Category Archives: people

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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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, people, process, workflow

Why Bring Another Book into this World?

 

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

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

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

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Randy

There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

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

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

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

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

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

I started by building an online platform

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

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

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

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

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

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

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

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

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

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

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

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

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

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

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

My book sought to fill this gap.

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

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

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

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

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

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

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

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

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

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

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

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

Our communications today are ephemeral

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

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

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

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

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

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

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

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

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

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

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

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

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

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

and have started to formulate their own insights

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

People who were working in it,

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

And people who were teaching it.

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

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

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

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

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

It’s like the observer effect

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

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

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

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

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

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

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, workflow

The Perpetual Improvement of Lean Design


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

LCI P2SL in leanspeak.

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

Lean design, for short.

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

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

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

Unless you believe in intelligent lean design.

But we’ll save that for another post.

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

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

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

Lean Applied to the Architectural Design Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As many as you want!”

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

“You will get one design.”

The firm’s high-profile partner said:

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

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

“How many do you want?”

That one worked. We got the job.

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

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

A little every day. It adds up.

What improvements to the design process would you suggest?

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CAD Monkeys, Dinosaur Babies and T-Shaped People


What’s with the weird title, you’re wondering?

“T Shaped People” I have written about here in the past.

“CAD Monkeys?” Most readers of this blog are aware of the term and probably wish they weren’t, having at one time or another in their career either served as one or know someone who did.

But “Dinosaur Babies?”

I’ll get to that in a moment.

But first I want to address a subject most people think about this time of year: namely, change.

We all want to make changes in our lives. Most of us for the better.

Not everybody, though, is willing to do what is necessary to make these changes for real.

So they take shortcuts. They embellish, they pad.

Back to the Title

The other day I ordered what appeared to be a new book by Warren Berger

The title of this post is also the title of the book.

CAD Monkeys Dinosaur Babies and T Shaped People

A book I almost bought – yes, I admit, in part because of its suggestive and quirky title – among other reasons.

In fact, I did buy it – until I realized that I had already read it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s is a great book with great thoughts and ideas about design thinking. One that would warrant several readings.

Some who design for a living complain that the book didn’t teach them anything they didn’t already know.

I design for a living – and have done so for 25 years – and still got a great deal out of the book.

One wrote that the book is “for the beginners only – designers don’t waste your time.”

But isn’t that the point? When we design it is best to put yourself in the position of beginner’s mind – to see yourself as a beginner, not an expert.

We’re all – in other words – beginners.

See for yourself.

Or check out these “Glimmerisms” excerpted from the book.

The Glimmer quotes are truly amazing – I promise. Here’s one more chance in case you missed it.

But I had no need for 2 copies of the same book.

So I cancelled my order.

I “un-bought” it. Something you can only do online.

I read a lot of books. A lot. Almost one a day.

So how could I not remember having read a book called CAD Monkeys Dinosaur Babies and T Shaped People?

Because that is not what it was called when I read it…just 6 months earlier.

At that time, the book had a different title.

Glimmer

Glimmer, the hardcover, has just been issued in paperback as CAD Monkeys Dinosaur Babies and T Shaped People

Glimmer’s subtitle is: How Design Can Transform Your Life, and Maybe Even the World

That had also changed.

You would think with a title as ungainly as CAD Monkeys Dinosaur Babies and T Shaped People would at least have a shorter subtitle.

Nope. The new subtitle is this:

Inside the World of Design Thinking and How It Can Spark Creativity and Innovation

I know. There are books that change when issued in paperback.

They have new chapters, a new foreword or epilogue.

Or have been revised based on new information.

This is not one of them.

In fact, if you look in Glimmer’s index, there is only one (1!) mention of CAD monkeys in the book.

Ascribed to Architecture for Humanity’s Cameron Sinclair. Describing the role he found himself in before being inspired to make a change for himself.

One subsequently having a profound impact on our world.

Sometimes books do change their titles – for marketing reasons. That’s fine.

As long as they mention it – so would-be customers don’t make the mistake I almost made. (And have done so before…)

And mention it in something larger than 4 pt. font at the bottom of the postage size stamp image if the book.

There’s a message here.

Make it your cause to become more of who you already are.

If you are dedicated to truly changing then do so. Be transparent about it.

Don’t go around changing your status and headline, your resume and bio, when nothing has really changed.

In other words, don’t go around changing your online identity.

Change – for real.

Don’t opportunistically change because you think that’s what the market wants.

