Category Archives: education

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

Mastering the BIM Mindset

There’s one simple thing you can do for yourself today that will completely, radically and forever change the way you experience working in BIM. This post explains what that is.

Have you ever noticed some people are really excited about working in BIM?

While others dread it – or worse, are indifferent, neutral or less-than-enthralled?

This post explains why.

And better yet, will help you overcome the latter response.

People have 2 different settings.

According to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, people are in one of two modes.

They’re either in the performing mode – where they’re expecting to perform.

Or else they’re in the learning mode – where they’re expecting to grow.

Growth types

Mindset has a simple premise:

The world is divided between people who are open to learning and those who are closed to it, and this trait affects everything from your worldview to your interpersonal relationships.

Those who work in the performing mode see themselves as fixed – I know what I know and every day I come to work to prove what I know.

They’re primarily concerned about looking good.

Those in the growth or learning mode work in BIM expecting to grow, change or learn from their experience.

They’re Always-Adding-to-their-Toolbox-types (2A4Ts or 2A40s.) We all know them.

We might be a 2A40 type ourselves.

Fixed types

Others believe their intelligence is capped. Fixed.

There’s a limit – its set – their mind’s set. Mindset.

They won’t be the ones taking themselves – or BIM – to the next level.

Not by choice anyway.

But rather kicking and screaming.

They’re happy treating BIM as the next generation CAD.

Stuck in this-is- just-the-next-software mode.

Do not pass go.

Do not cross the chasm to 4D, 5D or D’yond.

These two modes – performing and learning – may go a long way to explain how motivated you will be to work in BIM.

Without a growth mindset, there’s no mastery.

As posted in these pages, Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 comes out this month. (I can’t wait!)

And yet there is no mastery without the growth mindset.

You have to be able to imagine yourself improving, growing and changing – in order to master a skill.

Otherwise you’re fixed. Like a dog.

Which one are you?

Are you here to show us what you can do?

Or do you arrive in the morning to discover something new?

Here’s a test:

When you come home at night does your partner/roommate/spouse ask you how did you do today?

Or what did you learn today?

And which of the two do you ask yourself?

Judge & Perform or Learn & Grow

I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures… I divide the world into the learners and non-learners. – Benjamin Barber

People with a growth mindset constantly monitor what’s going on.

They’re attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action.

They’re constantly on the inquiry, asking:

What can I learn from this? How can I improve? How can I help my teammate do this better?

One Simple Thing

There’s one simple thing you can do today that will make all the difference in the world.

That will vastly change your life and the experience you have – your satisfaction and fulfillment – at work.

It’s not enough to say change your attitude when the program is driving you bananas.

It’s not helpful for someone to tell you to change your mindset when no one has ever bothered to explain what one of those are or how you might go about doing that.

The one thing is free.

And best of all it is easy and painless.

This is it.

You ready?

What we need to do while working out the kinks in BIM and plowing through the barriers, roadblocks and obstructions that naturally arise in the program is this:

Change your internal monologue from a judging one to a growth-oriented one.

That’s it.

So stop beating yourself up over changes to the user interface, families from manufacturer’s content and working with nested groups.

And approach BIM as a learning tool.

When you go to work – while performing your duties – you’ll be secretly attending the University of BIM.

Practice acting on the growth mindset.

And ask yourself this:

  • Will you allow yourself to be in the BIM mindset where you approach working in BIM in terms of learning and professional growth?
  • Will your employer enable you to work in a learning mode without negative repercussions or feeling that you are being judged and evaluated?
  • Is it realistic, in this economy, to expect anything but 100% performance from our workforce – that learning on the job, when it happens, is a bonus but not a necessity?
  • Will we work all the harder and more effectively if we feel that we are learning and growing on the job?

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Filed under BIM, education, impact

27 Reasons to read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 now, before it comes out

What are you doing on August 2, 2010?

That’s the day* Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 – or MARA2011 for short – written by the authorial triumvirate of Eddy Krygiel, Phil Read and the inestimable James Vandezande comes out.

I may not know where I’ll be on August 2nd – but I can tell you this.

On August 1st I’ll be waiting in line at the Winnetka Book Coop awaiting the 12 midnight book release.

Winnetka – with its trophy kids and designer dogs – hasn’t seen anything like this since the last Harry Potter book launch.

There’s been not a little online and offline buzz about the meaning and significance of the launch date.

August 2, 2010 is a Monday. Except in leap years, no other month starts on the same day of the week as August. That’s significant.

Also, the book is being released while the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is being held. That’s too bad for the bikers but gives everyone else an edge.

No Book, No Review, No Business

But if the book hasn’t been released yet – how can I reliably review the book without having read it?

The same way that the book’s authors are giving book signings without the book.

For more on this see Book signing – without the book!

It is apparently possible to not only sign books that haven’t  been published but also to talk about books you haven’t read – a practice encouraged in places of higher learning and France.

The French masterpiece How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read is considered a work of inspired nonsense that answers the question:

What are we supposed to do in these awkward months before books are released in which we’re inclined to talk about a book we haven’t read?

In other words:

How to talk about How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read if you haven’t in fact read it?

You want to know how I am able to share with you the contents of Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 before its publication date?

It’s one helluva story. Here goes.

You may or may not recall that an entire truckload of copies of the new Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 book, both weighing and costing an estimated one million pounds, had been stolen just months before the eagerly awaited BIM book was due to appear in bookstores.

The good news is that all of the yet-to-be-sold books have been recovered unscathed – with the sole exception of one copy that had not been accounted for until it became apparent that the “invaluable” (attorneys) prototype was left in a Silicon Valley bar by a disgruntled, as yet unidentified 2D CAD manager and later purchased for an undisclosed sum ($37.78) by Bimodo.com who proceeded to take the book apart page by page to study its substantial innards, dissecting it and posting embarrassing pictures and revealing video detailing its impressive features.

I’d link to the videos but I have to consider this blog’s family-oriented audience.

The authors, who closely guard details about their unreleased books, were too busy disclosing the most minute details of their top-secret book in their blogs to be reached for comment.

As chance would have it I happened to be writing this very post at an adjacent table to the 2D CAD manager in the Silicon Valley bar prior to his call to Bimodo.com –  

a call incidentally, shamelessly and stupidly made on the non-functioning prototype of the next generation iPhone that had also been inadvertently left in the same bar

– and was able to observe the following information about the book while he proceeded to make the dastardly, ill-advised call to Bimodo.com on a wall-hung pay phone.

For those who would like to appear knowledgeable about Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 prior to its well-anticipated release, read on.

Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 Factoids

Due to state laws forbidding the transfer of smuggled books over state lines I can only share with you a small sampling of what’s in store.

This much we know to be true:

The book runs 976 pages**

Each author wrote the equivalent of a 325 page book (Eddy no doubt one-upped with a 326th page)

The book is written in English, unless you are unfamiliar with Revit.

27 Reasons to read the book now, before it comes out

REASON 1: Reading the book now, before it comes out, will give you a competitive advantage over your competition.

When your competition returns in September they won’t know what hit them.

REASON 2: Aug 2 is a good book launch date.

Your competition is on the beach relaxing, sipping margaritas while you’re sailing by on your inflatable-of-choice reading away.

So clear your calendar. Leave August – the hottest month of the year – wide open.

You may want to keep in mind that August is the month therapists are on vacation. I’m only saying.

REASON 3: The authors – likened elsewhere to Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle (Yankees) and Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and José Carreras (Mets) – held nothing back and pulled no punches – in the scribing of their tome.

On August 2nd, you will hold in your hands everything these guys know. Period.

Having given their all, the authors themselves have been reduced to empty shells, mere husks of their former selves. You’re now the keepers of their content – they’re barely haircuts in suits. Enjoy.

REASON 4: For the same reason you work in BIM and Integrated Design – without everything all perfectly worked out.

For the same reason you work in BIM without the assurances of complete interoperability.

For the same reason you work in Integrated Design without signing a right of reliance (you don’t?!)

You find coping mechanisms and plug-ins.

Patches and workarounds.

Patience, faith, hope and confidence that everything will be worked out in time.

Besides, design professionals for a living envision what is not there.

It is one of our core attributes and competencies.

