball.

That it will stifle your creativity.

Don’t let BIM be your enemy of promise.

It’s All Technology

Is it BIM or is it technology that enters our figural garden?

Consider them one and the same.

In fact, it is probably healthiest to accept the fact that mechanical pencils, pin bars, Mylar and Maylines were technologies well before CAD entered the scene.

Not to mention Fortran IV with Watfour and Watfive and stacks of punch cards that I and my classmates were weened on.

I am looking forward to reading What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, cofounder of Wired magazine, when it comes out in October.

Watch Kelly discuss What Technology Wants here at TEDxAmsterdam or here on YouTube.

This essay by Kelly presenting a refreshing and inclusive view of technology as a living force in the world ought to tide us over until then.

In the essay, Kelly asks:

So, looking at the evolution of life and the long-term histories of past technologies…What does technology want?

Possibilities
To increase diversity
To maximize freedom/choices
To expand the space of the possible

Efficiencies
To increase specialization/uniqueness
To increase power density
To increase density of meaning
To engage all matter and energy
To reach ubiquity and free-ness
To become beautiful

Complexity
To increase complexity
To increase social co-dependency
To increase self-referential nature
To align with nature

Evolvability
To accelerate evolvability
To play the infinite game

To align with nature.

There you have it.

What does BIM want?

Not to fight.

Not to crash our party.

Not to be a thorn in our side.

Nor an enemy of promise.

Nor a machine in our garden.

But to belong.

To a time when we see no conflict between the machine and the garden.

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Filed under BIM, design professionals, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD

What’s Your BIM (BusIness Model) Done 4 U Lately?


It’s time for you and your organization to rethink your business strategy.

This post will introduce a fascinating, far-reaching and beautifully designed book that will challenge the way that you create value for your clients and think about how you approach Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Design.

Changing times and the harsh new realities of doing business in the AEC industry requires all of us to get innovative.

BIM especially requires design professionals to be as creative in their business strategy as they are in the design of buildings.

Do you know for certain how you can get the most value for the work you are undertaking?

A refresher on the BIM Business Model

Obsolete AEC business models are being replaced by those driven by BIM and the collaborative work process enabled by the technology.

For a quick refresher on the current (old) AEC Business Model, turn here, the Introduction to the BIM Handbook.

There are of course several BIM business models – determined by what phases you work in and the chosen delivery method.

As Joseph Joseph presented at AU in 2009, “Companies often make the mistake of embracing Building Information Modeling (BIM) as yet another technology and tool. BIM is a complete process solution that integrates within an organization structure. BIM is a business decision that pushes the envelope and moves companies in the AEC industry out of their comfort zone to explore new ways of writing proposals, budgeting, staffing, and billing jobs in a revamped approach.”

Here’s a free 19 page handout from his presentation.Another author with the initials JJ offers a number of BIM business strategies noting that “BIM can be used at different levels to suit a firm’s business model and client needs. No matter how far you go with the technology, you can recognize benefits by addressing its capabilities and risks in both business strategy and organizational culture.”

You can find James Jonassen’s excellent article here at DesignIntelligence covering the following BIM business strategies:

• BIM through design only
• BIM through construction only
• BIM in design-build
• BIM in integrated project delivery
• BIM in enterprise/project integration

You might recall Jonassen is the author of AIA’s seminal Changing Business Models in BIM-Driven Integrated Practice, here included in the Report on Integrated Practice series.

Unprecedented BIM Business Models for Unprecedented Times

The thing is, we’re living in unprecedented times. We all need to be creative in how we go about serving our clients – and getting paid for the considerable work that we’re doing.

Doing the same thing, taking the same approach, over and over, irrespective of the client or situation – whether stylistic sense or business sense – no longer works for the design profession and construction industry.

Coming-up with a creative BIM business model is a great start to assuring that the client is satisfied and you walk away with a profit.

To be creative in your BIM business strategy it helps to know what your options are.

It also helps to know how others have approached similar business situations so that we can learn from them.

That is where this magnificent new book comes in.BIM, meet BMI.

Building Information Modeling, meet Business Model Innovation, that is.

A self-described handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises, Business Model Generation is a model book for those who communicate design ideas for a living.

In short, BMG is a very practical and accessible tool to analyze and improve you and your business.

“Business model innovation,” say the book’s authors, “is about creating value, for companies, customers and society. It is about replacing outdated models.”

What is your organization’s business plan?

What is yours?

Whether you have one that is outmoded or don’t have one, you need this book.

How do you plan on leveraging BIM?

How do you plan on leveraging IPD?

Making the work process work for you financially is what this book will help you accomplish.

Are you getting paid for all the extra work that goes into your BIM models?

What’s your value proposition?

If not top of mind – if your answer isn’t on the tip of your tongue – then this book’s for you.Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

This book will help you launch, re-launch or advance your career and business from a value creation standpoint.