Where are the BIM monkeys?

This incident got me thinking

If there was such a thing as a BIM monkey, what would that be?

Why aren’t there BIM monkeys?

It’s simple, really.

There are Reviteers – a cross between Revit, Musketeers and Imagineers. But it’s too vendor specific.

Someone working in BIM is empowered from the start – gets a first look at what they’re creating – often before anyone else.

Are they often tired, overworked, overly-challenged by the technology? Sure.

But they’re at the front lines.

Strategizing, creating, not just picking up someone else’s redlines.

BIM monkeys? Never.

Call them BIM guerillas.

As for “Dinosaur Babies?” That’s a term coined by IDEO designer Paul Bennett.

They’re the early design efforts (read: quirky and idiosyncratic) that, well, only its designer can love.

“Destined to be loved by only its creator,” Berger puts it.

Kind of like the title of his book.

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A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design


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

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

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

This post is for them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they very well may be on to something.

Their approach to BIM is the subject of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

Read on anyway.

A Better Way

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

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

OK it has an overtly 60’s sound.

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

This is just not the case.

Meditate on this

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

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

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

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

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

Command I. Master BIM

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

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

Whether you

»        haven’t tried BIM yet,

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

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

»        have mastered BIM and are teaching it

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

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

Increase you personal and professional mastery by mastering BIM.

Command II. Honor your Inner Contractor

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

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

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

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

So work with checklists, and honor your inner contractor.

You’ll feel more complete.

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

Command III. Choose your Guide Wisely

When the student is ready the teacher appears.

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

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

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

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

Plan your own journey into BIM and IPD.

Determine what works for you.

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

From these you will carve out your own path.

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

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

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

One that has your best interests and goals in mind.

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

Command IV. Let Go

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

Holding on to what came before. It is said,

A change here is a change everywhere.

So let go.

And let the program do the heavy lifting of coordination.

Freeing you to do what you do best.

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

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

No excuses. No blame.

BIM is the end game.

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

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

To approach BIM with beginner’s mind.

For you cannot approach BIM with a CAD mindset.

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

So let the new way in.

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

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

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

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

The best way to learn something is to teach it.

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

Even a seventh grader.

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

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

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

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

Command VI. Chop BIM, Carry IPD

Enlightenment can be found in the practice of BIM.

So practice BIM as though it were an art form.

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

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

Make BIM your practice and IPD your path.

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

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

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

You were meant to be many things.

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

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

We hear a lot about BIM objects.

The essence of BIM isn’t objects but emptiness.

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

Just as the air between the spokes forms the wheel.

Use BIM to give shape to the space between things.

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

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

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

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

Your choice.

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

What’s easier? Changing you or changing Autodesk?

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

Working in BIM and IPD should provide a peace that comes from seeing the world differently, more openly.Command IX. BIM is not a Destination but a Journey

BIM is a tool as well as a process.

But what sort of process?

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

A process for getting more work and becoming more profitable.

And a process for remaining relevant.

A process for working cooperatively with our teammates.

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

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

BIM is an inside job.

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

That’s SketchUp.

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

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

You do not stand apart from it.

Nor do you see yourself as separate or isolated.

It is not that you become one with the model.

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

Instead, become part of the process itself.

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

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

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

With BIM everything is both connected and interconnected.

Command XI. The I in BIM is for Building

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

BIM plain and simple is about the experience of Building.

Building, not destroying or tearing down.

Building, however virtually.

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

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

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

So put yourself into the model.

Don’t talk. Don’t draw. Build.

Command XII. BIM is the Path back to Purpose

We were doing ourselves a disservice.

We were designing irresponsibly.

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

So many of us have abandoned this reason.

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

Than to pursue our dreams.

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

BIM gives you the opportunity to design and build honestly.

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

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

There is a hidden wholeness in all you do.

You job is to discover it and uncover it.

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

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

We have for too long been incomplete, part architects.

Make it your goal to become whole again.

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

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

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

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

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

Whole architect. Whole contractor. Whole building.

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

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

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

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

Observing the order of construction, layers of materials.

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

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

Because you were doing so in the drawing.

You have a newfound appreciation for what comes after design.

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

On your bouncy ball.

Command XVI. Flow and Working in BIM

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

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

Or disappears altogether?

That’s flow.

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

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

Aspire to ask questions every 30 seconds.

Then one every minute.

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

And won’t aggravate your colleagues as much.