That is what we do.

We don’t need a book to read it any more than we need a building to design it.

Don’t let the pesky detail that the book does not yet exist stand in your way of reading it.

REASON 5: Get a jump start, before the book comes out, and form a study group. In advance – upon return from summer vacation each employee prepares to present a different topic at a lunchtime lunch and learn. Each employee picks a chapter and runs with it. Does the double duty of providing much-needed presentation experience for emerging employees. Until the release date – you can do some prep work – some of the heavy lifting – prepare a work plan, a study plan, look online here at the table of contents to decide where you will focus first. Or read on.

27 Even Better Reasons + 3 Bonus Reasons

Here are all the reasons you need to read this outstanding as yet-to-be-published book – the best book I haven’t read in ages.

Here are all 27 of them from the book’s table of contents

Part I: Fundamentals provides discussions of key BIM and Revit concepts before giving readers a hands-on look at the Revit interface.

1 Beyond Basic Documentation.

2 The Principles of Revit: Tools and UI.

3 The Basics of the Revit Toolbox.

Part II: The Revit Workflow, explores today’s Revit workflows and introduces readers to templates, worksharing, and managing Revit projects.

4 Configuring Templates and Standards.

5 Managing a Revit Project.

6 Understanding Worksharing.

7 Working with Consultants.

8 Interoperability: Working Multiplatform.

Part III: Modeling and Massing for Design dives into modeling and massing and offers detailed information on the crucial Family Editor as well as visualization techniques for various industries.

9 Advanced Modeling and Massing.

10 Conceptual Design and Sustainability.

11 Phasing, Groups, and Design Options.

12 Visualization.

Part IV: Extended Modeling Techniques covers documentation, including annotation and detailing, and explains how to work with complex walls, roofs and floors as well as curtain walls and advanced stair and railings.

13 Walls and Curtain Walls.

14 Roofs and Floors.

15 Family Editor.

16 Stairs and Railings.

Part V: Documentation.

17 Detailing Your Design.

18 Documenting Your Design.

19 Annotating Your Design.

20 Presenting Your Design.

Part VI: Construction and Beyond, the final portion of the book, discusses Revit for contractors and facility managers, working with Revit in the classroom (high school through graduate), virtualization, working with the API, fabrication for film and stage, and advanced, time-saving tips and tricks

21 Revit in Construction.

22 Revit in the Classroom.

23 Revit and Virtualization.

24 Under the Hood.

25 Direct to Fabrication.

26 Revit for Film and Stage.

27 Revit in the Cloud.

There you have it. 27 great reasons to read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 now, before it comes out.

Want three more reasons to make it an even 30? Here are 3 more bonus reasons:

28 Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011’s focused discussions, detailed exercises, and compelling real-world examples are organized by how users learn and implement Revit, an approach that will resonate with Revit users of all skill levels.

29 The expert authors developed this practical reference and tutorial based on years of experience using the program and training others to do so.

30 Unlike the competition, Mastering Revit Architecture is organized by real-world workflows and features detailed explanations, interesting real-world examples, and practical tutorials to help readers understand Revit and BIM concepts so that they can quickly start accomplishing vital Revit tasks. 

DON’T WAIT

For the same reason that many professionals should avoid waiting until things are perfect and all worked-out with their technology before jumping-in, there is no better time than now – before the book is published and distributed – to read this insightful guide.

The release date will come sooner than you think – the future is nearer than you think – so act now.

Click here and free yourself.

If you are an instructor, you may request an evaluation copy for this title.

In the meantime, come August 2 – you will have the immaculate door-stopper and show stopper.

Follow the book on Facebook by checking the book out on the Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 Facebook page

And while at it, follow them on Twitter http://twitter.com/masteringrevit

Don’t wait. BIM operators are standing by.

* Important Update: Now you really can read Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 before it comes out! I just learned from a very reliable source (the publisher) that this post identified the official announced publication date (when they pop the champagne) as August 2 – which remains accurate – but in fact failed to mention that you can get Mastering Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 from the Wiley website as early as July 12, and from Amazon very shortly thereafter and at most stores where books are sold by July 26. See comment below for more on this. Do not drink and read.

** The final official tally is 1080 pages – the equivalent of each author having written a 360 page book!

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Filed under BIM, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, workflow

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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BiM: Building intuition Modeling

While the architectural design process is largely an intuitive exploration, what happens to intuition in this rational, digital process we call BIM?

Most everyone in the AEC industry by now knows that the purpose of a building information model (BIM) is to generate and manage building data during its lifecycle. And that the model’s data – in the form of information – covers building geometry, light and energy analysis, geographic information, quantities for estimating costs and properties of building elements.

But what if the BIM was used to contain acquired knowledge, build intuition and generate insights?

After attending two critical AEC-related events in Chicago in one week – Christopher Parson’s seminal KA Connect 2010 conference on Knowledge Management, and Illinois Institute of Technology’s Divergent Perceptions Convergent Realities: IPD and BIM – I started thinking about how BIM models, as a technology and process still very much in a nascent state of development, had the potential to impact the modeler’s, designer’s and even end user’s knowledge, wisdom and intuition.

Today, especially in this economic climate, the BIM is very much a rational model. And while most would agree that one model is not a realistic end goal or even an ideal, what if what we were working toward were multiple models – rational models, intuitive models and rational-iterative models – all assisting in our individual and collective professional judgment and decision-making?

Wisdom Management >> Intuition

Most in the knowledge management and Knowledge Architecture world – the “KA” in KA Connect – would recognize the data flow

Data >> Information >> Knowledge >> Wisdom

where each term is differentiated – and evolves – from an evaluation of its immediate precedent and antecedent. Read more about this and systems thinking here.

That the succession of terms, when stacked, forms architecture’s primordial building form – the pyramid – is almost perverse.

At the IIT colloquium, esteemed Assistant Professor John Durbrow raised the question as to whether intuition could be defined as the successful outcome of internalizing one’s own experience over time?

If this were the case, the new formula would look something like

Data >> Information >> Knowledge >> Wisdom >> Intuition

The Designer’s Burden of Proof

Aaron Greven at the IIT colloquium argued that intuition-based design is being replaced with analytic-based results, creating greater certainty for owners, translating as lower risk, with an emphasis on accountability by the design professional. For evidence of this, see HBR’s The Future of Decision Making: Less Intuition, More Evidence.

But what if our models were able to contain both analytics and intuition-based parameters, resulting in an analytic-intuition model?

Architectural Justification

It is a dirty little secret that architects design what they like and only justify later. They do what they do because they like it – and work hard to provide reasons for their intuitions in the socializing or coming-out of their designs. Architects self-justify and rationalize, then justify and post-rationalize. One could argue that all-in-all the world is a better place – with much better buildings – for having taken this approach.

Here’s the nuance in this argument. What an architect likes is not inherent to the architect – not something she is born with – but something learned, nurtured and inbred, over time, through trial and error and the school of hard knocks. The successful moves rise to the top while the not-so fall like lead to the bottom, seldom to rear their ugly little heads again. Or one would hope. Over time what we call professional judgment or experience is merely the accumulation – and recollection – of such positive feedback over time.

Forget for a moment about what this says about our freedom to choose and the faintly behaviorist underpinnings. What does this have to say about BIM and how BIM might be taught in schools?

It is often argued that undergraduate students ought to be immersed in building construction early on and once familiar with how buildings come together, only then introduce digital technologies such as BIM. Others, of course, believe that there is no place in the curriculum for BIM and it ought to be picked-up on the sly.

Several at the IIT conference expressed concern that students were being exposed to BIM earlier and earlier in the curricula.

Analytic-intuition (Ai) models

But what if BIM was used as a tool to learn how buildings came together? Here, the teaching of BIM in schools could be broken-up into 4 areas of focus

1. Building Data >> 2. Building Information >> 3. Building Knowledge >> 4. Building Wisdom >> Intuition

Where

  • Building Data covers building concepts and systems
  • Building Information covers materials and products
  • Building Knowledge covers research and development
  • Building Wisdom covers collaborative application of the above

Once ingrained, acquired building knowledge and building wisdom would result – through the iterative and social process of an integrated design studio – in intuition.

