Category Archives: writing

Why My BIM Book Didn’t Sell and Why I’m Writing Another One

BIM-and-Integrated-DesignWhen I meet architects and others working in the BIM world, they usually mention that they have a copy of my book.

My standard response is something like:

“My publisher told me someone bought a copy. Now I who it is.”

Which isn’t far from the truth.

Of course I thank them – for purchasing the book, for reading it, for mentioning this to me – none of which they’re obligated to do.

Next, they inevitably ask me The Question:

How many copies has it sold?

As I embark on the lengthy and arduous process of writing and publishing another book in the architecture and construction space, I was reminded by my publisher that my last book sold only 1000 copies.

“1069 copies,” I unhelpfully corrected them.

In 2009 I wrote, and in 2011 John Wiley and Sons published, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice.

1069 copies! Including all of you who read my BIM book and told me they liked it.

Twelve out of 12 readers gave it the coveted 5-star rating on Amazon.

Disney Imagineering told me that they reference the book.

Firm leaders told me that they have a copy that they circulate in their office.

A few professors made it required reading in their classes.

The University of Salford named* their BIM curriculum after it.

I created the world’s only BIM book video trailer set to classical guitar music.

AIA National emblazoned the book across their website.

I placed book ads online including at Bob Borson’s blog Life of an Architect.

I went around the country touting the benefits gained by reading my book.

In fact, in 2011 at KA Connect, during a Pecha Kucha presentation, I went totally blank. And whether out of sympathy or who knows what, the book never sold better.

That time (gratefully, the only time) I froze-up on stage was one of the best things to ever happen to me career-wise.

I handed out coupons and gave books away as door prizes.

I wrote dozens of blog posts bestowing its virtues.

I sent out hundreds of emails to colleagues requesting they share a link.

And sent copies of books to friends, magazine editors and bloggers in the hopes they’d write a review.

Despite these efforts to move books, all-in-all equal to – or even greater than – what it took to write the book, the book sold poorly.

Pandering to architects has never been a particularly effective business model.

I recognize that it was not all my fault. The BIM book arrived in the midst of the world’s greatest economic downturn.

The fact that the book came out in 2011 was not lost on the author or publisher.

Nor the fact that the book’s undiscounted asking price is $75, that the book comes in hardcover (no inexpensive paperback version,) the images are b/w, nor that it looks like a textbook.

Why would anyone (apparently my students included) willingly purchase and read a textbook?

The book was faulted by one reader for appealing in its title (“strategies for architectural practice”) primarily to architects, whereas the “integrated design” in the title includes – and ought to appeal to – Engineers, Constructors, Owners and others.

As the author of the book, I take full responsibility for the fact that it did not sell.

I am mature enough to recognize that just because I like to read – and try to do so for a couple hours each day – it doesn’t mean that others like to read.

And even if they do, they may not like to read books per se.

I know my students don’t do their required reading, the word softly translated by my students as voluntary.

As though to say, how dare I assign textbooks?!

If only they knew how well-written they are!

I know everyone has a copy of BIG BIM, little bim and The BIM Handbook, but do you realize how excellent the writing is in Dana (Deke) Smith and Michael Tardif’s Building Information Modeling: A Strategic Implementation Guide for Architects, Engineers, Constructors, and Real Estate Asset Managers?

Or how exacting and spectacular the writing is in François Lévy’s BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design? François Lévy’s book is brilliant. I didn’t let the fact that it concentrates on smaller projects or that he uses Vectorworks, to dissuade me from reading it for pure enjoyment.

Having written a BIM book, and BIM blog for 4 years, I have a real appreciation for how hard it is to cut through the clutter and hype and say something that is mercurial and potent and insightful. Lévy manages to do this on every page – sometimes several times a page – and it is a shame more people haven’t read his book and sang its praises.

I learn best by books but recognize that professionals have different ways they prefer to learn: some by video, some lecture, some tutorial, or site visit, or hands-on, or via gamification.

When I interviewed very important people (VIPs) for my BIM book (Phil Bernstein and Chuck Hardy, among many others) I was blown away by the insightful things they said. And also by the way they said them. New things, things that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

I became who I am because of the books I read – and continue to read. For me, reading is like living two lives. The advantage it provides you is empowering. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can provide one with what can be found in a good book. Not first-hand experience (because in books, you gain other’s experience vicariously on top of your own;) new ways of looking at things (on top of how you already look at things;) new ways to do things (ditto;) and perhaps best of all, insights that take your knowledge up a notch – that could otherwise only be acquired through long and hard work on your own. All that, and they fit snuggly on a shelf or nightstand, iPad or Kindle.

