Tag Archives: AEC

The Future of AEC

Teaching the second year undergraduate construction sequence of courses is challenging.

Students, already smitten with studio, see required tech courses as unnecessary evils.

BTES car apart

They have had so few architecture courses at that point, it’s like teaching students how to put a car together before teaching them how to drive.

BTES car apart 2

While the courses serve as a wake-up call that there’s more to architecture than the making of form, not everyone is happy about it.

So, how best to spark and engender a lifelong love affair with building technology?

BTES BIM Figure-7-3

One model is mutual mentoring.

In this model, emulated from practice, senior team members (TAs, the course instructor) work with emerging professionals (students) on building technology, while the emerging digital natives (students again) share what they discover in their digital models.

In a perfect world, this is how things would work.

Due in part to the 2008 economic downturn, when many senior firm members were let go, this model doesn’t materialize as often as one might expect.

In class, I play the surrogate seasoned firm member – the technology principal – teaching my students building technology in lecture.

Ideally, students incorporate what they learn in lecture in the lab section of the class.

The teaching assistants redline their work, the students pick up redlines, and in doing so some facsimile of the office workflow is recreated.

The problem with this model is that there is no evidence that students – let along emerging professionals – always understand what the redlines mean.

So, this past semester, I tried an experiment.

What if students learned building technology at the same time that they learned to work in BIM?

What if, in other words, these two activities occurred simultaneously?

The convergence of building technology and digital technology

Each student was provided with a set of architectural and structural CAD documents to work from.

BTES 308 E Green

By the end of the semester, over 100 students, mostly sophomores no older than 19 years old, each completed a 30pp set of BIM documents of a 16-story high-rise under construction near campus – a student apartment building with duplex units.

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This was no drafting exercise in construction documentation: students had to think, and make critical decisions, every step of the way.

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The course’s fabulous teaching assistants offered in-class tutorials, and Lynda.com was made available to students.

Revit Architecture was offered free to students from Autodesk’s education community.

By the end of the semester, our students

  • compared/contrasted the CAD documents with those produced from their BIM models;
  • visited the construction site, met with the architect and contractors, wrote a field observation report and compared as-built conditions to their BIM model;
  • redesigned portions of the façade; they redesigned the tower’s units;
  • learned how to collaborate in BIM, create BIM standards and families, and how to leverage BIM as a searchable database.

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Most importantly, they demonstrated that they learned how to put a large-scaled, complex building together as they were still learning the digital technology, bridging the lecture/lab divide along the way.

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Did students really need to produce 28-30 sheets of documents to demonstrate that they learned how to put a building together?

If they were drafting in pencil or in CAD, then the answer would be “no.”

But with BIM, the question is irrelevant, because the documents are merely snapshots of the model, slicing it this way or that.

This in itself was a revelation for many students.

Slide1

As the instructor, my motivation in conducting this experiment was

  • To teach students how to put a large, complex building together
  • To help them to learn from each other
  • To help them recognize the benefits of just-in-time learning
  • To encourage them to ask questions
  • To have them understand how BIM differs from other tools
  • To have them create a set of BIM documents

As demonstrated in their work, students learned

  • the difference between BIM and CAD tools
  • that BIM is not just a super-charged version of SketchUp
  • that in BIM, unlike CAD, a wall knows it’s a wall
  • that you must know what wall type you are modeling and why
  • that a change in one place is a change everywhere
  • that the model it is a searchable, mineable database
  • that the higher uses of BIM are where the spoils are
  • that you cannot fake it in BIM the way you can in other tools
  • BIM standards and the value of clear communication
  • that they are capable of accomplishing a lot in a short period of time

HereGallery-Exterior

What about collaboration? Why didn’t students work on teams? Teamwork is critically important, starting in school. But in terms of learning the fundamentals early in their architectural education, I felt it was important to assess each student individually.

Doing so teaches students self-sufficiency so that teamwork and collaboration becomes a strategic choice, not a crutch to lean on due to a perceived weakness in one area or the other.