Some inevitably would argue that intuition is the result of years of trial and error – and wouldn’t be developed until long after school has ended and professionals were well into their careers. Perhaps. But if – as some have said – that architectural education ought to focus on educating future architects for their long careers and not to be employable interns day one out of school, then immersing architecture students in the model to learn modeling AND construction – how buildings come together – would make some sense.

BDM: Building Data Model

This is the building model at its most elemental form, involving pre-information in the form of symbols. Read more about it here and here.

BIM: Building Information Model

Where information is neither the accumulation nor collection of data but represents the next level of information.

BKM: Building Knowledge Model

Knowledge-building activities and even decision-making models may exist in decision theory – but not building knowledge models. Knowledge is putting information from the model into action. Think of it as applied information of the BIM model. The next morning after drafting this post, T.J. McLeish, IIT College of Architecture Virtual Realms, in his colloquium talk on Planning Tools/Digital Design and Fabrication- a self-proclaimed advocate for making smarter people not smarter buildings – rhetorically asked is it building information modeling or knowledge modeling? No doubt a convergence of perceptions.

BWM: Building Wisdom Model

The wisdom model puts the acquired, collective knowledge to use, resulting in understanding. For reasons that will soon become apparent, I am not proposing a Building Understanding Model (BUM)

BiM: Building intuition Model

It is my firm belief that there is a book in response to every question, and the Building + Intuition question is no exception. While not specifically about buildings, Building Intuition: Insights from Basic Operations Management Models and Principles (International Series in Operations Research & Management Science) – while written primarily to enable readers to develop insights with respect to a number of models that are central to the study and practice of operations management – is equally applicable to working in BIM. As the book explains

One of the primary purposes of any model is to build intuition and generate insights. Typically, a model is developed to be able to better understand phenomena that are otherwise difficult to comprehend. Models can also help in verifying the correctness of an intuition or judgment. In spite of the fact that many educators and practitioners recognize the intuition-building power of simple models, this is the first book in the field that uses the power of the basic models and principles to provide students and managers with an “intuitive understanding” of operations management.

What if a BiM were to result in the modeler’s intuitive understanding of how buildings come together, how they ought to be sited, how they impact the entire lifecycle, which designs work and which are better left in the monitor? It is worth a longer look into the role of intuition in design, BIM and IPD.

IIT Colloquium: some observations

There’s a lot you could say about the IIT Divergent Perceptions Convergent Realities – IPD and BIM all-day colloquium on integrating Virtual Realm Design Environments into integrated Building Delivery methodologies and curricular intents. With fewer than 2 dozen non-presenters in attendance the conference was not well-attended. Someone asked:

Have you ever noticed that every technology conference starts with difficulty advancing slides?

Can you really fault those who might have benefitted most by attending for wanting to spend an all-too-rare beautiful Chicago Spring Saturday out of doors instead of in the dark and noisy basement of IIT’s Crown Hall on Chicago’s South Side when there have been a seemingly endless succession of dismal Winter Saturdays when the event could have taken place?

Yes you can. The atmosphere was admittedly a bit like educating the educators. No matter – the presenters and presentations more than made up for calendar and Crown Hall’s less-than-accommodating underbelly. That the event was memorialized on video – one can only hope that the presentations reach a wider audience once uploaded.

John Durbrow, chair of IIT College of Architecture’s Master of Integrated Building Delivery program, as the master of ceremonies, set the tone. Aaron Greven, founder of AG Design Works and teaches in IIT College of Architecture’s Master of Integrated Building Delivery program, spoke on Status of the BIMvolution. Perhaps – along with CM Matt Riemer of Gilbane Building Company’s presentation Pre‐Seeing and Its Impact on Process – the most earth-bound of the talks, served the critical purpose of grounding the topic in such a way that allowed the presentations that followed to diverge or converge as necessary. With the presence of Mies ever-looming over the conference, Greven concluded his talk with these already prophetic words:

“Less may be more, but our looking to get more out of less will lead the way.”

Convergence

Since Sachin Anand, dbHMS Envisioning Energy Flux, representing building systems was not able to attend, Joseph Burns, Thornton Tomasetti, hot on the heels of his recent AIA podcast with Markku Allison revisiting his 2006 insights on BIM and IPD, spoke about Structure not Unseenly, a show-and-tell of his recent work with little critical assessment. David Bier, Futurity provided a much-needed GIS-level view of applying landscape to the BIM environment on Data Systems for Engaging the Environment. A great deal of minute detail was presented, sometimes losing sight of the forest for the trees.

Divergence

T.J. McLeish, IIT College of Architecture Virtual Realms, in his talk on Planning Tools/Digital Design and Fabrication – who, along with all of the faculty presenting and in attendance an alumnus of Murphy Jahn, making the event something of a MJ reunion – explained how he doesn’t see clear-cut boundaries between virtual and non-virtual realms. His interests, he said, fall in the intersection between the real/physical and abstract/digital worlds – and how we translate, manage and move from one to the other. He went on to present a number of research projects he is involved with that have very real applications.   

Ryan Schultz of Studio Wikitecture spoke on Enabling Wiki: Task Definition for Distributed Management – crowdsourcing as a business plan that allows individuals with diverse viewpoints to integrate – indirectly commented on the potential effectiveness of IPD by alluding to how the Skunkworks and Jet propulsion teams collaborated well by reducing the number of participants. It would have been interesting if IPD can be seen as a form of crowdsourcing. I will take this up in a future post. Robert J. Krawczyk, IIT College of Architecture, presented 982 slides illustrating computational design, in The Role of Exploration – What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do. Krawczyk presented the idea of BIM as the latest tool in a long succession of tools (and applicable to this post, where a tool is equated with knowledge.)

While all interesting, the divergent talks could have benefitted from time to time with a reference back to the topic of the day: IPD and BIM.

Keith Besserud, Studio Head [BlackBox] at Skidmore, Owings, & Merril, LLP, also evoked Mies in his talk on Form Follows Data. Keith described BlackBox an applied research studio in the Chicago office of SOM (started back in the glory days of 2007 when firms could still afford R&D,) focusing on developing and leveraging parametric, algorithmic, and computational design methods and tools in the design work of the office. Keith gave an inspiring, if canned, talk on his recent work. Interestingly, what resonated and lasted long after he was finished speaking, was a short digital video illustrating the understanding of wind performance around tall buildings.

A model for a Building Understanding Model? Yes, analytic tools such as Ecotect, take some geometry and look at behaviors in two different locations in the world. Bottom line: Analytic, yes – but also breathtakingly beautiful.

Neil Katz, also of SOM Blackbox, the last presenter (alternatively, Open Visions, Vibrant Visions, and Algorithmic Modeling/Parametric Thinking) before the closing panel discussion, reminded us –in action if not words – that, while IPD and BIM is first and foremost about delivering more efficient results to owners, what attracted us to the field in the first place was the pursuit – and creation – of beauty. His vision presented in creative computational solutions to design problems, is a beautiful one. His work is faultless, beautiful. Neil came across as a gentle soul who spoke without ego or any of the pretensions normally associated with the worst of academia or working in a large competitive firm. That such beauty can result from such circumstances – and after so many years of practice – ought to provide manna for those who wish to continue on their chosen career path despite the many changes and hardships.               

In the panel discussion IIT’s John Durbrow stated that, to architecture and design

Intuition is the assimilation of observations made over time, to see what seems right.

And in doing so

You’ll develop intuition based on the performance of digital tools.

Aaron Greven responded with this inquiry:

How do you teach intuition?

How do you demonstrate intuition?

How do you test, validate and evaluate intuition?

It’s just a hunch but perhaps the answer is in a Building intuition Model (BiM)?

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BIM (in) The Game

The Game is the name given to the annual football game played between Harvard and Yale. The two teams have met 126 times in the past 135 years, and while Yale has a slight edge (in) the series, Harvard is the current champion.

They call the end-of-season annual meeting between the two teams The Game.

The Game is the second oldest rivalry – after Princeton vs. Yale – and so it is ironic (and an admittedly less than smooth transition) that Princeton Architectural Press (PAP) has produced two Game-changing publications – one from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the other from the Yale Architecture School (YAS) – that I would like to briefly describe and compare in this post (PST.)

