Category Archives: Integrated Design

First Fire, then the Wheel, and now BIM


Owners didn’t ask for BIM.

Nor for IPD.

Never did.

Not then and not now.

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

BIM may be purpose-built,

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

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

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

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

We said we can give you that.

And we did.

Or so we thought.

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

To us – they’re the same.

One leads to the other.

But to them – there’s a difference.

And that difference takes the form of a gap.

A gap we’ve yet to fill.

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

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

Go on.

Take them out of the box for the owner.

Give them a demonstration of how they work.

Put in the batteries and turn them on.

BIM first.

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

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

We gave them fire.

And we gave them the wheel.

Only they don’t know that yet.

Because we haven’t told them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What they do.

And who they do it for.

Design professionals and constructors are visual types.

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

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

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

And not by berating with bullets and numbers.

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

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

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

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

But one of trust, gut and intuition.

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

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

Until owners no longer have to ask for them.

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

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

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

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

Building Knowledge in Architecture

Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

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

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

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

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You had me at Introduction

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

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

Book, wait no more.

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

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

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

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

Man Measuring the Clouds

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

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

Foqué then asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful.

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

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

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

He concludes this explanation:

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

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

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

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

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

Reinventing the Obvious

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

The case goes something like this:

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

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

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

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

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

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

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

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

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

There are people out there who do just this.

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

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

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

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

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

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

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

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated above.

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

And for this reason:

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

Do so and you’ll surely drown.

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

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

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

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

But you will do so anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, craft, design professionals, education, impact, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, people, process

The Value of Versatility


The DesignIntelligence website just posted an article I wrote, also published in the May/June technology issue of their printed journal, entitled BIM Beyond Boundaries.

The hard copy of the journal will cost you $365. And while this also gets you a Design Futures Council membership with the DesignIntelligence subscription, most of their articles are available for viewing 24/7 free.

Marjanne Pearson read this piece and suggested to me on Twitter that the article goes beyond a discussion on BIM, by touching on what she called the value of versatility in being an expert. (Follow Marjanne on Twitter @NextMoon if you want to be in the know on anything important happening in the architecture/design/business world.)

While I consider this piece my summa, or summary statement on a topic that is very important to me, it is really too long for a standard blog post.

I would really like you to read this post on the DesignIntelligence website. The reason I am posting it here is because after reading it I would like you to leave a comment. And you are only able to do that here.

Tell me if I am off the mark or if you agree with what is said here. Tell me what you think.

I’m in this to learn from you so please consider taking me up on this chance to provide some constructive feedback. Thanks!

BIM Beyond Boundaries

by Randy Deutsch

Opting for depth over breadth of expertise is a false choice that will lead individuals, organizations, the profession, and industry in the wrong direction.

Several forces are converging to create an unprecedented and timely opportunity for organizations that have embraced building information modeling (BIM). These forces — including the rise of the expert, the growing complexity and speed of projects, and BIM’s increasing recognition as an enabler, catalyst, and facilitator of team collaboration — also present significant challenges that can be overcome with the right approach and mindset.

At one time, being an expert meant knowing more than one’s competitors in a particular field. Firms that reinforced their expert culture hoarded information, which resulted in silos of expertise. Today, many firms are looking to hire people perceived as building and software technology experts, shortsightedly addressing today’s needs at the expense of tomorrow’s. While architects have always been trees with many branches, our current economic climate has discouraged them from being anything but palm trees: all trunk, no branches.

And yet things change so quickly that those who went to bed experts are unlikely to wake up experts in the morning. Due to the speed and complexity of projects, we do not have time to acquire knowledge the old way — slowly, over time, through traditional means. Even when we supplement our book learning with conferences, webinars, and continuing education, it is impossible to keep up with the flow of new information in our industry.

Expertise today is a much more social, fluid, and iterative process than it used to be. Being an expert is no longer about telling people what you know so much as understanding what questions to ask, who to ask, and applying knowledge flexibly and contextually to the specific situation at hand. Expertise has often been associated with teaching and mentoring. Today it’s more concerned with learning than knowing: less to do with continuing education and more with practicing and engaging in continuous education.

Social media presents the would-be expert with both opportunities and challenges. Working with the understanding that somebody somewhere has already done what you are trying to do, design professionals, like agile technology experts, can find what they’re looking for by tapping into their networks and aggregating the responses. Conversely, due to the rise of social media, virtually all anyone has to do today to be considered a technology expert is to call themselves one. Because social networks allow people to proclaim themselves experts, it can be hard to know who to turn to, resulting in the rise of otherwise unnecessary certifications.

