Category Archives: process

BIM and Integrated Design: The Week in Tweets

Here are some of my Tweets that had the most impact from May 16-22 2011, all 140 characters or less.

BIM and IPD-related Tweets that my followers on Twitter have shared with their followers (retweeted or RT in Twitter parlance.)

Take a look. If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it.

And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch

“We’re stuck in a mode where we’re using old systems of understanding learning to try to understand new forms.” ~ Douglas Thomas

Relating to people: #Construction sector gains soft skills w mentoring. Program helps workers w communication http://bit.ly/kODaWT#AEC

#BIM lawsuit: You read the headline? Now, read the +70 comments http://bit.ly/jRqH85 (Then, if necessary, read the article.)

Presentation recorded at the NYC Revit Users Group May 2011 Meeting: New Features in Revit 2012 http://vimeo.com/24012603#BIM

Finally, some good news for the hard-hit design profession: Firms are hiring again! Architecture Employment on the Rise http://bit.ly/lZ4caM

100% of UK government projects to use #BIM within five years http://bit.ly/lfzAk7

“America seems very rich but I never see anyone actually making anything.” from Making Things in America, PAUL KRUGMAN http://nyti.ms/mrka7v

You’ve heard it before: learning is a change you’re introducing into a work culture. #Learning Strategy Buy-In http://bit.ly/jpFLm8

Sustainable Performance Institute promises to deliver on the promise of sustainability http://www.sustainable-performance.org/#green

Looking Beyond the Structure: Critical Thinking for #Designers & #Architectshttp://amzn.to/iAkbEE

Computational Design Thinking: influential thinking on the formation of today’s computational #design discourse http://bit.ly/mLKtNq

Excellent review of AIA 2011 Convention: Thomas Friedman’s Keynote & Energy-Related Technologies @AECbyteshttp://bit.ly/m0Wp5m#AIA2011

“Building Industry Future Belongs to Contractors Who Know BIM.” Really? Not architects? http://bit.ly/kOsWWc#AIA2011

Learn how to protect your organization contractually from risks & legal challenges that come with #BIMhttp://bit.ly/l6Dcgm#revit#AEC

Is the Legal Risk of Building Information Modeling Real or Imagined? http://bit.ly/l6Dcgm#BIM

Daunting mountain to climb? Break it into molehills. Change Management and the Power of Small Wins http://bit.ly/jlEofm

The problem wasn’t #BIM, but poor communication. “Design team never discussed installation sequence w the contractor” http://bit.ly/ijYpiW

Description of Integrated Project Delivery course at California Polytechnic State University http://bit.ly/k10moh#IPD

34 days 18 hours 31 minutes 28 seconds 27 seconds 26 seconds…left until Revit Tech Conf 2011! http://bit.ly/cJGu7L#RTCUSA2011

3 reasons to attend Revit Tech Conf: 1. in California 2. spend 3 days w other Revit users 3. LOTS to learn http://bit.ly/cJGu7L#RTCUSA2011

The biggest challenge architects face today is making themselves relevant to owners.

Call for Presentations: submissions for the AIA 2012 National Convention in Washington, DC are due July 1

By adopting a process that considers collaboration, designers move from makers of things to design strategists http://bit.ly/jAG7dG

Ryan Schultz is the mastermind behind collaboration platform @Opening_Design. Check out his profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanschultz

OpeningDesign.com is a community platform where #AEC professionals can collaborate with fellow building professionals. http://bit.ly/iXbciV

My book already ranked by Amazon Bestsellers Rank #669,047 in Books – and it doesn’t even come out until September http://amzn.to/kCKUuP

Click here to read the AUGIWorld May 2011 issue >>> http://bit.ly/fpjryJ#BIM#IPD#Lean#AEC

GREAT post by Case’s uber-BIM fanboy @davidfano Practice 2.0: “BIM is an opportunity, not a problem” @ArchDailyhttp://ow.ly/4WKKO