Enough with the acronyms.  For those who have read my current piece in AECbytes you’ll know that I’m on something of a synthesis kick right now that is threatening to become a synthesis rampage. I would personally like to see a moratorium on BIM and Integrated Design analysis until someone steps forward with a clear roadmap, less findings, more wayfinding. In the viewpoint article I state that

There is a tendency—with each new release, with each new product, posting and revelation—to add to what is already known instead of clarifying—and solidifying—what we already have. What our industry needs right now is not more information or analysis of information: the pieces are there. What is needed is a coming-together, a coalescing of knowledge—a synthesis of BIM and Integrated Design.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here. I mention this because while I believe YAS’s Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture may very well be the finest commentary on the condition of the profession to come out in the past 15 years – when compared with Harvard’s GSD’s freshman effort from 1996, Reflections on Architectural Practice in the Nineties, it becomes increasingly clear that we as a profession have lost sight of – or no longer see – the forest from the trees.

To be clear, Yale’s Building (in) the Future, by grounding the discussion (in) technology, admittedly focuses on the trees of technology and the changing roles of those who work in them, while Harvard’s Reflections is as the title implies, more forest-like (in) its scope.

But this may be due to the publication’s separate ambitions: one to describe changes to an evolving profession over the course of a decade, the other focused not only on the increasingly diverse technologies impacting the profession as well as on the roles of those working with them – with the resulting transition from master architects to master builders.

At a book launch event in late February 2010, Phil Bernstein was reported saying that with the book he hopes “to create a theoretical frame in which we can begin to explore these options, because the technology is moving even much, much more quickly than we could possibly have known.” The implication being that the book offers frame-like branches from which will hang our future exploration’s leaves that, in time, will make-up our much needed forest.

Both books cite the grandfather of architecture profession studies, Robert Gutman, and his presence is felt in both publications. In fact, Yale’s Building dedicates the book to Robert Gutman (1926-2007) as “a most sensitive analyzer of the architectural profession.” And this is the crux: analyzer – not synthesizer. What is needed (in) our current transition is more effort put into synthesizing the vast amounts of information concerning BIM and Integrated Design at our disposal and less analysis.

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture is divided (in)to two sections: Working and Making, and Collaboration, which remarkably cover the (in)terests of this blog and blogger:

Working and Making = BIM

Collaboration = (In)tegrated Design

My concern is that with spring upon us we’ll be reading even less than we do as a profession. Upon completing this post, I would like to ask that you peruse the books mentioned at the end of this post, order, purchase or borrow the one that most (in)tuitively connects with you on a visceral level, read it, doodle and comment in the marg(in)s, and when you’re done, draw-up a map – a roadmap, a plan, your vision – for how you would suggest we move forward as a profession. Tap into your all-too-rare-(in)-this-world ability to synthesize vast amounts of often conflicting, complex and contradictory information into an elegant and smart solution for our current condition. We are looking to you for this. Lead. Start a movement – and in doing so – you will have done your not-so-small part to help all of us along.

I won’t review these books here (in) their entirety – but recommend that you read Building (in) the Future for yourself. For a review of Building (in) the Future look here and for a summary, here.

At the risk of inundating you with too much information, in October 2006, the Yale School of Architecture held a symposium that became the inspiration for this book, entitled “Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture.” You might want to take a quick look at this presentation from the conference with one of BIM + Integrated Design’s favorite speakers, Joshua Prince-Ramus. In a session entitled “The Organization of Labor: Architecture,” Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX; façade consultant Marc Simmons of Front, Inc.; architect Coren Sharples of SHoP; lawyer Howard W. Ashcraft; and Phillip Bernstein of Autodesk and Yale University discusses issues such as hiring, structuring of project teams, responsibilities and liabilities, compensation, contracts, scope and responsibility of work, and the legal and public recognition of authorship. Watch – http://www.rex-ny.com/approach/yale-building-in-the-future-symposium

The Read-Now List

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture, Phillip Bernstein, Peggy Deamer eds.

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture raises as many questions as it addresses. Over thirty contributors – including Phillip Bernstein Autodesk, Inc., Building Solutions Division VP and Yale School of Architecture lecturer, Peggy Deamer, Kenneth Frampton, Paolo Tombesi, Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr., Reinhold Martin, James Carpenter, Branko Kolarevic, Chris Noble and Kent Larson among many others – including designers, engineers, fabricators, contractors, construction managers, planners, and scholars examine how contemporary practices of production are reshaping the design/construction process. The book that grew out of the 2006 symposium is still relevant and provides as succinct and convincing snapshot of the profession in the throes of change as you are likely to find anywhere.

A beautifully produced book, well-made, small in format if not in ambition.

Reflections on Architectural Practice in the Nineties

This still largely timely and thought-provoking collection of essays offers a detailed examination of architectural practice in the 1990s, having grown out of a year-long symposium at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, which took stock of pressing issues in order to speculate on future paths for both education and practice.

Among the many familiar challenges the architecture profession faced at the time was a constantly volatile economic climate, rapid technological change, and a general globalization of society. Reflections presents 29 essays by leading critics, scholars, and designers, essays that grapple with these and other issues and provide strategies for confronting them.

To give you an idea of the scope of Reflections, the book is organized into sections:

  • OVERVIEWS OF ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE AND EDUCATION
  • PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND ETHICS
  • THE GLOBAL ECONOMY AND ARCHITECTURE
  • IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGN EDUCATION

Some of the stronger essays included:

  • Getting Beyond Architectural Monographs and “How-To” Management Books • Roger Ferris
  • Practice Realities Must Be Integrated in Design Studios • Fred Stitt
  • The Shaping of Architectural Practice • Elizabeth Padjen
  • Growing Complexities in Practice • A. Eugene Kohn
  • In Big Firms, Most Do Not Design • Stephen Kliment, Peter Forbes
  • Three Models for the Future of Practice
  • On the Need for the Collaboration of Diverse People • Frances Halsband
  • How Should Architects Respond to Changes in Practice? • Andrea Leers
  • Notes on the Fate of the Architectural Profession in the Post-Structuralist Era • George Baird
  • Mentors Are More Important than Curriculum • Margaret Henderson Floyd
  • Changing Roles for Architects: Conversations from a Colloquium
  • Losing and Regaining Ground: A Jeremiad on the Future of the Profession • Carl Sapers
  • On Virtuous Architects • Carl Sapers
  • Collaboration Is a Management Art • Charles B. Thompson
  • On Liability and Litigation • Richard Crowell
  • Information Technology: A New Source of Empowerment for Architects • Spiro Pollalis
  • Globalization, Flows, and Identity: The New Challenges of Design • Manuel Castells
  • Design in an Increasingly Small World • Peter G. Rowe
  • Shaping Design Education • Peter G. Rowe

Architecture From the Outside In: Selected Essays by Robert Gutman (2010)

Today, in the face of the challenges confronting their profession, from the economic crisis to an urgent need for longer-lasting, more affordable, and greener construction, architects have been forced to reconsider the relationship between architecture and society, between buildings, their inhabitants, and the environment. No single individual did more to build this discourse than Robert Gutman. Sometimes referred to as the sociological father of architecture, Gutman in his writing and teaching initiated a conversation about the occupants of buildings and the forms, policies, plans, and theories that architects might shape. A sociologist by training, Gutman infiltrated architecture s ranks in the mid-1960s. Over the next four decades at Princeton s School of Architecture, Gutman wrote about architecture and taught generations of future architects, while still maintaining an outsider status that allowed him to see the architectural profession in an insightful, unique, and always honest way. Architecture From the Outside In is the only book of Gutman’s collected essays to span his entire career, with the earliest essay included from 1965, and the most recent from 2005. Before his death in 2007, Gutman wrote a new introduction for the book, its chapters, and each of the included essays. The fourteen essays included here are the rare case of valuable historical documents that remain relevant to architects practicing today. Editors Dana Cuff and John Wriedt added twelve dialogues by some of Gutman’s former students, now some of the best-known architects and theorists of today: Bryan Bell, Deborah Berke, Peggy Deamer, Frank Duffy, Keller Easterling, Robert Fishman, Marta Gutman, Wallis Miller, David Mohney, Patricia Morton, Eric Mumford, and Sarah Whiting. These essays give a contemporary response to Gutman’s work, and make Architecture From the Outside In an invaluable addition to any contemporary architect’s library. 