This is why – despite the disappointing sales of my first book – I am devoting the next year of my life to writing another book.

I believe in the power of books and the power of the written word.

Especially as an antidote for those days I spend behind a computer monitor, messing with digital this, and computational that.

Books seem to place what I’m doing into a larger context, and in doing so, the best ones help provide a purpose for the time when I’m not reading.

* OK, not really but a pretty amazing coincidence nonetheless.

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An Integrated Design Strategy for Every Man, Woman and Child

“The concept of integrated design is key to a sustainable future and ultimately quality of life,” 
Laura Lee

Just as Finith Jernigan’s Makers of the Environment envisioned the average American benefitting from building information modeling (BIM),

Professor Laura Lee’s vision for South Australia reads like an integrated design strategy for every man, woman and child throughout the world.

While her publication was prepared as a series of recommendations to the South Australia government, upon reading it, it soon becomes clear that she had more universal applications in mind.

With her report, “An Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia – Building the Future,” Lee envisions a framework for uniting sustainability, behavior, materials and the external environment into a whole that satisfies the needs of people, environment and place.

I’ve read the report from beginning to end a couple times now and am happy to share my, however haphazard, impressions.

The excellent introduction acknowledges the potential – and urgency – of the state of the world today: the perfect set-up for what’s to come.

It answers why anyone would want to read this report – and, as importantly, why now.

Instead of just writing about design, the booklet (as a product) itself is a perfect argument for the value of good design.

Little touches – such as the global quotes in blue and local quotes in orange – and larger ones: that it is so well written, edited, illustrated and like all great works of art, all-of-a-piece.

Like the integrated design process itself, the report contains myriad voices (a strategy and conclusion I also came to for my own book on Integrated Design.)

From now on, all Integrated Design books really ought to be crowdsourced.

In fact, Lee had 15 partners (represented by 24 people) in the residency, only 4 of whom were designers, which if it was a challenge, doesn’t show.

The report leaves you with the impression that it was created by a singular sensibility in that it has one, compelling voice throughout.

Stevie Summer’s diagrams are intelligent and truly mesmerizing: the perfect accompaniment for the text.

The natural imagery of many of these diagrams – conch shells, DNA – are intertwined & interrelated with the book’s theme and text. Stunning.

Professor Lee invested so much time in the diagrams because she is interested in raising visual literacy.

Interestingly, it soon becomes apparent that the process in conceiving the report served as a model for those she worked with along the way for the integrated design process itself. What an effective way for those she worked with to ‘get’ integrated design.

One of the most appealing attributes of the report is that the overall tone and word choice is strangely non-academic. This is a report anyone could love.

Lee, for example, quotes Dan Pink where she could have quoted Roger Martin. In fact, the report verges on being populist were it not for the fact that the whole thing is so smart.

Because this does not read like research, one can see how it will be implemented (and not – like so many reports – sit on the shelf.)

By the time the reader gets to the end, they’ll recognize that the very tenets of integrated design went into the making of this brilliant and beautiful document.

The tone throughout is optimistic, forward-looking: exactly what it needs to be. No need to threaten readers with impending apocalypse (it doesn’t.)

Most reports and books fizzle out near the end – having spent all their ammo in the first half (if not the first chapter.) Here, some of the best, freshest information and diagrams occur in the recommendations section of the report, near the end, what Professor Lee calls “the heart and the future of the work.”

Many, many more people need to read this report.

Professor Lee is in the process of making an Integrated Design Strategy guidebook with roadmaps for each recommendation along with best practices, weblinks, and case studies and a website with PDF downloads that hopefully will be available soon.

Read the final report of Professor Laura Lee, Adelaide Thinker in Residence in 2009.

Read about Martin Seligman and other thinkers in residence http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/ including Prof. Laura Lee http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/

Read more about Laura Lee, FAIA http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/who.aspx

Check out these videos featuring Laura Lee, and also this and this video

And look into the integrated design work of other thinkers and makers, including Renée Cheng, Daniel Friedman, Frances Bronet, Ann Dyson, Billie Faircloth, Kiel Moe and many more.

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Finding Your Way Around BIM

Michael Korda, in his brilliant and entertaining memoir, Another Life, tells the story of his first day of work at a publishing house.

Upon arriving at work he notices a bronze plaque on his desk bearing these words:

“Give the reader a break.”

It was the publisher’s view that their job was to make things as easy and clear for the reader as possible.