An expert today is someone whose network, community, or team deems him or her so. Such acknowledgment from one’s community can be considered a form of social certification. To grow one’s professional reputation, expertise in BIM counter-intuitively requires unlearning, detachment, collaboration, and developing both deep skills and broad interests.

BIM Expertise Requires Unlearning

As we grow in our careers, we tend to focus more on people issues and less on technology. We also tend to cooperate conditionally, responding to the behavior of others. This has huge implications for design and construction professionals who might be naturally collaborative — through sharing knowledge, learning, mentoring, and teaching — but are otherwise conditioned and tempered by the culture of the firm where they work.

Working in BIM provides an unprecedented opportunity to learn: how buildings go together, how projects are scheduled, cost implications of decisions, and impact on the environment. At the same time, there is a great deal we still need to unlearn with BIM. We can start by asking some questions: Which aspects of the traditional design process change with BIM and which stay the same? What knowledge, methods and strategies must be abandoned due to BIM and what is critical to keep? And perhaps most important: What, while learning to work in BIM, needs to be unlearned?

While unlearning habits we picked up working in CAD would seem like a good place to start, there’s also a great deal we need to unlearn in order to return to our original sharing attitude and cooperative ways. These include bad habits we’ve acquired since we left the cocoon of school and embarked on the hard knocks of a career in architecture and construction, where we may have learned to be mistrustful, skeptical, competitive, secretive, and working independently in silos. In doing so, we’ve unlearned many of the critical natural habits, attitudes, and mindsets necessary to work effectively and collaboratively on integrated teams.

BIM Expertise Requires Detachment

From Japanese martial arts there’s the concept of shuhari: First learn, then detach, and finally transcend. As consultant Ian Rusk has explained, shu, ha, and ri are considered three phases of knowledge that one passes through in the study of an art. They can be described as the phases of traditional knowledge, breaking with tradition, and transcending it.

Working in BIM, we need to address all three steps to meet our goals. Of the steps, the second (detachment, or breaking with tradition) is the most important. Detachment requires that we remain flexible and agile while learning, not holding on tightly to our ideas, agendas, or prejudices, so that we can move beyond them.

BIM Expertise Requires Collaboration

While we as an industry have now lived with BIM for more than two decades, most firms have acquired and implemented the technology primarily as a visualization and coordination tool in the past several years. We appear to have reached a standstill in the software’s use, with many firm leaders wondering how to make the leap to more advanced uses. Further mastery of the application through traditional means won’t help us get there. If we are to achieve our personal, organizational, professional, and industry-wide goals of fully participating in public, community, creative, and economic life, something more needs to happen.

Achieving higher levels of BIM use — including analysis, computation, and fabrication — requires skills and a mindset that allow us to work productively and effectively in a collaborative setting. Working with BIM enables but doesn’t necessarily lead to collaboration. We each have to decide whether or not to look beyond BIM as a tool and embrace it as a process. When recognized as a process, BIM can be a powerful catalyst and facilitator of team collaboration.

BIM Expertise Requires Depth and Breadth

It would be a mistake to assume that expertise in BIM as a technology alone will lead to greater leadership opportunities on integrated teams. In this capacity, BIM requires attention to acquiring skills that, while easy to attain, can be overlooked if we focus primarily on the software tools.

With BIM, technical expertise should not be considered more important than increasing one’s social intelligence, empathy, or the ability to relate well with others. Additionally, the conventional window for achieving technological expertise is too long. Better that one achieves a high level of BIM competency motivated by passion and curiosity. Having competency in one subject doesn’t preclude you from addressing others. In fact, it can be a determinant for doing so.

Being versatile flies in the face of current thinking that to succeed we should bolster our strengths over our weaknesses. The answer to Should I be a specialist or generalist? is yes. There must be people who can see the details as well as those who can see the big picture. One gift of the design professional is the rare (and underappreciated) ability to do both simultaneously. As with any hybrid — generalizing specialist or specializing generalist — one’s strength provides the confidence to contribute openly from many vantage points and perspectives.