Architectural Practice: A Critical View (1988)

The book that started it all describes the state of the profession in the latter 80’s and the historical reasons for its condition. Drawing from economical, social and political forces he explains the reasons for the decline of the role of the architect. A used copy can still be had for $1.58

 

 

Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice: A Special Report by Boyer and Mitgang (1996)

Despite being focused primarily on architectural education, this study provides a forest of recommendations for the profession.

 

HUNCH 6/7: 109 Provisional Attempts to Address Six Simple And Hard Questions About What Architects Do Today And Where Their Profession Might Go Tomorrow (2003)

For a profession that is too busy to stand still, HUNCH 6/7 stops time, slices through the moment, and exposes an international sampling of architecture’s voices against a newspaper backdrop of the world today. On the occasion of the farewell to Wiel Arets and the welcoming of Alejandro Zaera-Polo as dean of the Berlage Institute, 109 architects and critics who have stimulated research at the Berlage Institute were invited to reflect on the changing profession of architecture and to reconsider their role as spacemakers. They were asked six simple and hard questions about what architects do today and where their profession might go tomorrow. Forest.

HUNCH 13: Consensus (2010)

A collection of twelve provocative contributions by leading and emerging architects, critics, and scholars focuses on how collective thought shapes and enriches the built environment. From decision-making strategies, participatory forms of urbanism, and top-down planning methods, to the collaborative approach of the architecture studio, the political implications of commissioning of star architects, and the realization of universal planning principles, the authors explore how different constituencies work together to make design decisions, Along with these topical contributions – which are supplemented by marginalia of annotations, terminologies, and short stories – a series of four conversations with renowned architectural practitioners and theorists, and a visual essay and text reconsidering the role of imagery in architectural history and theory.

ARCHITECTURE CALIFORNIA, VOL. 18, NO. 2, WINTER 1996/97

Issue devoted to the future of architecture as a profession includes articles on: Boyer Report, African American architects, Sherrie Levine’s Chimera, gated communities, a prose poem by Victor di Suvero, women writer’s influence on American architecture, Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Goodman2, and interview with Kenneth Caldwell. Vol. 1 – if you can get your hands on it – it equally outstanding and deserves a wider readership.

STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?

Ever-nostalgic for the demise of our beloved www.Archvoices.org,  you can still look to this site for a comprehensive list of books and essays to stimulate and sharpen your thinking on this critical topic; a forest preserve of a list that addresses a much wider range of topics than our current trees painting a richer picture of the profession with each category listing dozens of relevant sources including: Diversity in the Profession, Career Paths, Internship, Licensure, Comparisons to Other Professions, Practice, Studio Culture, Surveys and Studies and Women in the Profession.

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Confessions of a NYC-RUG rat

Meetings – like building projects – that start well usually end well.

Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on the New York City – Revit Users Group meeting. And boy am I glad that I did.

You might recall a couple months ago we featured Chicago’s BIM-IPD Group here in these pages in The Sweet Necessity of a BIM-IPD Group Meeting. The NYC group meeting doesn’t leave you with the warm and fuzzy feeling of its Chicago cohort and counterpart. Chicago – and most of the Midwest – is still playing catch-up so has all the charm and appeal of an underdog, like the Cubs.

The impression with the NYC group is that they have been there and done that – all business, all the time. Once it started, the meeting ran like a machine – a finely-tuned, well-designed and very-expensive machine. But first there was some housekeeping to tend to…

6PM sharp: The evening’s host, James Vandezande, welcomes everyone and then just as suddenly signs-off for 15 minutes of networking. “Those online can enjoy the slide show”

So the first 15-20 minutes of the meeting was occupied by networking –– which in-person is a great use of such a gathering, but for those of us on muted standby, a bit awkward. I attended the March 2010 Meeting – NYC-RUG is a Meet-Up group – via the miracle of the GoToMeeting webinar. Try as I might to make small talk in the tiny GoToWebinar dialog box, mingling with my muted colleagues, I took my seat and waited for the show to begin.

6:13PM: James tells us to stay tuned for another 5-10 New York minutes.

Just like New York itself, the meeting with its take-no-prisoners approach promised content that would give the participant a leg-up on others in the industry. If you want to know what is happening right now in the world of BIM and Revit, with a whiff of what’s happening next – this is the place to be.

6:17PM: They start the background slide show – just like at the movie theaters before the coming attractions and featured film – only for construction industry computer geeks. Promotional images of local architect’s BIM renderings and trivia questions flash forth.

Q: What was the first release of Revit for Autodesk? (4.5)

Overseeing the festivities is James Vandezande – known to some as James Van – AIA President of NYC-RUG, prolific blogger at All Things BIM at http://allthingsbim.blogspot.com/ where he has recently featured the London RUG.

6:22PM: Weird subterranean webinar sounds emanate from my laptop. Someone doesn’t realize that they have their microphone on.

Q: Revit Structural can render which of the following materials? Wood, Steel, Concrete or All of the Above? (All)

James Vandezande, along with industry leaders Phil Read and Eddy Krygiel, is also one of BIM’s three musketeers at the Architecture | Technology blog Arch | Tech where the team approach to blogging is perfectly in sync with the collaborative work processes of the blog’s content matter, if not with the times.

Q: John Travolta starred in which feature film… (OK, not actually)

For those already familiar with this firepower blog, make note: along with the creation of a new domain address architecture-tech.com, they have a new email address for tips, suggestions and commentary on their upcoming and highly anticipated book. Imagine Ruth, Mantle and DiMaggio collaborating on a book about mastering baseball. Mastering Revit Architecture 2011 will be out in August. It’s a must-have.

A senior associate at HOK (as was David Ivy in the previous Chicago’s BIM-IPD Group post) James Vandezande was the NYC-RUG’s first presenter at the 1st meeting 2 years ago and a very good person  in the industry to know and follow http://twitter.com/jvandezande. Last night’s meeting took place at the Pratt Manhattan Campus, 144 W 14th St Room 213 – check here for future locations. You might start to get the impression that HOK has a monopoly on these groups. That’s your prerogative. HOK is an industry leader in many ways – making early and exceptional use of Web 2.0 among many other categories – but this is surely a matter of timing or coincidence.

6:25PM: The meeting is about to begin – please take your seats. There’s a full house – standing room only – which speaks to the popularity of this group and the importance of the topic presented tonight. Those attending on webinar are made to feel welcome.

As organized as an executive board meeting, the NYC-RUG meeting started with an agenda

6:00-6:15PM               Networking

6:15-6:30PM               Welcome and Announcements

6:30-8PM                    Presentations

8:00-8:30PM             Q/A and Comments

This particular meeting is a joint event with the NYC metro BIM group, headed-up by Hosney Abdelgelil, NYC BIM lead organizer and co-founder. Hosney explained that BIMPlex is a regional institution which in its completed format is a collaboration forum for academia, industry and the legislature, with a mission to find the best means to guarantee lowest overall cost, optimum sustainability, energy conservation and environmental stewardship through Building Information Modeling Technology. You can learn more about it here.

Before getting to the meat of this blog post – and meeting – we have some housekeeping to tend to.

Those attending received a digital copy of the just-released BIM Deployment Plan: A Practical Framework for Implementing BIM.

Ideas for future meetings can be suggested, discussed and voted upon at the NYC-RUG Meet-Up site.

Which brings us to next month’s do-not-miss meeting: Beginner’s Guide to Revit presented by Revit specialist, Trainer and BIM Architectural Consultant and NYC-RUG member Michael Horta.

Next up is a slide that tells the group who they are and why they are meeting in the first place. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. These guys are good.

The slide says that we are a group of professionals from the construction industry, academia, design and the media. NYC-RUG is a buildingSMART alliance (bS a) interest group, which itself is part of the National Institute of Building Sciences NIBS which has over 5000 members of its own. The group – comprising 550 members and counting – was formed about 2 years ago to meet and network with industry professionals. To see if there is a group that meets in your neck of the woods, the list of 15 current buildingSMART alliance’s Interest Groups can be found here with more on the way.