BMG is an indispensible manual on how to map, analyze, and strip-down your organization’s business model and reassemble it into something that creates real value.

The starting point is the Business Model Template which allows you to break your business down into:

  • Key Activities – What you do every day to make the model work
  • Key Partners – Your suppliers and partners that help you make the model work
  • Key Resources – The most important assets you used to create value
  • Cost Structure – All the costs involved in running the business
  • Customer Relationships – The types of relationships you have with your customer segments
  • Customer Segments  – The different groups of people you’re trying to reach and serve
  • Channels – How you reach your customer segments
  • Revenue Streams – Where you make cash from your customer segments
  • Value Proposition – The key ideas that create value for your customer segments

For me, there are three undeniable benefits brought about by this book that compel me to recommend it here in a BIM and IPD blog.

1. Like IPD, the book follows its own advice and was written collaboratively – by a team of 470 practitioners (co-contributing co-creators) in 45 countries.

2. Business models, like building models, come in many shapes and sizes. You will recognize many of the books and cases mentioned in this book – and learn things about them that you didn’t know. This book will re-familiarize you with the most popular models – and encourage and inspire you to come up with your own – one  that will work best for you or your organization.

3. The book is stunningly beautiful to look at – both rough and polished, well-designed – it will inspire; has the look and feel of Francis Ching’s books from the 70’s. It would be a sin to read this book on a Kindle or iPad. This one you have to feel in your own hands. The book is no stranger to visual and architectural design: one section of the book is entitled Patterns, and opens with an architect Christopher Alexander quote. The book was designed by The Movement http://www.thmvmnt.com/ a Global Change Agency that creates with people.In the interest of brevity, I won’t review the book here. Life is short – read it.

Still not convinced? For a summary see the following links and “About the Book” below.

Considering going back for your MBA?

This book will provide you with all you need to know for an MBA in BIM.

Order this paperback book here.

Get a taste (a 72 page PDF preview) of it here for free.

Visit the website.

Read co-author Alexander Osterwalder’s blog.About The Book

Synopsis

Disruptive new business models are emblematic of our generation. Yet they remain poorly understood, even as they transform competitive landscapes across industries. Business Model Generation offers you powerful, simple, tested tools for understanding, designing, reworking, and implementing business models.

Business Model Generation is a practical, inspiring handbook for anyone striving to improve a business model — or craft a new one.

Change the way you think about business models

Business Model Generation will teach you powerful and practical innovation techniques used today by leading companies worldwide. You will learn how to systematically understand, design, and implement a new business model — or analyze and renovate an old one.

Co-created by 470 strategy practitioners

Business Model Generation practices what it preaches. Co-authored by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries, the book was financed and produced independently of the traditional publishing industry. It features a tightly-integrated, visual, lie-flat design that enables immediate hands-on use.

Designed for doers

Business Model Generation is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new, innovative models of value creation: executives, consultants, entrepreneurs — and leaders of all organizations.Added Value

One reviewer offered this comparison with other popular books on business models:

* The Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Secrets of Continually Developing a More Profitable Business Model by Mitchel, Coles, Golisano and Knutson, has a heavier focus on marketing with some ideas and questions relating to one-sided business models, so if you are looking to “sell more” perhaps you like this book.

* The Profit Zone: How Strategic Business Design Will Lead You to Tomorrow’s Profits by Slywotzky, Morrison and Andelman, has a heavier focus on profitability and the changing areas in which high profit is possible to keep, it is a quick read and perhaps complementary to The Business Model Generation that focus less on profitability.

* Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape by Henry Chesbrough has a heavier focus on technological innovation in the context of business models and also covers the important area of Intellectual Property in relation to open business models.

* Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model by John Mullins and Randy Komisar, focus more on entrepreneurship and start-ups and on learning from experimentation and adjusting the business model, also with more focus on financials.

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Filed under BIM organizations, collaboration, craft, craftsmanship, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, process

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

When is BIM TMI? or Death by DataPoint


No one goes into a career in architecture because they love to crunch numbers or deliver hard data.

But once initiated into the tribe, it has increasingly become a reason for many to stay.

This is where we find ourselves today: instead of surviving on our wits – we’re surviving on analytics.

Practicing an art and a science, architects naturally run both ends of the spectrum. Some consider themselves artists first and foremost, unconcerned whether their designs ever see daylight. These paper architects, updated for the conceptual age as digital architects, perform primarily in pixels.

And give architects their not always positive reputation as artists.

At the other extreme are architects for whom it is all about the hard evidence.

For them a day at work is more CSI: Crime Scene Investigation than CSI: Construction Specifications Institute.

Feeding on constraints and ever-changing regulations, design for them is a matter of looking-up and plugging-in information that’s required and, if necessary, trimming off the excess – literally in the trim command, trim tool or by way of value engineering.