It is critical for “T-shaped” experts to reach out and make connections (the horizontal arm of the T) in all the areas they know little or nothing about from their base of technical competence (the vertical arm of the T). T-shaped experts have confidence because of their assurance that they know or do one thing well. Their confidence allows them to see as others see by means of — not through — what they know. Their expertise doesn’t color their perception so much as provide a home base to venture from and return to with some assurance that they’ll maintain their bearings when venturing out across the table.

Broad-minded design professionals often find themselves in the role of “anti-experts,” approaching challenges from the perspective of the outsider. To this Paula Scher of Pentagram said, “When I’m totally unqualified for a job, that’s when I do my best work.” Once we balance, own, and ultimately realize our expert and anti-expert selves, we (as a community, profession, and industry) will do our best work.

What Do We Do Now?

Firms want to know how to optimize their work processes to become more efficient at what they do best, to remain competitive by leveraging the competitive advantage of BIM and integrated design. One of the ironies facing the industry is that in order to master BIM, don’t learn more BIM. Instead, do other things.

What will bring about greater efficiencies and effectiveness, increase productivity and deliver value, is not additional technology knowledge but our ability to communicate, relate, work together, think like one another, have empathy, understand, and listen. If design professionals want to lead they will do so not by increasing their depth but by benefit of broader capabilities involving their reach.

What do we do now? Go wide and deep. Go against common wisdom and fortify your soft skills, your reach and wingspan. To master BIM you have to transcend BIM.

We need to develop both sides of ourselves in order to move beyond our own and others’ biases and anticipate consequences for courses of action before they are acted upon. We need to develop the ability to put the project first, navigate iRooms and packed conference tables to get our ideas and points across, be able to read people for overt and subliminal responses, have the confidence to ask questions without feeling threatened and be asked questions without becoming defensive. It is as though we have placed so much emphasis on the bricks we’ve forgotten the mortar that allows us to communicate genuinely, to relate well with one another and integrate.

Having to choose between depth and breadth is a false choice that heads our profession and industry in the wrong direction. Rather than focusing on one over the other, we need to develop simultaneously vertical deep skills and horizontal soft skills, to work on our strengths and weaknesses, to be expert and anti-expert, specialist and generalist, to design from evidence and from intuition, to be task- and people-oriented, to have mastery over one thing and be a jack-of-all-trades.

As one blog commenter recently asserted, “In order to practice architecture well, you need to understand a lot of things that aren’t architecture.” BIM technology experts know one thing. To flourish and persevere, we need to know and do many things.

Often overlooked in mutual mentoring of computer technology and building technology by senior and junior staff are basic people skills: listening, questioning, negotiating, collaborating, communicating. The concern is that the emerging design professional — adept at BIM tools while learning how buildings come together — won’t learn the necessary communication and people management skills to negotiate a table full of teammates on an integrated team. These skills need to be nurtured, mentored, and acquired as assuredly as computer and building technology skills. These skills require the same amount of deliberate practice and feedback as the mastery of technology skills. Developing complementary, collaborative skills is as critical as becoming competent with the technology. As Ernest Boyer anticipated, “The future belongs to the integrators.” And that future has arrived.

Succeeding in practice today is a both/and, not an either/or, proposition. Design professionals must be both BIM technologist and building technologist. Those who accept this model will lead, persevere, and flourish in our new economy.

Last year in DesignIntelligence, Stephen Fiskum wrote, “One thing is certain: The solution to the current malaise in our profession is not for us to go broader but to go deeper” (“Preparing for a New Practice Paradigm,” January/February 2010). This is a new world: By going wider and deeper we provide owners and our organizations with the most value and increased productivity. Working effectively and collaboratively in BIM will help us transcend our current state, bridge the gap, and cross over to more advanced uses.

The Multidisciplinary Mindset

It is not just that the integrated team is now multidisciplinary, but we each must become multidisciplinary. Doing so requires a multidisciplinary mindset. This entails empathy, a genuine appreciation for others’ ideas, seeing from many perspectives, and anticipating possible consequences to any course of action. An industry representative recently stated in a public forum, “I don’t want the architect to think like a structural engineer. I need for him to think like an architect!” To leverage our technology tools and work processes, being an architect today means that we think like a structural engineer as well as a contractor and owner. Doing so doesn’t take away from architects’ role but increases their credibility by making them more effective and influential at what they do well.

Working in BIM — inward focused, object-oriented, filling-in dialog boxes — discourages this mindset. It is a mistake to think that those who work in BIM are technicians and that a firm principal or senior designer who sees the big picture will mediate between the model and the world in which the model operates. Leaders must see to it that their teams look outward, keeping an eye on the model while seeing the horizon.