Owners didn’t ask for #BIM or for #IPD. They asked for less waste & adversity, more predictability & value. http://bit.ly/c4AHUq

Due to complications & risks associated with #IPD‘s multiparty contracts some are pushing integrated delivery (ID) http://bit.ly/iPPUSM

How to Reap the Benefits of #IPD w/o Pitfalls of a Multiparty Contract? http://bit.ly/kl4PWS & presentation http://bit.ly/k0ng2o

Launch event of the world’s first Masters program in BIM and Integrated Design on 7th June http://bit.ly/lBTnA9 & http://bit.ly/mfbl7G

Every Public Private Partnership project is by definition an Integrated Project Delivery project. Without #IPD#PPP would not exist.

Alternative Project Delivery Methods for Public Works Projects on difficulties of implementing #IPD in public sector http://bit.ly/mFnV4Q

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Filed under BIM, BIM organizations, collaboration, construction industry, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, process

First Fire, then the Wheel, and now BIM

Owners didn’t ask for BIM.

Nor for IPD.

Never did.

Not then and not now.

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

BIM may be purpose-built,

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

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

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

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

We said we can give you that.

And we did.

Or so we thought.

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

We gave them BIM and IPD.

To us – they’re the same.

One leads to the other.

But to them – there’s a difference.

And that difference takes the form of a gap.

A gap we’ve yet to fill.

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

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

Go on.

Take them out of the box for the owner.

Give them a demonstration of how they work.

Put in the batteries and turn them on.

BIM first.

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

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

We gave them fire.

And we gave them the wheel.

Only they don’t know that yet.

Because we haven’t told them.

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

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

Folks,

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

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

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

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

What they do.

And who they do it for.

Design professionals and constructors are visual types.

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

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

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

And not by berating with bullets and numbers.

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

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

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

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

But one of trust, gut and intuition.

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

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

Until owners no longer have to ask for them.

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

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

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

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

My Back Pages

Ah, but I was so much older then

I’m younger than that now

This is how someone considers buying a book.

A physical book.

They look at the cover.

They turn it over and read the back cover.

If compelled to, they’ll open the book to its frontmatter, starting with the table of contents.

And take it from there.

For a truly brilliant step by step guide to quickly and effectively size-up a non-fiction book, read this or better yet, revisit Mortimer Adler’s classic, How to Read a Book.

With the front cover set, here we’ll turn to the back cover copy.

Because the back cover copy is used to describe the book on online bookselling sites such as Amazon and in catalogues.

Get the back cover copy wrong, and you’re pulped.

Over 2 years in the making, my soon to be published book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice, is busily being tended to by Wiley’s publishing pros.

There’s nothing more disheartening to put your heart and soul into a 300+ page book only to discover on such venerable sites as Amazon,  Borders, and even John Wiley and Son’s own site, and a score of other random sites, that the marketing copy – the book description – doesn’t match the book you’ve written.

Amazon’s site currently describes my book thus:

Building Information Modeling (BIM) software combines 3-D elements and information in all aspects of the design of a building.

While many books are published on BIM related to technology and computer programs, this one focuses on the practice-related information needs of architects, showing them how BIM and integrated practice can transform their practices. It features:

  • Methods for addressing the obstacles and challenges to implementing BIM
  • How to implement it in an efficient and effective manner
  • How to use BIM as a tool to transform the role of architects

I came across this description posted at Amazon and I didn’t recognize my book.

So I spoke up.

Grateful to the good people at Wiley to provide me with the chance to more accurately – and enticingly – represent the arguments put forth and subjects covered in my book, I presented them with a completely revised back cover copy.

I’d like to share it with you today.

Hopefully this text will be not only readable, but strike a chord in readers.

And compel them to open the book, explore its contents and benefit from the contents herein.

Let me know what you think.