6:42PM: The presentations are about to begin.

Chuck Mies, Autodesk – BIM Solutions Executive presented BIM and the Application to Lifecycle Management.

Richard Thomas and Aaron Phillips, both of SHP Leading Design, presented BIM Design and Construction Requirements on their experience working with Indiana University, an early BIM owner adopter.

How good were the presentations? Suffice it to say I took 12 pages of notes and the latest bid for a copy is $615 on eBay. The presentations were top-notch, fact-filled, far-reaching, future-oriented, fast and best of all, free. The quality and content was AU level. Here’s my confession: I can honestly say I am a positively changed industry professional for having participated in NYC-RUG. What possibly more can you ask from a meeting?

The recording of the meeting will be posted soon here. Watch the NYC-RUG Meetup Message board for an update as well as for members to submit an idea for an upcoming meeting with the Ideas tab in Meetup.com. Here’s something nifty: If you want to know how to create a GoToMeeting/Webinar recording and how to convert it at a later date you can do so here.

8:07PM: A lively Q/A and closing comments.

It’s timely that next month’s meeting is the Beginner’s Guide to Revit because attending a NYC-RUG meeting is a lot like learning to use Revit. You have to put in some time upfront – some housekeeping to tend to. But once it starts moving the pay-off comes in droves.

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BIM’s Evolving Double Standard of Care

Holly Hunter: You totally crossed the line with that piece….

William Hurt: It’s hard not to cross the line when they keep moving the little sucker, don’t they!?

Broadcast News, 1987

Here’s a conversation I overheard the other day between a guy and girl on the inbound platform while awaiting a train, late due to mechanical malfunction.

SHE: Well, I have higher standards of care that you’re expected to follow.

HE: Define your terms.

SHE: Simply put, what I expect of you. What others expect of you based on your supposed intentions.

HE: I don’t get it.

SHE: It’s the degree of care required of guys like you who are recognized by others as being serious about their intentions and purpose. It’s the degree of caution that a reasonable guy would exercise in a similar situation so as to avoid screwing up.

HE: So why do you call it a double standard of care?

SHE: Because you want to boast of your capabilities but not to the point where you actually take responsibility for what you produce in terms of its ultimate result. You guys are all alike – you want to have it both ways. That’s your double standard of care.

HE: Why do you think we act this way? Because we can’t commit, right?

SHE: You guys claim you’re not benefitting any more to do what’s required to meet our higher expectations.

HE: So why do you say it’s evolving?

SHE: Evolving, moving. Whatever.

HE: Moving? Where’s it moving?

SHE: Where it’s headed – we’re only just now starting to get hints of. That it is moving is a foregone conclusion. We used to let you guys get away with having your cake and eating it too. What’s that line you used to use – Why buy the cow when you can milk it? Well, no more, bucko. Now – if you want to dance – you have to come to the wedding. (Train pulls in.)

This got me thinking about a talk design professionals need to have with their contractors and with their clients.

What’s in it for me?

Architects are by nature – or choice – risk averse. They operate in pencils, not bricks. Owners and Contractors don’t much like risk either and make it their goal by day’s end to make sure risk is doled out, wherever possible, evenly amongst others.

Most by now recognize that there are benefits and there are benefits. While the technological, business and social/cultural benefits of Building Information Modeling (BIM) are legion – and most of these benefits are seen by Owners and Contractors – design professionals are also seeing their fair share.

Some benefits are well-known by now:

  • Design visualization, analyze and visualize project digitally before it is constructed
  • Increased coordination with clash detection, resulting in fewer RFIs and change orders
  • By starting earlier in the process, everyone at the table day one, design input occurs earlier in process
  • Improved cost control
  • More integrated buildings

Other benefits are perhaps less top-of-mind because they’re the result of social impacts brought about by BIM and the collaborative work-process enabled by it. In my forthcoming book, BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011,) I call these co-benefits because they are indirect social results of the more familiar technical and business benefits. To name but a few:

  • Recent graduates work alongside experienced designers and train them, resulting in emerging professionals just starting out learning how buildings come together earlier in career
  • These emerging professionals as BIM operators are the canaries in the coal mine, learning of clashes, conflicts and unintended design results before anyone else
  • The mutual training and informing between the two results in mentoring up and down

Other related benefits include

  • Increased productivity, cut man-hours and manpower by reducing team size
  • Takes less time overall, resulting in more time to design and compressed construction
  • More assured decisions provide basis for more accurate fabrication

BIM’s most important benefit

One major benefit to design professionals – acknowledged and recognized but not often mentioned by design professionals – is that by working in BIM, design professionals are able to stay in the game.

By working in BIM design professionals are able to stay design professionals and not, say, consultants to contractors.

So they work in BIM. Design professionals, to garner new business, are promoting their BIM experience and expertise. As well they should. And yet this is where the double standard comes in.

BIM and its own evolving double standard

Where the standard of care (SOC) is moving will be determined in large part to precedents that are set in court. Case in point: Laura Handler’s excellent reporting earlier this year in her BIMx blog on the first batch of BIM Claims presented at a recent BIMforum session. We now know the general direction that the SOC is moving – toward greater expectations on the part of the architect.

BIMSOC –Building Information Modeling Standard of Care

vs.

BIM2SOC – Building Information Modeling Double Standard of Care.

Design professionals, take heed. Along with the boasting of BIM capability as a competitive differentiator come the double entendre of BIM responsibility.

Because with the responsibility come some other things design professionals don’t want: exposure, added risk and liability.

But also this: their having to come up with the value proposition – and subsequent conversation with their clients concerning the additional work required – to build virtual models to this new standard.

A crucial conversation

So here’s the crux. BIM’s Double Standard of Care isn’t so much a legal, liability or even responsibility issue as one of communication. Design professionals need to have a conversation with their clients about getting remediated

  • to hire the staff capable of meeting this higher standard,
  • to properly train to meet this higher standard, and
  • to produce virtual models to this higher standard.

As implied in the reporting on BIM Claims presented at BIMforum, had the designers been adequately compensated they would have attempted to meet the higher standard.

Because the designers balked – when the contractor requested that they verify their work – due to not being compensated to do so, it apparently became a question of motivation.

In the past, conversations of this sort went something like this:

Design professional tells owner that the contractor expects a higher level of detail in the model than the architect is used to providing. The owner says they always expected that level of detail, thought that that was what they were getting in the past and if they weren’t getting it, why not?

Checkmate.

In the future, if design professionals are to survive, this crucial conversation must start with the contractor – early on in the process – about their expectations and needs for the virtual model.

For the crucial conversation with the owner to have a different result, the design professional has two choices: They can have this conversation on their own (see checkmate above) or moderated, in the venue of marriage counseling – with the attendant referee and rule book.

In other words, in the Integrated Design process.

This is why Integrated Design is so important: because it creates a structure whereby these conversations will happen, when they ought to happen – early and often – where everybody is in the same room at the same time from an early date hammering out these issues.

Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is my gift, my curse.

BIM is the marriage of conceptualization with construction. The stitching together of creating and constructing Joshua Prince-Ramus alluded to a previous post.

BIM requires one to be more – and think more – like an architect and a contractor.

No more Architects are from Venus and Contractors are from Mars.

No more You Just Don’t Understand with architects wanting one thing and contractors another.

No more misunderstandings between the players arising because architects like to connect emotionally through design while contractors prefer to impart construction knowledge. Like the sexes, contractors and architects are essentially products of different cultures, possessing different – but equally valid – communication styles.

Design professionals and contractors essentially want the same thing. It’s how they get to these results – and the roles that they play, not the amount of responsibility each is willing to cover– that differ. Neither want to be ultimately responsible and so, in lieu of passing the responsibility – and along with it the liability – around, they agree to share it, mutually.

BIM is the great equalizer and Integrated Design the safe haven where working together collaboratively – if it is ever going to happen – is most likely to happen.

Integrated Design’s the right place for this marriage. I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

BIM. This is our gift, our curse. Let’s own it.

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Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tips and Tricks?