The Technology/Social Continuum

Working in CAD, there are those who focus on drafting and those more adept at communication, negotiation, and persuasion. With BIM, technical understanding and people know-how must exist in each and every design professional.

The majority of BIM-related literature has been focused on the technology, not on the people who use it. People issues and attitudes are the main impediment to the collaborative work processes enabled by the technology. Human issues, issues of communication and collaboration, firm culture, motivation, and workflow — all exacerbated by the advent of BIM into the workplace — are an even greater challenge than the admittedly considerable software application and technical problems associated with BIM’s use.

Leading from the Model

Working in CAD, a senior team member would redline an emerging employee’s work. Leadership was decidedly top-down: Someone senior designed or detailed, and someone less senior drew it up. The problem was that the senior team member never knew whether the emerging employee understood what was being drawn.

Working in BIM provides a completely different work flow — one we have yet to leverage fully. Because those on the front lines are not only the first to discover clashes and inconsistencies but also to visualize what something looks like and how it might function, BIM allows our emerging talent to lead the process — to learn on the job while recognizing their power from their privileged position of the first look in the model.

The new leadership mandate in this process is for architects to lead from their involvement in the BIM environment. Leading from the model can be likened to leading from the middle in that BIM requires and even enables followership, and servant- and situational-leadership, as opposed to top-down or command-and-control. While leadership historically has been top-down, working in BIM and on integrated teams changes that. Leading in BIM and integrated design is more similar to followership, in which middle managers lead from within the organization. Thus with BIM, the top-down and bottom-up approaches converge, where leading from the middle becomes leading from the model.

BIM and the Master Builder Team

Architects who find themselves on increasingly large teams must find a way to lead and regain their voice in the design and construction process. If architects learn how to design buildings that are optimized to give owners, contractors, and other team members what they need — of high quality, low cost, sooner, with less waste, while acquiring the mindsets, attitudes, and skills necessary to collaborate with others — then architects will be trusted, newly esteemed, and return to their desired leadership role. What is critical is not that we linearly help emerging professionals move from technical experts to leaders but to be technical experts and project, team, and process leaders at the same time. Expertise is cultivated by creating the right conditions for experts to flourish; people cannot be forced to learn and grow.

Many A/E/C professionals are stressing the role of the team over the role of any one individual mastering any one subject or technology in advancing practice. The general consensus is that appointing any one individual as master of the project is largely irrelevant. Instead, the architect who works in BIM serves as master facilitator or strategic orchestrator on integrated teams. By working with as well as through others, we get the most out of fellow teammates.

The concept of the composite master builder is the brainchild of visionary environmentalist Bill Reed. The term recasts the historical single master builder (or virtual master builder) as a diverse group of professionals working together toward a common end: the master builder team. The intention is to bring all specialists together, allowing them to function as if they were one mind. A better prescription for what ails our industry would be hard to find.

Randy Deutsch is an architect, speaker, educator, and author of the book     BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice http://amzn.to/jSguAi (Wiley, 2011.) He is cofounder of Deutsch Insights, an innovation and collaboration consultancy, and blogs at www.bimandintegrateddesign.com and www.architects2zebras.com.

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Why Bring Another Book into this World?

 

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

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

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

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Randy

There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

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

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

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

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

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

I started by building an online platform

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

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

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

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

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

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

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

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

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

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

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

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

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

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

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

My book sought to fill this gap.

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

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

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

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

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

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

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

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

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

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

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

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

Our communications today are ephemeral

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

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

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

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

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

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

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

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

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

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

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

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

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

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

and have started to formulate their own insights

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

People who were working in it,

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

And people who were teaching it.

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

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

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

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

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

It’s like the observer effect

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

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

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

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

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

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

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

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

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

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

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

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

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BIM and Integrated Design Quotes


Looking for a good quote to get you moving? In search of some instant inspiration? Sometimes words can provide this more readily than images.

During research for my book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice (Wiley, 2011) I came across some pretty inspiring people and kept a record of the things they had to say.

And while the best quotes remain in the book, some quotes didn’t make it into the final copyedited manuscript.

Not all of these mention BIM or Integrated Design directly, but nonetheless they’re here to help motivate you in your pursuits.