 …

[back cover]

[bookstore category:] Architecture/Professional Practice

[headline]

Discover how BIM technologies and collaborative work processes bring about critical, necessary changes in the architecture profession

The first book devoted to the subject of how BIM affects individuals and organizations working within the ever-changing construction industry, BIM and Integrated Design discusses the implementation of building information modeling software as a cultural process with a focus on the technology’s impact and transformative effect—both potentially disruptive and liberating—on the social, psychological, and practical aspects of the workplace.

BIM and Integrated Design answers the questions that BIM poses to the firm that adopts it. Through thorough research and a series of case study interviews with industry leaders—and leaders in the making out from behind the monitor—BIM and Integrated Design helps you learn:

  • Effective learning strategies for fully understanding BIM software and its use
  • Key points about integrated design to help you promote the process to owners and your team
  • How BIM changes not only the technology, process, and delivery but also the leadership playing field
  • How to become a more effective leader no matter where you find yourself in the organization or on the project team
  • How the introduction of BIM into the workforce has significant education, recruitment, and training implications

Covering all of the human issues brought about or exacerbated by the advent of BIM into the architecture workplace, profession, and industry, BIM and Integrated Design shows how to overcome real and perceived barriers to its use.

Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED-AP is an architect, design strategist and speaker responsible for the design of over 100 large, complex building projects. Recognized as a BIM strategist and IPD advocate, his writing and design work have appeared in DesignIntelligence and Architectural_Record among other industry periodicals. Recipient of the AIA Young Architect Award – Chicago, Randy has been an educator at one of the nation’s top graduate architecture programs, leading an integrated building science/design studio and professional practice course. He is recognized as a professional thought and practice leader, contributor to the industry’s leading social networks, and keynote speaker on the subjects of technology, innovation, lean construction, knowledge management, employee engagement and collaboration. Randy blogs at bimandintegrateddesign.com and architects2zebras.com, both featured in ARCHITECT magazine.

Feel this book description still needs improvement? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, IPD, modeling, process

Building Knowledge in Architecture

Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

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

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

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

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You had me at Introduction

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

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

Book, wait no more.

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

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

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

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

Man Measuring the Clouds

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

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

Foqué then asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful.

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

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

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

He concludes this explanation:

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

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

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

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

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

Reinventing the Obvious

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

The case goes something like this:

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

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

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

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

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

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

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

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

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

There are people out there who do just this.

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

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

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

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

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

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

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

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated above.

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

And for this reason:

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

Do so and you’ll surely drown.

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

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

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

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

But you will do so anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Value of Versatility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIM Beyond Boundaries

by Randy Deutsch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Unlearning

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

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Detachment

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Collaboration

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Depth and Breadth

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

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

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

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

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

What Do We Do Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Multidisciplinary Mindset

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

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

The Technology/Social Continuum

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

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

Leading from the Model

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

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

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

BIM and the Master Builder Team

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

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

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

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

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Why Bring Another Book into this World?

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

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

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

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.

Enjoy!

Randy

There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

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

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

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

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

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

I started by building an online platform

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

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

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

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

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

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

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

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

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

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

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

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

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

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

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

My book sought to fill this gap.

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

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

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

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

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

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

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

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

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

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

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

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

Our communications today are ephemeral

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

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

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

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

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

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

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

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

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

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

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

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

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

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

and have started to formulate their own insights

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

People who were working in it,

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

And people who were teaching it.

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

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

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

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

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

It’s like the observer effect

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

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

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

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

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

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

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

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

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

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

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

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

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PREFAB, BIM and IPD

With the announcement last week that the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story entirely prefab affordable housing tower, will be erected in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn NY, it’s an opportune time to touch on the subject of prefabricated architecture and its relation to BIM and IPD.

I’m in Mexico this week surrounded by prefab housing so am thrilled to have someone fill in for me who’s an expert on this subject and believes the strategies of IPD and BIM are integral to the success of modular and prefab.

Who better to address this topic head-on but my friend and guest-blogger, Ryan E. Smith, the Director of Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC), an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to lean and sustainable design and construction.