There are two approaches you can take to BIM at mid-career.

1. You can play the role of experienced architect and – in the classic architect/apprentice fashion – sit beside the agile BIM operator reciprocally feeding your building technology input in exchange for their BIM magic.

2. Master BIM yourself and become the real deal, all-in-one, all-of-a-piece, master virtual builder. BIM operator not included. Some rules apply.

The Side-by-Side Approach

The first approach has the advantage of using your current skill sets and experience to help move projects along while advancing emerging professionals in their understanding of how buildings come together. At the same time, the emerging architect – working in BIM – has the opportunity to

  • inform you of what they discover in the model,
  • what works and doesn’t work,
  • where there are gaps in the information and
  • where coordination may be needed.

The relationship is reciprocal and there’s a clear symbiosis to it. As one mentors “up,” the other mentors “down,” and there is an evening-out – a flattening – of any perceived or actual hierarchy. Working in BIM, privy to important information before anyone else, the emerging architect feels empowered. Working alongside the BIM operator, the senior professional is

  • assured that the building is coming together effectively,
  • grateful not to have to pass along redlines wondering if they were understood and addressed correctly, and
  • intrinsically rewarded knowing that she has passed along some hard-won lessons and experience to the next generation.

Advantages of the mid-career architect’s mind

Mid-career architects may have an advantage that gives them a leg-up on learning BIM – both the technology and collaborative work process. So it is no longer only experience, wisdom and hard-earned professional judgment that distinguish the experienced architect.

A well-known and well-regarded architect and educator I interviewed for my book recently described the difference between young designers and older designers saying that older designers have the ability to manage an increasingly larger set of variables. He went on:

When I was working for x, one of the amazing things about him – he could keep so many things in his head and he could balance them and weigh one against the other and he could edit out what he called the systematic generation of useless alternatives. He would prevent us from going down that avenue. A lot of the sorts of things that are transactional – does the building work from a fire code perspective, do we have the right orientation for the sun – a lot of that stuff is going to be supported by analytical algorithms, which I do believe for good designers will change the nature of the design process.

As Tara Parker-Pope recently discovered, “Recently, researchers have found…the brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture.”

Architects are trained to see both the big picture – and the minutest detail – at one and the same time. One could assume that the mid-career architect would then have an advantage on seeing the big picture, perhaps pointing to mid- and later- career opportunities for architects working in BIM and Integrated Design

The presence and example of mid-career and experienced architects in the workplace is absolutely critical to the success of projects and the firms in which they are designed, modeled and documented.

The DIY Approach

The second approach involves

  • learning the software – and the collaborative work process
  • unlearning habits you picked up along the way – including thinking in CAD
  • attaining an open and flexible mindset and attitude toward change
  • being easy on yourself when problems occur or trouble appears

Change, a timely subject, with Oscar contender Crazy Heart ‘s Jeff Bridges living the “it’s never too late” theme. For it is never too late for mid-careerists to learn a few new tips and tricks.

Several studies indicate that it takes 21 days to break a habit, while others say it takes longer. “It takes between 30 and 60 days of doing the same thing over and over again on a daily basis to create a new habit or break an old one,” says Larry Tobin, co-creator of Habitchanger.com. “We all walk around on a daily basis with habits that are detrimental to our productivity.”

But are we really calling CAD a habit in need of change, replacing it with a new habit called BIM – a two-step process whereby you call out the bad habit (CAD) and identify its well-documented and acknowledged negative consequences and create an alternative action in its place (BIM.)

Or are we talking here not about habit change but about learning a whole new technology, mindset and work process – the whole shebang?

Two questions

Can mid-career architects learn BIM? And should mid-career architects be learning BIM?

The first is a question of the middle-aged brain and its capacities. The short answer is Yes.

The second is a business and professional question: one having to do with roles, identity, profitability, ROI, personal growth and development. This second question is more situational – while it is a business question, and a career one, it is also frankly, a personal decision.

The money factor does come up. At their hourly rates, especially as firms aim to work leaner and more efficiently and effectively – does it make sense to see a 48 year old working in Revit vs. sitting alongside a younger BIM operator, one hand on computer technology, the other on building technology.

Will mid-careerists be able to not only change but keep up? Absolutely. It all comes first and foremost down to attitude and mindset. It involves giving up past ways of working that are at once familiar and comfortable – but detrimental to your work, progress and ultimately your indispensability.

To do so mid-career architects will need to reinvent themselves. The world, industry and profession is not the same world we inhabited just a few years ago. So we will need to change, adjust and adapt. When things return – we won’t be returning to the way things used to be. The old formulas simply don’t apply anymore.

For most, learning the technology is a no-brainer, a non-question: KFA offers a half-day quick start training course in BIM that will get you off and running, and resellers offer some powerful 3-day workshops, not to mention tutorials, online and old school. Several of the IT experts I interviewed for my book scoff at the idea that learning to master BIM is even difficult. They don’t even question whether 50 year olds can learn it. It all really comes down to what you want, where you want to see yourself 5-10 years down the road.

Three Career Phases

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Dante Alighieri, age 35, was halfway through his biblically allotted seventy years when he wrote these magisterial words. One typically defines a mid-career professional as someone who is 35-50 years old, has worked in their field for at least 10 years, and is at least 10 years from retirement. By this definition, Dante was a mid-career professional.

Forgetting roles – project manager, project architect and project designer – and titles – associate, etc – for a moment, an architect’s career has roughly three phases:

  • post-college “emerging architect”
  • mid-careerist “re-emerging architect” and
  • experienced architect

It is best for the mid-career design professional to think of themselves today as re-emerging. Given the economic conditions we are currently subjected to, we are all – or soon will be – re-emerging professionals. The world has undergone some massive changes in the past several years and along with it the industry and profession. When work returns we will all be re-emerging with the economy, with building owners, with each other.

Architects who are working at capacity (the minority,) at under-capacity or not at all (the remainder) – are re-emerging mid-career into a bright new world brought about by three forces: sustainability, technology and business – or roughly speaking LEED, BIM and IPD. For more on this theme, see Scott Simpson’s brilliant designintelligence blog post on the same.

So, how to train a re-emerging architect? There are 4 steps the mid-career architect needs to assume before taking a first step into this bright new world.

1. First, assure yourself that all is not for naught

2. Next, obliterate the myths you may have mistakenly come to believe as gospel

3. Resolve to learn – and master – a new trade or skill

4. Once underway, keep a daily log off your progress – and rate your progress every day

NYC author and blogger Gretchen Rubin has as one of her resolutions in her excellent new book, The Happiness Project, to Master a New Technology. She writes,

“Once I got through the painful learning curve, it was fun. The novelty and challenge of mastering the technology – though I was maddened with frustration at times – did give me enormous satisfaction, and it gave me a new way to pursue my passion…”

If you haven’t done so already, learn BIM – the technology and the process. If unemployed, invest in yourself and join the Autodesk Assistance Program, where even mid-career architects are considered students. The program has been extended through March 2010 so you can take advantage of it.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
Susan Jeffries

Think of it as training. Why training? Because in 2010 we will need to reinvent ourselves to adapt to a changing world, industry and profession – and to do so there is no better way than to train. Why would you continue to do the same things over and over when you already know what the outcome is going to be IF you are looking for a different outcome? Or, as Albert Einstein put it, The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Training the Mid-Career Brain

The New York Times recently ran a popular story on How to Train the Aging Brain by health blogger Tara Parker-Pope.

In the story – and the informative comments that follow the article, many long-held views, including the one that 40 percent of brain cells are lost, are overturned. We learn that brains continue to develop, neurons continue to multiply, synapses continue to connect (even if neural connections progressively weaken with disuse and age,) through and past middle age.

As Pope and Barbara Strauch in the New York Times explains, “What is stuffed into your head may not have vanished but has simply been squirreled away in the folds of your neurons.” Much the way that information can be buried inside a BIM model. For those fortysomethings that can regularly access deeply folded information in their own minds may hold the key for where to place information in the model so that it is readily accessible by all.

With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should “jiggle their synapses a bit” by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own, says Dr. Taylor, Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who is 66.

She asks: Is there a way to train the middle-aged brain to do better?