Hope you find these editor’s cuts as inspirational as I do.

Let me know if you have a favorite quote – even one of your own. Thanks!

Evolutions such as BIM have the potential to facilitate—or further complicate—integrated work.

Julie Gabrielli and Amy E. Gardner

If only one book were to be written about BIM, it might have “DON’T PANIC” printed in large uppercase letters on the front cover.

Pete Zyskowski

BIM still continues to be very much at the forefront of our professional consciousness. This is hardly surprising, since BIM has been universally acknowledged as a ‘disruptive technology’ for the AEC industry, much more than CAD or even computing ever was, and it is causing us all to rethink our processes and identities.

Lachmi Khemlani

A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods.

Robert Henri

All human societies go through fads in which they temporarily either adopt practices of little use or else abandon practices of considerable use.

Jared Diamond

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Attributed to Mark Twain

Evolution of BIM implementation came in parallel with willingness to collaborate and share project information, the move toward integrated practice that is much talked about in the industry.

Phillip G. Bernstein

Vision without execution is a hallucination.

Thomas Edison

A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent.

Guy Kawasaki

It’s never too late to be who you might have been.

George Eliot

The biggest thing about BIM is that it’s moving us back to interdisciplinary work.[i]        

Kathleen Liston

 Most firms begin their exploration of BIM doing comfortable 3D visualization and move systematically through more complex uses; the most advanced users integrate their project approach using BIM throughout the supply chain. Almost by definition, more advanced usage – such as analysis and production – requires collaboration throughout more of the project team.[ii]

Phillip G. Bernstein

The future belongs to the integrators.

Ernest Boyer

People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!

Peter Senge

If architects do not take the leadership role on integrated practice, they will cede this turf to another entity.[iii]

Barbara Golter Heller

Followers are more important to leaders than leaders are to followers.

Barbara Kellerman

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo

The most common criticism leveled at the process of architectural education is that it does not adequately prepare students to be fully participating members in architectural practice. Students invariably do not gather all the skills necessary to create a work of architecture independently and must, therefore, endure a lengthy term of apprenticeship.[iv]

Carlin MacDougall

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those that may do well under the new. (Changing the “order of things” is difficult because the people who are certain of what they will lose will oppose it. And the people who are uncertain of their gains won’t support it.)

Machiavelli

We can’t become what we need by remaining what we are.

Max Dupree

Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite quote?


[i] Liston, Kathleen, AIA TAP BIM Awards Jury Comments, 2009

[ii] Bernstein, Phillip G., BIM Adoption: Finding Patterns for a New Paradigm, Design Intelligence, 2006

[iii] Heller, Barbara Golter, http://www.di.net/articles/archive/red_business_blue_business/,  Red Business, Blue Business, 2008

[iv] MacDougall, Carlin, A Marriage of Ideals and Technology, www.di.net, 2001

 

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System Requirements for IPD to Flourish


We all know with each release of software the computer system requirements increase.

Our computers must get more powerful as the software does.

And also as the work processes become more collaborative, with more information sharing taking place.

This is certainly the case when working in Building Information Modeling (BIM).

But how about for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD)?

In what ways do we need to grow more powerful as the 64-Bitlike process becomes more open and connected?

  • What is our capacity?
  • What are our limits for understanding and empathy?
  • What are our system requirements for working in BIM and integrated design: for ourselves, our teams and organizations?

Are we going to go through a laborious and time-consuming download of these tools and processes into our own work lives only to discover that we’re missing a key video card equivalent of attitude or mindset?

What system requirements need to be in place for IPD to take place?

  • For an integrated team made up of key stakeholders to gel early and often?
  • For team members to show all their cards, knowledge and expertise concurrently and on many levels?
  • For risk to be collectively managed and mutually shared?

7 Performance Recommendations

Here are the minimum system requirements for IPD to flourish:

1. Collaborative attitude and aptitude

A capacity and willingness to work with others and strong collaborative skills to back it up. Begins with each team member, not the project or at the organization level. Capacity to work compatibly as a team.

2. Discretionary emotional energy and enthusiasm

The passion, excitement and dedication that team members have available to give freely to the project and fellow teammates. Attempts to mandate this will lead to passive-aggressive undermining behavior. More on this here.

3. Authentic presence

Team members exhibit the capacity to maintain an authentic, non-defensive presence throughout the project. Honoring each other’s POV.