And they wanted him to know that.

It is in this spirit that I provided what I hope will be helpful guideposts throughout the text of my book.

I did this to help the reader find their way around what can be treacherous territory in a book that concerns itself largely with technology.

I wish more technology – and architecture – books would give the reader a break.

In organizing my book, BIM and Integrated Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2011,) I divided the information into roughly three parts: a triptych of sorts.

I find that organizing a book into parts helps with wayfinding – providing the reader with a much-needed big-picture view of the content they’re about to delve into.

So here’s a bit more detail – part by part – about what you’ll find in the book.

Part I: BIM AS THOUGH PEOPLE MATTERED

In Part I of BIM and Integrated Design, you will uncover mistaken beliefs surrounding BIM and the social co-benefits of BIM.

Here you will explore the most commonly encountered obstacles to successful collaboration, as well as the challenges this technology and process create for individuals and organizations in their labor toward a comprehensive, successful BIM adoption and implementation.

You will discover the social impacts and implications of working in BIM on individuals and firms, and how to overcome real and perceived barriers to its use.

Read these chapters to discover proven strategies for managing the disruptive change brought about by BIM, how to assess your team’s progress, and how to own not only the software but also the process.

You will learn about the recent proliferation of BIM-related professional titles and roles, the current state of transition of the industry from CAD to BIM, and what the real distinctions are between BIM- and CAD-, and IT-related roles, including distinctions between BIM managers, CAD managers and IT managers.

In this part,

  • you will read about a design firm that struggled with adopting BIM, only to find itself growing through the recent downturn due in large part to its attitudes and approach to BIM; and
  • how firms have successfully implemented BIM, from the varying perspectives of a consultant with extensive experience working in BIM with designers, a clinical and organizational psychologist who works with design and construction professionals who are contending with constant change, and a firm owner who has strategically and successfully worked with BIM since the application’s inception.

Part II: LEADING INTEGRATED DESIGN

In Part II of BIM and Integrated Design, the focus is on working alone and with others in BIM; obstacles to successful BIM collaboration and how to overcome them; and why collaboration is the way forward for our profession and industry.

Read these chapters to familiarize yourself with challenges to BIM collaboration including interoperability, workflow, firm culture, education, technological challenges, working in teams, communication, trust, BIM etiquette, one model versus multiple models, cost, and issues concerning responsibility, insurance, and liability.

Learn about the one critical skill set design professionals need to master if they are to survive the current professional, economic, social, and technological challenges, as well as strategies for making collaboration work.

Read these chapters to better understand why owners and design and construction professionals have been slow to adopt integrated design and how we can rectify this situation.

A brief but incisive overview of integrated design is offered to help you promote the process to owners and your team, and learn how BIM and integrated design together help design professionals achieve their ultimate goals: well-designed, high-performing buildings that deliver value to owners while benefitting all involved, including future generations.

In this part,

  • learn how a major architecture firm’s chief information officer is contending with near-constant change brought about by BIM;
  • learn from a major constructor regarding their experiences working on more than one hundred integrated BIM projects; and
  • hear from the author of the industry’s first integrated project delivery (IPD) case studies on where IPD is headed.

Part III: LEADING and LEARNING

In this last part of BIM and Integrated Design, you’ll learn how BIM changes not only the technology, process, and delivery but also the leadership playing field; how to shift into the mindset essential to lead the BIM and integrated design process in turbulent times; and how to become a more effective leader no matter where you find yourself in the organization or on the project team.

You’ll discover how the introduction of BIM into the workforce has significant education, recruitment, and training implications, and review the most effective ways to learn BIM.

A brief overview of three approaches to the topic of BIM and the master builder is offered, including arguments in favor of and against the return of the architect in the master builder role, and an argument for the composite master builder or master builder team.

In these chapters, you’ll

  • meet an architect and BIM manager who successfully made the transition from pencil to CAD to BIM of the greatest complexity; glean several significant insights from a regional director in the Office of Project Delivery at the General Services Administration (GSA); and
  • hear from two educators—one a designer and an ethnographer of design and technology who brings a background in architecture, computing, and anthropology to the study of human-machine-environment interaction; and the other an educator and industry technology strategist with firsthand experience working in integrated design on a significant IPD project, who shares his perceptions of what is on the horizon for professionals, organizations, and the AEC industry as it concerns BIM and integrated design.

Hopefully you now have a better sense of what the book is about and how it is organized.

If you have any questions about the book, please let me know by leaving a comment and I’ll try to answer them. Thanks!

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