To learn more, read the full story, “How to Train the Aging Brain,” and read the discussion.

Myths dispelled

Over the years we’ve been led to believe many myths concerning the brain that just aren’t true:

The 10% myth (that you only use 10 percent of your brain)

The brain doesn’t grow new cells myth  (certain areas in the brain—including the hippocampus where new memories are created and the olfactory bulb the scent-processing center—regularly generate new brain cells)

The memory loss is inevitable myth (no, memory loss isn’t inevitable as we grow older)

The videogames are bad for you myth

The you can’t change your brain myth (Your brain changes constantly in response to your experiences retaining its basic “plasticity” well past midcareer)

The people lose brain cells every day and eventually just run out myth (you grow new brain cells creating new connections, or prevent the ones you have from withering, when you exercise your brain)

And one myth especially pertinent to mid-career architects,

The memory decline is inevitable as we age myth

The Oldest Profession

Architects not only need to consider working longer due to increased life spans, but also due to the economy stalling their retirement – if they ever intended to retire. Historically, architects tend to retire late as it is and some it seems never retire. Oscar Neimeyer recently returned back to work after surgery. He is 101. Which supports the truism that architects never retire.

Witold Rybczynski recently asked why architects don’t ever retire. For many that have seen their retirement accounts dwindle, this may seem like an insensitive and moot question. Architects may quip that they want to spend whatever time they have left working, but given that they have more time to learn – how is it best to use that time? Retrain for a new career? Learn new technology to enhance or reinforce a current position? Will learning BIM – the technology and collaborative work process – help to make mid-career design professionals indispensible?

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Filed under BIM, BIM employment, collaboration, design professionals, education, IPD, modeling, people, process

BIM and Integrated Design’s 17 Most Pressing Issues for the Decade

“The most fruitful and natural exercise of our mind, in my opinion, is discussion. I find it sweeter than any other action of our life.”

— Montaigne

Before we can all work cooperatively and compatibly, sharing information and models, working together for common goals, several pressing questions must first be addressed.

These are the most critical BIM, IPD and LEED issues I am currently wrestling with. Your insights here would not only be appreciated – they’re necessary – to keep the ball on track and moving forward. Are these the most important questions to address as we start 2010? Are there more urgent inquiries requiring our attention first?

BIM User Interface and Learning Curve – this may seem preposterous for those who have been working in a BIM environment since the stone age but newcomers and those still wrestling with stair design and object creation are left to ask: who designed this software (engineers, marketing teams?) why is it designed this way (to mesh with our product line, not human users like you,) and what are they going to do about it? For these reasons BIM has been more readily adopted by emerging professionals than by those in mid-career.

BIM and Gender – at the risk of coming across as sexist – it is a widely known observation that males have an easier time visualizing 3D models and spaces. “A male advantage in the ability to generate and mentally manipulate spatial representations of geometric and other figures has been well established in studies conducted in North America and in a host of European nations.” Results from these studies support male superiority in 3D spatial cognition independent from culture.  Anyone that has been privileged to spend even 5 minutes at Laura Handler’s blog will think this to be ludicrous, but does BIM, unlike CAD, put female design and construction professionals at a disadvantage, requiring additional effort on their part to achieve the same – or better – results?

Designing in BIM – currently BIM software is overly answer-dependent, requiring too much exacting data at a time when designers need to be loose, flexible and open-ended with their questions to be most effective. Conceptual and Schematic Design will continue to be worked-out in Rhino and Sketch-Up until BIM learns to truly think like an architect – as it purports to – and less like a contractor. If the architect’s core competency continues to be comfort with ambiguity, BIM will need to make room for uncertainty, mystery and other vagaries of creation.

Learning BIM and Integrated Design – the topic of my last two posts: Where BIM, IPD and LEED ought to be learned? In school, in the workforce, or on our own? With school curricula already overburdened and slow to change, is BIM and IPD work processes, mindsets and attitudes something best left to each student and emerging professional to pick up on their own?

Will Integrated Design Succeed only by Coercion? Or instead, altruism? For IPD to work must we resort to force? Will it only be utilized as a delivery method and BIM-enabled process when the Owner demands it? Must Integrated Design wait for attorneys and insurers to work out the details? When will participants willingly, proactively – w/o coercion – work with others in a cooperative manner? What does the ultimate pay-off need to be to see this succeed?

IPD Contractual Issues need ironing-out before industry-wide adoption – or require a delivery method rethought from scratch? If the owner, contractor and architect are to share information, risk and reward – the stakes need to be more evenhanded. Currently, the architect has the most to lose when considering that they are taking-on more of the responsibility, means and methods (normally contractually prohibited to the design team) and financial risk – territories outside their jurisdiction and expertise not to mention comfort zone. Next the contractor and lastly, the owner.

The Role of Midcareer Professionals Working in the BIM Environment – will they find their place sitting alongside BIM operators, applying their experience, willing to mentor-up and mentor-down? An especially critical question for those that have hoped to make it to retirement without having to take-on a whole new technology and way of practice. Will these more experienced professionals – with the unique ability to see the big picture and minutest detail all at once – be willing and able to adopt and adapt to this new environment?

The Impact of the Recession on LEED, BIM and Integrated Design Adoption and Implementation. Those recently laid-off – or underemployed – will they be able to seek and receive adequate training in BIM and IPD processes? Will this effort translate to jobs? If not immediately put into practice, as so often happens to the newly trained, will these individuals lose all they have gained and in doing so, lose hope as well? Will these candidates opt to find work, if and where available, in non-traditional practices or even outside the profession and/or industry?

Will Architects be able to Adapt to the Changes – of BIM technology and work processes – so effectively adopted by contractors in the last year? Will this decade see the architecture profession dissipate, morph into something else, or grow in resolve despite – or even because of – these changes? Will contractors take the lead – creating some kind of hybrid practitioner? Will architects rise to the occasion – taking on a leadership role in the process, returning to some version of the Master Builder, or instead be willing and able to participate in a new formation of the Master Virtual Builder team?

Who Will Lead the BIM and Integrated Design process? Architects, Contractors or Owners – or some new combination of these entities? Repeat clients get the benefits of working with the Integrated Design process, while newcomers and first-time Owners don’t. Who will master the communication skills necessary to describe, explain and justify a process that potentially can benefit all involved?

What Will the Next New Technologies and Work Processes Be? And will architects become disciplined and proficient enough with the current technologies and work processes to be able to identify, adopt and implement the next big thing – such as design-by-computation, drawing-free design – on the horizon, in  an effort to bring greater results for the owner and public-at-large?

BIM and LEED – Will harnessing the power of BIM and the integrated work process enabled by it ultimately result in a positive impact of the built environment?

Who Owns the Rights to the BIM Model? Who is responsible for the information contained in the model? When does the hand-off occur between the architect and contractor who often need to refine the model for use in construction as well as for use in clash-detection and coordination? Does a hand-off even need to occur? How can architects ask this question without resorting to protection of ownership and territory – helping the team move forward and reach its goals together? How can architects be encouraged to share their models with all involved? Who will make the first move?

The Question of Insurance – Still in a “wait and see” mode, insurers are supposedly awaiting the results and outcomes of the first IPD contracted projects and how they hold up under real life conditions. How long will this take and will someone introduce a workable workaround to bypass this impediment to progress?

One Model ideal vs. Many Models – For a truly integrated project – the one comprehensive model project, shared by all parties, would seem to be ideal. File size can be dealt with quite readily – and interoperability is on its way. That said, must we resolve to live in a multiple model world?

Existing Buildings, BIM and LEED – What impact, if any, will the widespread reuse and restoration of our existing structures – and infrastructure – have on improving energy use and the environment? And what role will BIM and Integrated Design play in this purview? Will design professionals be the keepers of the data and metrics serving as evidence of BIM, IPD and LEED’s impact on owner’s next projects?

How and When Will Architects Get Along? With everyone, not least of which, each other. Architects need to relearn how to play well with others and together. Whether that means going back to what Louis Kahn called “Volume Zero” or kindergarten, relearning to share, communicate orally and verbally, accept some risk, trust and collaborate ought to be front and center concern and focus for every architect willing to enter this bright new world before us.

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