Ryan also happens to be the author of the excellent and well-researched Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction (Wiley, 2010). Thanks Ryan!

Modular Lessons Learned: Context, Integration and Technology

After researching and writing Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction, I have often been asked by architects that if I had to list the most important lessons learned on the topic of modular, what would they be.  Nobody actually wants to read the book; there are frankly too many words and not enough pictures for most architects’ taste.  In all seriousness, the following is a response to architects who are interested in designing and constructing with modules.  You might call this “modular lessons learned.”

Lesson 1 – Context Matters

Technology is not deterministic, rather is affectively determined by societal values.  Prefabrication, more specifically modular, as a technology emerges from social and cultural needs and desires.  The environmental contexts in which modular can be categorized include team, type and location

Team:  There are a few factors that determine whether a project team will be more or less likely to employ modular.  These determinants include – previous experience with prefabrication and working in integrated teams; control demands by complex, budget restrictions, or other pressing project factors; project teams working on a series or sequence of buildings; manufacturing process and principles exposure; and financing freedom for early factory payout. 

Type:  Project type can determine the degree to which prefabrication is employed.  For example, projects that are under extreme schedule constraints benefit from reduced duration offered by modular.  Also, projects that are repetitive – harnessing mass production or highly unique – harnessing modular’s quality control characteristics may both demand modular employment.  Certain projects require traditional multiple prime contracts, decreasing the opportunities of modular that require early project team engagement and design assist.

Location: Perhaps the greatest determinant in utilizing modular construction, is the geography of site; the building site proximity to manufacturers, materials, and local labor.  Sites that are remote or densely urban are perhaps the best candidates for modular construction.  Conversely, sites that are open, accessible, and in close proximity to many methods of manufacture, material and skilled labor are difficult to justify offsite modular.   

Lesson 2 – Integration Matters

Just as important lesson for modular employment is the collaborative context of the team in which the project is realized.  Early determinations of the potential to use modular require input from both the design and production teams early in the process of delivery.  This suggests utilizing integrated and lean delivery methods for successful modular design and construction.  The earlier in the project that decisions regarding offsite modular can be made, the more positive the impact for schedule, cost, quality and risk. (below)   

Contracts:  Design-build (DB) contracts reduce the overall project duration and have been found to support modular construction projects positively.   Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) takes the desirable elements of both design build’s speed and information sharing and performance contracts, which emphasize outcomes via shared risk and incentives.  IPD supports designers and constructors working collaboratively to provide preconstruction services including cost estimating and constructability reviews, thereby integrating the activities of each project team player with the others.  Ironically enough, the AIA developed their series of IPD contracts AIA295 and SPE from product design and production deliveries such as the automotive industry – not far in methodology from modular.

Leaning Design & Construction:  IPD is primarily a relational legal framework that aligns the interests of project participants with those of the owner.  Lean construction theory was developed years before research on relational contracts that is primarily a map of a collaborative process that aligns the collaborative project organization and the project operating system – made to work in any contractual environment. This approach is in contrast with efforts that start with issues of motivation and contract and never come to grips with the work itself. Leaning the design and construction process therefore uses principles necessary for successful modular deployment including:  Target Value Design (designing to a detailed cost rather than cost estimating based on a detailed design) and Set Based Design (entertaining multiple solutions and not deciding until the last responsible moment)

Lesson 3 – Technology Matters

Despite the fact that technology dominates our buildings, our practices and our lives, architects know relatively little about it.  Two technologies have been touted for their potential to fundamentally reconsider architectural practice: CNC and BIM – both are integral to modular delivery.

Standardization to Automation:  Manufacturing has progressively moved in the following manner – industrialization (c.1850), standardization (c.1900), mechanization (c.1900), mass production (c.1925), automation (1950), & mass customization (c.1990).  Automation and mass customization utilizing computer numerical control (one tool for flexible outputs) exploits an economy of scope.  This is in contrast to standardization and mass production’s economies of scale.  Although computer controlled machinery is more sophisticated and accessible to the building industry than ever before, its deployment is perhaps more appropriately called mass personalization, where customers personalize predetermined configurations.  The goal of mass customization is to meet the needs of clients without sacrificing efficiency, effectiveness and affordability.   This is where modular shines.