4. Climate of openness

Team members commit to telling the truth – and hearing what others have to say, even when it conflicts with one’s own beliefs or findings. Create a safe environment for concerns, issues and problems to be discussed and resolved.

5. Multidisciplinary mindset

Aspire to become a new breed of polymath – not a one trick pony – blending technology (BIM, next-generation analytics, cloud computing, sustainability, social networks,) creativity, innovation, comprehensive building knowledge with a multidisciplinary mindset.

For more on this see my article in the upcoming May/June 2011 Technology issue of DesignIntelligence, BIM Beyond Boundaries

6. Self-awareness

Each team member’s capacity to handle whatever comes their way – stress, challenges, failure. Embrace change.

7. Meaning making

Deliver not just data but meaning.

Process information for others. Not everyone on the team will be as fast an information processor as you (the human USB port.) Discover and deliver data that is relevant to the project and team.

Now it’s your turn: Can you think of any performance requirements not shown here? You’ll do all of us a world of good by letting us know by leaving a comment below.

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Are We Becoming More Integrated and Engaged?


I have
written recently on the extent to which integrated project delivery (IPD) is catching on.

And did so primarily in empirical (some might say sensationalist) terms.

Today we’re treated to a guest post,Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?” written by my friend, Finith Jernigan, internationally recognized architect, educator & author of the bestseller BIG BIM little bim: the Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling – Integrated Practice Done the Right Way.

Always thoughtful and thought provoking, Finith has the goods when it comes to data and asks some tough questions here.

I encourage you to read the post and respond to one of his questions by leaving a comment below.

Thank you!

Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?

For several years I have used Google Alerts as one tool for keeping current with the progress of building information modeling development and integrated practice. Every day since early 2007, I receive alerts for the terms: bim, building information model, integrated practice, big bim and little bim. In the early days there were few alerts; recently there are days with twenty or more alerts on any one of these topics.

Over the last year, I have begun to notice patterns in the alerts, so I started tracking the alerts by industry. The patterns highlight major issues about how the construction industry sees and understands integrated practice. The patterns show the level of acceptance within different industries and indicate who is embracing integrated practice and who is not.

Health care organizations of all kinds (doctors, dentists and chiropractors especially) are moving to integrated practice technologies. Lawyers and accountants, as well. Baseball teams, meditation gurus, social workers, writers, artists and IT are moving. However the patterns seem to show that far fewer architects and contractors are taking the plunge.

Scientific and health care add up to a total of 58.10% of the alerts. Legal, the arts, sports, writing and IT account for an additional 18.57%. Meditation, social work, education and accounting account for 11.45%. Construction industry alerts account for only 11.88%.

It is interesting that fully 88% of the postings for integrated practice have little or nothing to do with design and construction.

Integrated practice was not created by and is not unique to the construction industry. It is a way to a goal, a process, not an end goal. The patterns from Google Alerts seem to be saying that other industries are much more actively involved in their own integrated practice implementation than are architects and contractors.

The alerts talk a lot about the benefits to individual industry members. There is little talk of the holistic benefits from integration. Construction industry discussions revolve around integrating design and construction with a nod toward operations. Few talk about or advocate for wider initiatives such as integrated decision making. Even fewer work toward possibilities such as the integration of design and construction with healthcare to create more sustainable and efficient processes.

The patterns show that other industries are embracing integrated practice. The patterns may also show that the construction industry is missing an opportunity for a larger discussion. Why is it that the construction industry has not engaged in such discussions?

Is it because architects and contractors do not understand where they fit into the larger world? Do they spend too much time focused on what they see as their niche?

Is it because too many react to the demand for integrated practice, rather than proactively using the process to do better and more?

Is it because the construction industry does not understand how to apply technology to create better and more efficient processes?

Is the construction industry so wrapped up in its’ own issues that the industry’s point of view is too limited in today’s world?

Is it because construction industry professionals are only talking to themselves?

Is it because construction industry professionals are not connecting to and learning from others?

Is it plain old inertia and ego?

Or, is it that construction industry professionals do not write in forums indexed by Google?

Whatever the answer to these questions, the pattern suggests that the construction industry needs to become more engaged in the broader discussion of what it means to be integrated.

Princeton University defines integrated as: formed or united into a whole; introduced into another entity; designated as available to all races or groups; or resembling a living organism in organization or development.