Work in BIM. Melt into the moment.

Command XVII. Approach BIM and IPD with Fearlessness

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

Here, now, on earth.

As a design professional or construction worker.

Everything changes…

Be bold.

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

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

This is not the time to be a wuss.

Command XVIII. Listen to your Body

BIM is intense work.

Taxing on the eyes, neck and wrists.

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

Do not underestimate the wear and tear on your body.

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

Command XIX. “Live the Questionsrather thanSeek the Answers

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

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

Try this.

Come to them with solutions – suggestions – not questions.

Not how do I do x?

But when I tried x this happens WTF?

Not is there a better way?

But rather is this a better way?

Provide alternative solutions as you seek to understand.

Command XX. Create a Supportive Community

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

Join BIM groups in your city or community.

But don’t just join – participate.

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

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

Make sure there’s plenty of Dos XX.

If for no other reason than to remind yourself:

You are not alone.

It is up to you to let everybody know:

We are all in this together.

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BIM and Integrated Design’s Greatest Hits Vol. I

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            Contact Satellite Press Office: +44 (8) 20 6701 521

BIM and Integrated Design Blog Celebrates One Year

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON/LONDON/NAIROBI/DELHI – 11th July 2010 – Thousands of visitors, new and old, join the BIM and Integrated Design blog as it celebrates one fabulous year.

“If you have visited this site before – thank you for doing so,” says blogger Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP. “I hope you have found your time here to be of value – and hope you’ll come back.”

“As always, I welcome unconstructive feedback.”

Dropping the pretense of the self-congratulatory press release, opting instead for the more user-friendly italics while maintaining the guise of third-person narrative, Deutsch adds:

If you are new to the site – you are in for a treat.

Here are some highlights from the past year. Think of it as BIM and Integrated Design’s Greatest Hits Vol. I

The way that these top 5 posts were selected is similar to Ask.com’s AnswerFarm™ technology – their proprietary method of crawling and extracting the most popular results from hundreds of thousands of sources including user generated content, FAQ pages, news/blog articles, and structured/semi-structured data. From these results, this would be the clear winner.

Because the technology is proprietary – I overrode the process, scrapped the results and selected my own top 5 favorites. Let me know if you have a favorite post of your own.

Whatever the process, I hope you enjoy BIM and Integrated Design’s Greatest Hits Vol. I

5th Place: Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tips and Tricks? here

4th Place: T-Shaped BIM here

3rd Place: The Surprising Civility of Primal IPD here

2nd Place: Switch or Stitch? A formula for saving the architecture profession, construction industry and maybe even the world here

and

1st Place: My So-Called Parametric Life here

If you think you may have arrived here inadvertently or by mistake – do not move. Call a friend and have them pick you up. While you wait for their arrival, you may want to look here or here or for a real oldie, here for fun.

Here’s to another great year together! Thanks again for visiting and for your invaluable contributions to this site’s success.

PS Readers often ask me if I ever repurpose material from this blog. No, I tell them, I do not. For proof, look here, here, here, here, here, here or here and here.

Oh, and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

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Filed under collaboration, Integrated Design, IPD, people

Being Perfectly, Completely and Utterly \Tran(t)s-ˈper-ənt\


Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: [shouts] You can’t handle the truth!

A Few Good Men, 1992

Transparency is your only option, because the tribe will smell artifice.

Seth Godin, in an interview with copyblogger discussing Tribes.

Doc: You know what they say: People in glass houses sink sh-sh-ships.
Rocco: Doc, I gotta buy you, like, a proverb book or something.

The Boondock Saints, 1999

Have you ever been in a situation when someone just comes out with it and tells you exactly what they want?

Me neither.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

It was just funnier than writing “I have.”

But I’m just being completely transparent with you.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Entertaining you is more important than informing you.

But only here, in the opening of the post.

That way you’ll stick around – without realizing it – until you’re informed.

Gotcha!

That’s admittedly not being transparent.

But I’m only being transparent with you.

Being transparent – perfectly, completely and utterly transparent – can be like the magician who gives-away his tricks.

It might be informative – but not as much fun.

Let Me Make One Thing Perfectly Clear

This post is about transparency.

But if I was perfectly transparent with you I would inform you that it’s also about selling books.

But first a bit more about transparency.

Not transparency as a dominant consumer sensibility –

We all know when others aren’t being transparent with us,

And sense when we are being sold a bill of goods –

But as a way to build trust in integrated teams.