The ultimate goal is collaboration.

The general wisdom goes something like this: due to increasing complexity of buildings, no one person can possibly know it all.

Or can they?

With this experiment, I decided to find out.

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6 Qualities That Make Architects Ideally Suited to Lead Collaborative Integrated Teams

leadersIn order to effectively lead collaborative teams, architects would do well to downplay possessing specialized knowledge. Knowledge acquired in school and practice should be thought of as the price of admission, not their “Advance to GO” card, as so many on the team in this connected age have access to and share this same knowledge. Along with specialized knowledge, as a professional duty of practice, architects will also need to reevaluate the role of professional judgment, design intent, responsible control, direct supervision, and serving as the hander-down of rulings in the shape-shifting required from working simultaneously on collaborative teams.

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams:

1. Architects can lead collaborative teams by tapping into their ability to maintain two or more opposing thoughts until an amenable solution arises. Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, on the problem-solving power of integrative thinking, describes the human brain’s ability “to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension.” Like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s test of a first-rate intelligence as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” architects need to become even more comfortable working with and maintaining two or more opposing thoughts earlier in their careers. Architects famously can simultaneously maintain two lines of thought – e.g. their own and their client’s; their client’s and that of the public-at-large; the paying client and the non-paying client; the 99% and the 1%; the circumstantial and the ideal; science and art; reason and intuition; evidence and the ineffable; HSW and aesthetics; practical and dreamer. In an interview with the author, Phil Bernstein described the difference between young designers and older designers as the ability to manage an increasingly larger set of variables: “When I was working for Cesar Pelli, that was one of the amazing things about him – he could keep so many things in his head and he could balance them and weigh one against the other, and he could edit out what he called the systematic generation of useless alternatives. He would prevent us from going down that avenue.”

2. Architects are problem identifiers. Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Frequently, the problem assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.

3. Architects see the big picture. Solution-oriented engineers sometimes have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context coup d’oeilcourt sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. Architects, by the end of their formal training, have begun to develop this ability, by thinking laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. Neither exclusively right- nor left- – architects are whole-brain thinkers. In the midst of prolonged analysis, architects can help to keep things whole.

4. Architects draw by hand, mouse and wand. Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, architects are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get the point across. Because architects envision what is not there, they help bring nascent ideas to life. Today, we cannot talk of leadership without the technology. We lead from the technology and the tools we use. In this way, architects lead collaboration from the middle by leading from the model.

5. Architects can lead collaborative teams by thinking like other team members, anticipating their concerns and questions before they arise. Architects see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others. They have both deep skills and wide wingspan breadth. Architects are the only entity who serve not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) In trying to predict the consequences for any course of action, the architect needs to anticipate the responses of each of the integrated team members. To do this, an architect must know enough about each discipline to negotiate and synthesize competing demands.

6. Architects don’t lead collaborative teams because of their specialized skills, technology know-how, or privileged knowledge, but rather because of their comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Architects are best suited to lead collaborative teams by being able to extrapolate from incomplete information, and won’t let the lack of complete information stop them from moving forward.

The architect leading collaborative teams has implications for education in that independently trained professionals are inclined to remain independent in practice. According to NCARB’s contribution to the NAAB 2013 Accreditation Review Conference (ARC), over 80% of architects rated “collaboration with stakeholders” as important/critical, yet only 31.5% of interns and recently licensed architects indicated they had performed collaboratively prior to completion of their education program. This would need to change.

Let the Team be the Architect

The single most important issue confronting AEC leadership is, as Michael Schrage asked, how to pose problems and opportunities in forms that will elicit and inspire a collaborative response. Consultant Ed Friedrichs describes this as the ability “to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client.”

Concerning collaborative teams, leaders need to ask of themselves – as well as prospective hires – are you the glue or the solvent? If architects are to be respected as leaders, their challenge is to communicate with their collaborators as equal partners in design.

In his book Architecture by Team, CRS’s William Caudill wrote: “The so called ‘great man’ approach must give way to the great team approach. From now on the great architects will be on great interdisciplinary teams.”