The Google Alert pattern and Princeton’s definition both suggest that the industry needs to become more engaged in integration and to widen its’ view of what integrated practice really means to the world outside of the construction industry.

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36 Arguments for the Existence of BIM


After riffing in this blog for over 18 months on the subject of BIM and Integrated Design, and after conducting extensive research for my book by the same name, I’ve become convinced that the world of design and construction is made up of two kinds of people:

1. those who see BIM as an evolutionary tool and

2. those who see BIM as a revolutionary process.

Or in more familiar terms – despite this blog being vendor agnostic – there are

1. BIM atheists and

2. BIM apologists.

One doesn’t need to be a person of faith when confronted by the fact that their copy of Autodesk Revit Architecture 2011 takes up 560MB of space in their hard drive.

And one doesn’t need to be an angel to long for the day when we’ll free ourselves by computing in the cloud.

The thing is, no one uses BIM.

Not really.

And no one learns BIM.

They learn, use and implement software.

I can see and touch Revit. I can only imagine, envision and sermonize about BIM.

I can laud the praises of BIM to high heaven.

But only ArchiCAD, Revit, Bentley and Vectorworks can deliver results.

So what then does BIM do?

Ask yourself this: If there was a BIM then why wouldn’t ArchiCAD – that has been around for decades – have been called a BIM program?

ArchiCAD was 3D and object-oriented and building-product modeling.

ArchiCAD 14 may be as close to heaven as some of us will ever get. But it was never BIM.

To look at how BIM is defined you wouldn’t necessarily think it exists.

BIM is 100% aspirational. Something that may happen, that we can wish will happen.

But isn’t happening now – not now, nor any time soon.

BIM is faith-based as much as it is virtually-based.

How can this be?

Here’s how:

  • More than half of what it says it does nobody is doing.
  • More than half of BIM’s benefits aren’t being recognized.
  • More than half of BIM’s promises, it doesn’t do yet.

If we were to base our beliefs on facts, on Evidence-based BIM, the evidence is scarce.

All rise and turn to page 12,236,489 of Wikipedia. Let’s read in unison:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing building data during its lifecycle. BIM is a digital technology and a business process for life-cycle facility management, from concept thru disposal.”

Addressing the building’s lifecycle was deemed today in SMARTBIM and Reed Construction Data’s webcast Lessons in Integrating BIM “the Holy Grail.”

Unfounded and like the holy grail, unfound.

“BIM provides the potential for a virtual information model to be handed from Design Team (architects, consulting engineers, etc.) to Contractor and Subcontractors and then to the Owner, each adding their own additional discipline-specific knowledge and tracking of changes to the single model.”

The potential? BIM has…the capacity…the possibility. Even likely, but may not come to pass.

“As computers and software become more capable of handling more building information, this will become even more pronounced than it is in current design and construction projects.”

Not there yet.

“BIM goes far beyond switching to a new software. It requires changes to the definition of traditional architectural phases and more data sharing than most architects and engineers are used to.”

Still not there yet.

Interoperability of all and for all – through the creation of IFCs – is the goal.

You get the idea…

BuildingSMART describes the BIM model as a “single operating environment.”

As appealing as that would be, very few – if anyone – today would consider working off of a single model a good idea.

Six years ago Jim Bendrick of Webcor Builders wrote: “What building information models allow us to do that we couldn’t do effectively before is what Stanford University’s Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering (CIFE) calls Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). In a nutshell, this is the use of models coupled with analysis and simulation tools to prototype the building on the computer—to simulate the building, its performance, and its construction before breaking ground.”

BIM for testing and building simulation is still a ways off.

My goal here isn’t to shake your faith in BIM, nor to confirm its existence, but to help make you a believer in the power of BIM.

Can BIM do all we say it can? Does BIM live up to its potential?

How long must we argue for BIM’s existence?

Revit and ArchiCAD exist. I can see them (and feel their presence) on my hard drive.

Whether or not BIM exists, in moments of transcendence, we who labor away at our BIM models all feel we are working at, for and toward something beyond ourselves.

And this ought to be enough.

At least for now.

BIM is our best hope.

BIM is our best chance.

BIM is the right way to design and construct buildings.

BIM is the best way for us to work together, compatibly, civilly, toward mutually shared outcomes.

I don’t know how it’s likely to go better.

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BIM and Integrated Design: the College Curriculum


This is a first. I don’t know of any situation where a university course – let alone a curriculum – was named after a blog.

