Category Archives: design professionals

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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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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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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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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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