That was written in 1971. Buried on page 288 is the title of Chapter 109:

“Let the team – designers, manufacturers and builders – be the architect.”

So let the team be the architect, and the architect be the facilitative leader. And act soon, for we may not have another 40 years to see this out.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

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7 Reasons to Attend the Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

Following the overwhelming success and enthusiastic feedback from the 150 plus participants and dozen vendors in the 2011 event, the 2012 symposium will feature even more timely subjects in the industry and provide more opportunities for networking, knowledge-building, and exposure to cutting edge developments.

7 Great Reasons to Attend this Year’s Symposium:

Reason 1: The real advantage in attending an event like this is to enhance your understanding of the current and future role of technology in design, construction, and facilities management from industry experts and those working at the cutting edge of their fields.

Reason 2: Included in the program will be such topics as augmented reality, legal insights on Integrated Project Delivery, GSA’s approach to facility management and technology usage in heavy construction. The assembly of world-class speakers promises to challenge your imagination.  Check out the schedule and presentation abstracts.

Reason 3: AIA continuing education credits will be available. Attend all three days and earn up to a total of 16 CEUs.

Reason 4: Professional discount extended for those who register by Friday, July 20. Architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management students attend for just $25! Find complete registration fees here

Reason 5: The primary focus of this year’s Symposium is to improve project efficiency by reducing costs, accelerating delivery, improving quality, minimizing risks, and leveraging resources. In the spirit of the event, the presentations will be quick, short, and more concentrated with plenty of time for interactive Q/A.

Reason 6: Location. Chicago, on Northwestern University’s downtown campus on Lake Michigan, near Michigan Avenue. Here’s a map and list of nearby hotels.

Reason 7: All conferences boast the chance to rub shoulders with colleagues in an informal setting. The Symposium affords attendees the rare opportunity to network with researchers, academics, practitioners, software and building developers, vendors, IT professionals and university students working in architecture, engineering, construction, and facilities management – as well as leaders in the industry.

Sponsored by the Northwestern University Master of Project Management Program http://www.mpm.northwestern.edu/, and the newly created Executive Management for Design and Construction program, the 2012 Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction will assemble design and construction researchers, academics, and practitioners to discuss the present state-of–the-art and the prospects for future advancements in this field.

Check out the Symposium brochure.

Detailed information about the Symposium is at www.techforconstruction.com or inquiries can be sent to me, Randy Deutsch, at randydeutsch@att.net.

One last thing: Northwestern University’s School of Engineering would greatly appreciate your mentioning this content-laden Symposium to your colleagues.

Thanks!

The facts: Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

August 15-17, 2012

Northwestern University, School of Law

Thorne Auditorium

375 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago

www.techforconstruction.com

Again, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Randy Deutsch, via email randydeutsch@att.net

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BIM in ACADemia

“The industry needs new specialists and if the academia doesn’t provide them, then the industry will have to resort to setting up private academies”. 
 – Practice 2006: Toolkit 2020 written by two Arup employees

BIM in Academia is a new collection of essays edited by the venerable team of Peggy Deamer and Phillip G. Bernstein.

The book is printed on demand by the Yale School of Architecture Press and therefore a bit hard to find.

So until it becomes more readily available, I’ll do my best to point out some of the more progressive and salient features of this important and much-needed document.

Generally, the 117 page book addresses whether

1. BIM ought to be taught in school, and if so,

2. How

The second in a series of these editor/educators’ books, after 2010’s excellent Building (in) the Future: recasting labor in architecture from Princeton Architectural Press – that I featured here a while back – the new book expresses several viewpoints without taking a strong stand.

The editors allow the faculty essayists to speak for themselves.

BIM in Academia, brought about by the Yale SOA Symposium in 2011, highlights some of the work taking place in US universities at this early moment in BIM’s evolution and argues, at best, that BIM must change the way architects work and are trained.

There’s a lot of great writing here. Of architects in the age of CAD, for example, the book says: “Their output was paper-based projections of the design rather than a simulation of the design wrought whole.”