BIM:  The future of modular relies on the success and ubiquity of BIM.  Linking time and three-dimensional information, simulation of construction in modular can anticipate schedules from factory workflow to onsite jobsite assembly sequencing.  BIM allows for interface of automation equipment to virtually remove the shop drawing phase and have multiple manufacturers producing modules for onsite assembly.  This may take the form of a building model that is further detailed or networked with other aspects of production and construction by the modular manufacturer.  Building modular parametrics has not occurred to date in the industry but is expected to be a reality in the near future realizing the same productivity benefits the steel industry has found with BIM and CIS2 workflow.  

Conclusion

The environmental context of team, project type, and site location are not alone in determining modular employment any more than integration process and technology – all three “matter” or are meaningful in creating value for project stakeholders.   Specifically, the strategies of IPD and BIM are integral to the tactic of modular, making its adoption more rapid across the building industry. (above)   IPD and BIM suggest a restructure of workflow allowing for an information and knowledge transfer through formal operating system and commercial terms.  Although modular design and construction will not solve integration problems alone, it is one of the arrows in the quiver of the integration paradigm that may be used to realize reduced durations, increased quality and controlled cost.  In order to realize these benefits, it demands an early integration effort and information sharing.  Altogether this potentially results in lower risk for all involved.  In the end, modular design and construction is only as good as the demands placed upon it by architects – this requires deeper knowledge.

Ryan E. Smith is Director of an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to lean and sustainable design and construction inquiry called the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC).  He is a researcher, educator, author and speaker on the integration paradigm and building technology.  He is author of Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction published by Wiley in 2010, serves as the educational liaison on the AIA Center for Integrated Practice Leadership Group, and is a member of the Lean Construction Institute.  He is currently President of the Building Technology Educators’ Society (BTES), an academic group of building technology and building science educators.

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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

How to Learn Revit in 1000 Difficult Lessons

In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists. – Eric Hoffer

No matter where you fall on the BIM continuum, there is always more to learn, further you can take the tool and process.

You may know the program but can you, for example, get it to address the entire building lifecycle?

And there have never been so many ways to learn.

Books and , tutorials, webcasts, gurus, on-demand video, pilot projects, in-house and out-of-housetraining at local tech school or software reseller, regional training centers, bootcamp, side-by-side training and DIY.

Our friends Eddy Krygiel, Phil Read and James Vandezande are working on a Revit series for new users.

(I am so excited I get to write another spoof!)

Learn tips and tricks in forums such as AUGI forums.

You can order dvds and videos and learn at your own pace in pajamas.

Paul Aubin even has a Revit Architecture 2011 quick reference guide that doubles as a reusable dinner placemat for $4.95

It depends on what you are looking to learn.

And where you are on the BIM journey.

And whether you’re the office or in the field.

You alone know how you learn best and how you retain what you learn.

And that is key to learning.

So chose the method that is a good fit for you and your needs wherever you are on the learning curve.

There is no one size that fits all when it comes to training, retraining and retaining.

Take Revit (please)

You can actually learn it quite easily – several places offer ½ day, 1 day and 3 day training sessions.

Some offer cut prices for those out of work, both onsite and remote learning in the privacy of your home.

So why is learning so difficult?

The way we make learning anything difficult is by any one of  four reasons:

  • stopping and starting.
  • forgetting what you learned by not using it.
  • using a method that isn’t a good fit for your budget, lifestyle, mindset.
  • doing it for the wrong reasons,

such as being forced by your employer before you’re ready, through peer pressure, fear of not keeping up or being left behind.

There are those who will read the title of this post and either 1. feel justified in their having worked in ArchiCAD, a perhaps more intuitive BIM program or 2. empathize because they too struggled with learning the program and then struggled to keep up with the inevitable changes with each new release.