There are no Huffington Post studies, and one would need to look long and hard for a college course named after Boing Boing.

So you can imagine my surprise to discover – in so advanced a constitutional monarchy, unitary state and country as the UK – the announcement of the launch of BIM and Integrated Design: the college course.

According to the press release put out by the university, this is a world first.

United States schools have offered advanced degree and post-professional programs related to BIM and IPD as a delivery method for some time. Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Master of Integrated Building Delivery program is but one example.

But never before has there been one specifically on the topic of BIM and Integrated Design.

As described in the course syllabus, this BIM and Integrated Design program is unique in that it approaches integrated design processes from a Lean design and construction perspective, with the use of enabling technologies – BIM and sustainability.

Also addressed in the program are the benefits that can be achieved through the adoption of BIM, including integrated processes; improved design coordination, information management and exchange; clash detection; clearer scheduling; improved sustainability outcomes; and improved value to clients and users.

While this looks like a lot of information to cover in a school curriculum, it is heartening to see that the considerable collaborative work processes of BIM –  impacting individuals, organizations and the industry – are emphasized in the course as well.

The BIM and Integrated Design program launches in September 2011 – coinciding with the release of my new book: BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice (John Wiley & Sons).

Read on for the full press release. Schools here would benefit from such a well-written article announcing new BIM and IPD-related courses and curricula.

At the end of this post is a link to a detailed description of the proposed course.

Skills gap warning as BIM becomes mandatory requirement

UK construction and design industry professionals must invest in skills training if they are to embrace the forthcoming implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM). That is the view of Arto Kiviniemi, Professor of Digital Architectural Design at Salford University’s School of the Built Environment which today launches the world’s first MSc course on BIM and Integrated Design.
The government’s chief construction adviser Paul Morrell has indicated that BIM will become a key part of the government’s procurement of public buildings and that bidders and contractors on future public building projects would be expected to implement it on all future projects. A team is currently studying the use of BIM in government projects and will report its findings to the Construction Clients Board in March.
Integrated BIM means a fundamental change in the design, construction and facility management processes that involves data sharing between all shareholders based on digital models that can be used from a project’s early design stages through to completion and monitoring of subsequent performance.
The news that BIM will become mandatory in all public procurement has been met with some skepticism from the industry in the UK but Kiviniemi, one of the world’s leading authorities on BIM, has seen the benefits of the delivery of BIM across the US and Scandinavia, where it has been demanded by large public clients since 2007.
He explains: “In Scandinavia and the US public projects now use BIM and there is no doubt that it will become the standard in the UK and across Europe. It integrates the information that architects, engineers and contractors must deliver on a project and creates data which is usable in the integrated processes, simulations and life cycle management of buildings”.
“To make this work it is essential to share the data in open BIM format. The efficient utilization of data helps clients to make informed decisions and will  enable our industry to respond to the environmental challenges, as well as to increase the productivity if we develop our processes too. There are definitely some strong success stories and evidence of measurable benefits if you look at the international studies of BIM and IPD (Integrated Project Delivery).”
He warns: “Those who have not embraced BIM will be simply out of the running for public projects.”

The government’s introduction of BIM is designed to unlock new ways of working that will reduce cost and add long-term value to the development and management of built assets in the public sector. Paul Morrell has said that he hoped that the report would mark the beginning of a commitment to a timed programme of transformation and adoption.
Adopting an industry-wide BIM process is likely to reveal a significant learning gap in many companies with people left wondering how to implement this into their own practice. In response the School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford has launched a unique programme of Building Information Modeling and Integrated Design which commences in September 2011.
The course is designed to promote a deeper understanding of the impacts and business benefits of adopting integrated BIM on the supply chain organizations. It is aimed at design professionals, e.g. architects, architectural technologists, structural and M&E engineers, and design/project managers and will give companies a head start in implementing a BIM-based approach.

Look here for more information about the Masters Degree in BIM and Integrated Design.

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The Perpetual Improvement of Lean Design


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

LCI P2SL in leanspeak.

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

Lean design, for short.

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

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

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

Unless you believe in intelligent lean design.

But we’ll save that for another post.

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

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

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

Lean Applied to the Architectural Design Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As many as you want!”

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

“You will get one design.”

The firm’s high-profile partner said:

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

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

“How many do you want?”

That one worked. We got the job.

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

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

A little every day. It adds up.

What improvements to the design process would you suggest?

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