Peggy Deamer’s opening essay “BIM in Academia” paints a picture of an already over-crowded curriculum which, now, we suddenly want to insert into yet another subject: BIM.

She asks:

  • Is learning BIM a software issue? (and therefore a non-credit workshop)
  • Should it be placed in the structures/technology course?
  • Is it part of professional practice?
  • Or is it a new way to practice design – and therefore be integrated into studio?
  • If this last is the case, should it be offered in the early, core studios – or be offered in an advanced or even post-degree studio?

Deamer emphatically fires the first shot by stating that BIM threatens all of the established hierarchies in academia and that no matter the designation – software, process or some combination – academia’s curriculum structure is unreceptive to BIM.

Next, Phil Bernstein’s serving-as-introductory essay, acknowledges the great divide between practice and education and offers a strategy – a model, really, based on the 40-year-old work of MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte – to re-examine the college curriculum under BIM.

Hereafter, the book is split into two parts: challenges and case studies.

There’s no effort to come to a comprehensive conclusion or to provide clear direction for the road ahead: the work is presented more or less as it was in the symposium.

We are left to come to our own conclusions. But let it be said that there is a lot of useful, helpful information offered here that – by the end of the book – ought to allow the reader to come to their own stance on the subject.

From the moment in the first paragraph that Renée Cheng’s essay, “Facing the Fact of BIM,” calls BIM a “maddeningly slow-to-learn design process,” any thoughts she’s going to gloss over the considerable difficulties of integrating BIM securely into the curriculum suddenly vanish.

Cheng has questioned the role of BIM in architectural education perhaps longer than any other educator or practitioner, so her perspective on past, present and future architecture curriculum is an important and valuable one.

After providing some much-needed background and context, Cheng admits that BIM is “excellent as a building production and project delivery tool” but disappointingly “a poor match with the needs of design students…”

Despite these handicaps, she writes, BIM emphatically has a place in the architectural curricula.

Where, exactly?

Her answer – in 2 hour professional practice courses – unfortunately leaves as many questions as it answers.

While the essays are generally of high quality, there are a couple clunkers – which is unfortunate, given how short a document this is.

“Characterizing the Problem: Bioenergetic Information Modeling” is largely unreadable – the three authors (chefs?) apparently didn’t get the memo that academic jargon belongs in subscription-only journals.

IIT’s “Master of Integrated Building Delivery” reads less like a case study than an advertisement for the program. Seeped in history and process, the text falls flat and fails to mention that the essay’s authors – John Durbrow and Donna Robertson – have either mysteriously left the program or are leaving this year (an oversight that is inexcusable given the book is printed on demand, in real time, and could have been pointed out or at least alluded to.) Full disclosure: I have guest taught, lectured and juried in the program.

Other essays – Andre Chaszar’s Beyond BIM come to mind – are considerably more helpful, after building their case provide specific recommendations for how to proceed.

As for the case studies – “Educating the Master Building Team” is a stand-out in the bunch – viewing BIM as a foundational technology to share information, and is a classic example of how thoughtful, engaging writing can and will help move the profession and industry forward. Excellent effort.

Auburn University’s Master of Design-Build (MDB) program’s case study – “Enabling Integration: the Role of BIM” – by Joshua Emig and Paul Holley extracts extremely useful observations and discussion points from their considerable studio experiment experience.

Points of view

When I asked Phil Bernstein, in my book, BIM and Integrated Design, whether there was room for BIM in school, he said

“There’s a distinction, in my view, between training and teaching. At Yale, for example, you don’t get credit for learning a piece of software, any more than we would give you credit for using a band saw or a water jet cutter. Those are just skills that you pick up as part of the curriculum.” (pp.219-220)

Practitioners elsewhere have voiced their opinions on the subject.