Take a deep breath

Before you pounce – this site is vendor agnostic.

Revit was merely used in the title to provoke and incite a riot – two requirements of any effective blog post headline.

So take a deep breath.

It is not that the lessons themselves are difficult.

Or even that the program application is difficult – though once you do learn to work in BIM you may find some advanced uses difficult to grasp.

The fact is, we each make learning difficult by not honoring the way we best learn.

And by ignoring other basic signs and practices.

Professional practice is hard enough – don’t also make the learning hard.

You owe it to yourself to make learning interesting.

Some training sessions meet from 8am to 5pm in a plain vanilla box of a room.

Not for you.

Can you sit still for that long, let alone learn a new application?

Ask yourself some basic questions

Ask yourself: What’s the best environment for you to learn in?

Doesn’t exist? (Then make it your pilot program and design it in Revit!)

Ask yourself: How important is it that your instructor be fun or at least interesting? Making the information and learning process interesting?

Make sure you are challenged – it is important that the instruction isn’t too easy (you’ll be bored) or too hard (you’ll feel defeated and give up.)

Look for a challenge worthy of your effort – one that will maintain your interest and engage you.

Get your hands dirty.

Work in the program as you go.

And be prepared. Have everything you need at hand before class begins.

Your instructor ought to be prepared as well – for students who are quicker or slower at picking-up the software – and be prepared to make adjustments accordingly.

Ask yourself: How do you know you’ve learned the program?

Having endured the tutorial many only mean you can produce what you were told to do in the tutorial.

Real projects have many more nuances.

The best way to know whether you’ve learned something?

Its very old school.

Take a test.

“To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test” found that students who read a passage, then took a test asking them to recall what they had read, retained about 50 percent more of the information a week later than students who used two other methods.

“One of those methods — repeatedly studying the material — is familiar to legions of students who cram before exams. The other — having students draw detailed diagrams documenting what they are learning — is prized by many teachers because it forces students to make connections among facts.”

But don’t take my word. Read the blog post and its over 320 comments.

Ask yourself: How do you know you’ve learned the program?

Teach it.

Those who are fortunate enough to attend training are sometimes asked to go back and teach those back in the office who did not, could not or would not attend training.

No better way to learn than teaching. If given this opportunity, jump at the chance.

Teaching BIM to others is a great opportunity to discover just how well you learned – and retained.

Turn off distractions including smart phones (you can leave this blog on.)

Kids might be able to study algebra while posting on Facebook.

You? Not so much.

In The Power of Mindful Learning, Professor Ellen Langer suggests that all of the all-nighters we pulled in college were for naught.

Why?

According to Langer, real learning takes place in a “mindful” environment, one that provides a context for the subject we are studying and allows us to bring something of ourselves into the process.

Make your training an extension of you.

Know what motivates and what de-motivates you.

Know why you are learning and have some sense about how far you want to take it.

Know who you are doing it for. As with anything you’re going to indulge time and effort in, you’ve got to own it.

Not only the tool but the process.

 

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, BIM instructor, BIM trainer, education, modeling, process

36 Arguments for the Existence of BIM

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

1. those who see BIM as an evolutionary tool and

2. those who see BIM as a revolutionary process.

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

1. BIM atheists and

2. BIM apologists.

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

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

The thing is, no one uses BIM.

Not really.

And no one learns BIM.

They learn, use and implement software.

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

I can laud the praises of BIM to high heaven.

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

So what then does BIM do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this be?

Here’s how:

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

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

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

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

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

Unfounded and like the holy grail, unfound.

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

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

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

Not there yet.

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

Still not there yet.

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

You get the idea…

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long must we argue for BIM’s existence?

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

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

And this ought to be enough.

At least for now.

BIM is our best hope.

BIM is our best chance.

BIM is the right way to design and construct buildings.

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

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

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Filed under BIM, defining BIM, Integrated Design, modeling, process