So when BIM came along, these hardscrabble architects pounced on it. They love the plug-‘n-play apparatus. They devour the dialog boxes and cannot feed enough information into them.

Rather than being exhausted by the umpteenth request to provide information they’re energized by it. As though to say, hit me with another question.

It’s not that BIM has done away with RFIs; they’re now embedded in the program.

These are the people who grew up watching game shows and love to answer trivia.

I’ll take Creating New Types and Templates for $1000 and Instance Properties for $1500.

The reality is that we need both types of architects. I have argued here that in the best of worlds the two would reside in the same person. Others have argued elsewhere that it’s good for project teams and organizations to have both types of people, to provide flexibility and agility, and to serve as a checks and balances function to assure the work stays in line.

But how much information is too much?

Could there be a fear of too much information (TMI) – too much I in BIM?

For that is the crux – to know how much information is needed and when it is needed.

And while this has been addressed, particularly in some of the better contracts, it’s a mindset and skillset that needs to be developed that we’re talking about here.

It’s like when a sales rep calls on you at an inopportune time – say on your way into a design presentation and you unadvisedly or unwittingly took the call. It’s not bad information that they want to impart – it’s just not the right time for it. A week later that same information may come through for you and help you get your design approved. Just not now.

This ability – to gauge how much information is needed and when – is not a new skill but it’s just never been more important than it is now for individuals, teams and firms to acquire.

It’s not only a matter of knowing where to hit the hammer, it’s a matter of recognizing and acknowledging the context so you can nail the the question: of the project phase, who will use the information, what they will use it for and when they will need it.

And this ability is age-related: it is easier for senior team members than still emerging talent to see the bigger picture.

Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context: coup d’oeil or court sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations.

Information Intelligence (II)

Call it Information Intelligence (II) the uncanny ability to gauge when, how and to whom to apportion information.

Developing this ability in your staff – and hiring for Information Intelligence or II skillset – will save more time, fee and headaches than any other single move you could make right now.

It takes an understanding of the technology, as well as how buildings come together.

But the higher science of this knack is a people or social skill: understanding how people receive information, how much of it they can consume at one time, what the best format for the information is so that it finds its highest and best use.

We have all had the opportunity to work with people who have the II gene. They possess the uncanny ability to gauge and deliver just the right information, at the right time, to the right person, in the right way.

When LOD becomes LOL

I am not asking here whether you can get to level of detail (LOD) 300 in Revit or ArchiCAD without working in 2D or whether these tools are ready to take-on LOD 400 for fabrication (they’re not.)

While important to know, what we’re discussing here is a higher order matter.

In an interview for my book, BIM + Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice, a BIM manager and project architect described the process thus:

The process should be like an onion where you’re building an onion backwards. You’re putting on the overall scope and slowly putting in each layer inside until you get all the way down. It’s very difficult to do that in BIM because the first time you put in a wall it asks you how thick is your drywall?

Think Lean

What’s the least amount of information that is needed at this moment to get the design intent across?

What’s the role of “hard facts” and just how hard are they?

Owners see data this way: the facts, pure and simple.

Constructors and design professionals know better, because they know more.

This is where things get more complex and uncertain.

Contractors put their own spin on the data when they indicate other contributing factors to consider – adjacencies, impacts to schedule, availability of labor, codes, etc. They see the data within a larger context.

Architects are wont to bring up the sociological impacts, the social impacts, psychological impacts and not mention the equally important aesthetic impacts of the decision-by-data point.

Death by Data Point

Statistics are definitely in. Evidence the evidence-based everything.

The New Yorker’s June 7 2010 issue lists the top jobs for the coming decade. Most involve information, metrics, data analytics or statistics.

But last time I looked architecture remains an art and a science.

And while it is foolhardy to justify subjective, aesthetic predilections by any other means than by invoking hard data – it will make you this much, it will improve quality, it will get the project done on time – it does nothing to stop an underlying and critically human need for subjective, aesthetic predilections.

Still, there’s a point when TM is definitely TM.

Just as “Death by PowerPoint” is a criticism of slide-based presentations referring to a state of boredom and fatigue induced by information overload during PowerPoint presentations, Death by DataPoint is the state we feel as design professionals when relegated to feed the beast by plugging-in infinite streams of information.

So let’s put an end to TMI and work towards just enough, just-in-time information.

Start with Seven Simple Questions

Before imparting our infinite wisdom, before sharing or over-sharing, start by asking these seven simple questions:

  • What do I need to know?
  • How can I get this information?
  • How reliable is it?
  • What do they need to know?
  • When do they need to know it?
  • Can I help them get this information?
  • How can I best communicate this?

By doing so we’ll do everyone, including ourselves, a favor.

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Filed under BIM employment, Content Creation, design professionals

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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