How Much Transparency is Too Much Transparency?

Do you, for example really need to know that there’s that hidden (t) in the word \Tran(t)s-ˈper-ənt\?

I could have lived without that.

[Though I will be sure to pronounce it hereafter.]

Isn’t transparency just a trendy term meaning trust or integrity or honesty?

Yes. It was trendy in 2004.

Transparency was the business buzzword du jour back in 2004.

Back when people said things like du jour.

And even at that time it was recognized that blogs and wikis were tools for transparency.

So where have we been all this time?

As with so many things, the AEC industry is only catching-up with transparency now.

In addition to perceived inefficiencies in the current delivery model and renewed scrutiny on costs and budgets some of the most significant drivers of change in the construction industry include lack of trust, too much conflict and a desire for transparency.

BIM streamlines the design process by really encouraging transparency, which encourages coordination, which reduces RFIs and waste. Likewise,

IPD is a clever solution to the tough organizational and contracting problems faced in today’s market, relying on careful participant selection, continuing dialog and transparency. And finally,

Lean construction tries to increase transparency between the stakeholders, managers and trades in order to know the impact of their work on the whole project while PMI doesn’t consider transparency in its methods.So Why Are We Still Talking About It?

It may seem obvious, but even on integrated design teams we want different things.

We may have signed an agreement stating that we’ll all work for the good of the project, sharing in profit or loss, gain or pain.

For better or for worse.

But the contractor is hard-wired to still want easy-in/easy-out of the jobsite.

And the architect – bless her – doesn’t want the design intent to carry through to the completed project.

Screw intent.

Let’s be perfectly transparent. (What’s with this “intent” anyway?)

She wants the design to carry through.

Period.

Not to mention there’s a long history of distrust and aggressive behavior between the various parties.

What You Need to Know

You need to know that you can trust your teammate.

That you’re all here to serve the project – in service to the owner.

That you have – first the project’s, then the owner’s, then each other’s and lastly your own  – best interests in mind.

You need to know if you’re going to pull your pants down behind the garage that they’re going to pull their pants down too and not just stand there pointing and laughing.

In public ridicule and shame.

You need to know that.

Open Book, Open Door

If you go open book, you need to know that they’re going to do the same.

And that their use of the phrase “open book” matches your definition – and understanding – word for word.

It’s really quite simple.

To restore trust, talk straight.

And carry a big stick.

To level the playing field, be accessible, accountable and don’t exaggerate, overstate

or conceal.

And don’t say you have an open door policy because your office doesn’t have a door.7 Habits of Truly Transparent Professionals

1. The Truly Transparent know what they want.

2. The Truly Transparent are immune to artifice.

They hear what is meant, not what is said.

And they say it back to you in their own words.

Until you hear it.

And they’re not concerned about appearances.

They’re concerned about being understood.

3. The Truly Transparent are direct.

They’re bold without being off-putting.

And remember, being bold isn’t the same as being blunt any more than being direct is the same as being offensive.

Transparency isn’t the same as saying everything that pops into your head irrespective of your audience and their feelings.

We couch our impressions, observations and feelings in terms that we judge others can understand and handle.

It’s one of the ironies of our times that you can be more transparent by couching what you say than by just letting it all hang out.

4. The Truly Transparent appear to be fearless.

Especially in situations where they have to show all their cards.

5. The Truly Transparent say it like it is.

They don’t hold back.

They don’t mince words.

They pull no punches.

Or try to pull one over on you.

They don’t obfuscate with professional language.

They don’t use words like obfuscate or tendentious (especially tendentious.)

They don’t say “fenestration” when they mean “window.”

They don’t speak in academic talk.

They choose their words carefully.

But you only hear their meaning not the words.

And understand, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., that a word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.

They understand that.

6. The Truly Transparent are upfront with you.

They hide nothing.

Because they have nothing to hide.

7. The Truly Transparent don’t muddy the waters.

They’re crystal clear – don’t use double entendres.

Wouldn’t know a double entendre if it hit them.

They don’t tell stories and anecdotes where a “yes” will do.

They listen more than they say.

Trust – But First Conduct an Incredibly Technical and Detailed Background Check

In an interview for my forthcoming book (there he goes with his book again) I asked:

What would you suggest to an architect, when offered an opportunity to work on a project utilizing an integrated design platform – with shared risk and shared reward –  and their reaction is along the lines of “No way! Why would I risk my profit on someone else not making mistakes?” As in, “Why sign on to a project whose payoff relies on the other guy not screwing up?” Does it all come down to their comfort with risk – or is there something else going on here?

Here’s what the interviewee said:

If I were advising them, I would tell them as part of the advisory board to conduct an incredibly technical and detailed background check of every person who’s going to be on this team. A complete due diligence: all the way back to what they were doing in college. Find out from other projects they’ve done, other owners they’ve worked with, other developers and architects they’ve worked with, how many suits they’ve had, what their story is. If there’s a red herring or a red flag, I’d want to be all over that initially. Would they be able to work together? If everyone sees it as a benefit to everyone involved, if it’s a requirement for my getting the job, then I’ll have to weigh it against other projects I may have going at the time and the market outlook. It seems like less of a headache if I can make it easier on myself and sign a contract that says this is what I’m responsible for, the heck with the rest of you. On paper, it looks fantastic. Get everybody to sit at the same table, hammer out all the details, so we can avoid some of the hassles that normally arrive later. I see tremendous advantages for being able to do it, if everybody trusts everybody at the table; you can save yourself a lot of trouble. How to be Perfectly Transparent without People Seeing through You

My life is like a glass of water, transparent. – Skakira

How to be perfectly transparent?

Know your audience. Understand their needs – what it is that they are looking for. Then try to give it to them.

Be direct – no indirections – this is not the time for poetic license, metaphors or similes. Be concrete.

As Pablo Picasso said: Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.

That’s a good quote. Don’t use quotes where the truth will do.

They’ll appreciate you for it.

And trust you for it.

And to be perfectly transparent, being transparent isn’t always a positive thing.

As when Dean Koontz wrote that the manipulation that all politicians use on one level or another is so transparent.

So keep in mind that even bad behavior can be transparent.

“I don’t know if I can trust you.”

When someone says “I don’t know if I can trust you” – or more directly, “I don’t trust you” – what they are really saying is

I don’t believe you.

I don’t believe you’re being straight with me.

I don’t sense that you’re telling me everything.

What is it that you’re not telling me?

You’re not walking the talk.

Or the walk.

Not practicing what you preach.

It’s an alignment problem.

Your action and words don’t align.

How often do you take your car in to get its wheels aligned? Every 10,000 miles?

Interestingly, you don’t align your wheels at set increments of time.

So how do you know when to align your wheels?

It’s something you just know – and have to pay attention to.

You will know you need an alignment if your car pulls to one direction or if your steering wheel vibrates at any constant speed.

So look for signs that start to tell you that you’re pulling in one direction.

Believe me, people will let you know.

You might be inadvertently driving your team – and teammates – off-course, off the road, or – worse – under the bus.

So look for signs along the way. They’re there.

Is Complete Transparency Even Possible?

In a word?

How about 27?

Being transparent with our motives implies that before I can expose to you why I am doing what I do, I need to acknowledge it to myself.

That’s hard to do.

For instance, I was recently asked by a journalist why I blog (journalists talk with him – now will you buy the book?)

If I were completely transparent I would say I blog

  • To build an online platform – with followers – who will continue to visit my blog, prompt others to do so and when the time comes buy my book.
  • Or, to be completely transparent, I write my blogs to leverage the internet to move more books. But why move more books?
  • To be completely and utterly transparent – to get the next book deal. Oh, and a few speaking engagements in interesting places. Move up from coach to business class. And an honorarium…

This may be transparent – but none of this is entirely true.  These are the reasons I write and they are

  • To entertain
  • To inform or teach
  • To learn – from others, from the experience of delving into new topics
  • To inspire and motivate
  • To help
  • To express myself
  • Discover meaning, purpose
  • Because I am compelled to share

But how much do you really need to know?

With transparency are we at risk of TMI?

And as important, how much do we know about what drives us to do what we do?

In Drive, Dan Pink says we’re motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Does that ring true for you?

You in the end have to judge whether I deliver on any of these bullets.

In other words, my being transparent about my motives may be immaterial to your take-away.

Your being entertained and informed.

In exchange for the time you spent here with me today.

I hope it was worthwhile for you – and that I lived-up to my promise.

Let me know (transparently, not anonymously.)

Who is to say that any of us know why we do what we do?

Malcolm Gladwell certainly demonstrated in Blink that few of us know what makes us tick.

And Daniel Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness certainly proved that we have no idea what makes us happy.

In other words, trust – but keep your eyes open.

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Filed under BIM, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people