Here is a sampling:

I do not believe that there should be special courses in BIM…BIM should be well integrated into the curriculum as simply what’s part of the professional workflow

At the community college where I teach part time…all the architectural drafting classes are being phased out and are being replaced by “BIM authoring for architects” classes

For industry to benefit from these studies, they must be conducted under Faculty (multidisciplinary) not School (single discipline) settings

More universities should just stop delaying the inevitable and start preparing ALL their AECO students for model-based collaboration and integrated workflows.

BIM programs abound

In Switzerland, at Berne University of Applied Sciences and Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, there are courses that focus on BIM including hands-on interdisciplinary BIM projects

Here is a comprehensive BIM class covering all aspects of BIM/VDC, from authoring to project management on a graduate level at USC School of Civil Engineering in conjunction with Virginia Tech: http://viterbi.usc.edu/news/news/2010/innovation-comes-to.htm.

Penn State has some BIM classes in their masters program.

Washington University in St Louis has also a few BIM courses in their architectural curriculum.

SOBE in UK has a post -grad course http://www.sobe.salford.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate-programmes/bim-and-integrated-design

And one of the best-known programs in CA is at Chico State http://cm.csuchico.edu/degree.html.

Additional reading and viewing

Until the book is more readily available, you might consider reading the following resources:

BIM in Academia: Collaborate, Adapt, Innovate by Alexandra Pollock, SOM New York. Download the White Paper (1.2 MB PDF) presented at Ecobuild America in 2010.

Integrating BIM with Academia: Pennsylvania State University from the 2010 BIM Award Program

Watch Yale University professor, Peggy Deamer, present on BIM‘s pedagogical placement in academia as she presented at the Autodesk Yale BIM Symposium.

The Role of Building Information Modeling (BIM) in Education and Practice abstract was presented by Laura Floyd and Douglas R Seidler at The Interior Design Educators Council 2010 Annual Conference – Atlanta, GA

Advancing BIM in Academia: Explorations in Curricular Integration http://www.igi-global.com/viewtitlesample.aspx?id=62944

And, as mentioned, I also have a chapter on BIM and education in my book, BIM and Integrated Design.

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Two Books to Transform the AEC Industry

This past week I had the opportunity to read two significant AEC industry books – one of which I had been meaning to read for several years, the other just having been published.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) are central to each of these books, whereas they were relegated to a single chapter in Barry LePatner’s otherwise excellent book, Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry.

I’ll start with The Commercial Real Estate Revolution: Nine Transforming Keys to Lowering Costs, Cutting Waste, and Driving Change in a Broken Industry, by Rex Miller et al, a quartet of construction industry professionals.

The Commercial Real Estate Revolution

I didn’t read this book when it first came out (July 2009) for one reason and one reason alone: it cost $40.

And for a second reason: I was writing my own AEC industry book ($75!) and didn’t want to be influenced by its findings.

And a third: I found a few words in the title (Commercial Real Estate + Revolution) off-putting. Sounded more 2006 than 2009.

And a fourth (I’ll get to that in a moment.)

Looking back, I should have ignored these reasons and read the book when the ink was still wet.

Observations

The foreword by Metropolis Magazine’s Susan S. Szenasy alone is worth the price of the book  $39.95  ($12 used)

The book grew out of a wide-ranging group of dedicated industry players called The Mindshift consortium (the name was my fourth reason. It sounded vaguely un-construction-like.) That the consortium (not a think-tank but a “do-tank”) grew out of weekly discussions over pancakes (the Pancake Roundtable) at a local diner grounds the book in real people with real concerns.

This book has a big heart. It’s the kind of commercial real estate book that’s not afraid to quote Joseph Campbell on the power of metaphors to induce change.

Unlike LePatner, Miller and his cohorts are not only looking to fix what’s broken in the industry, but transform it. That alone distinguishes this book.

Read Chapter 2: What Every Executive Needs to Know About Low-Bid Contracting, and you’ll never use Design-Bid-Build as a delivery method again.

The Nine Keys

The second two-thirds of the book present The Nine Keys of Mindshift, including Four Principles, Four Tools, One Hidden Revolution

Key 1: Trust-Base Team Formation (Principle) – How you select your team, whom you select, and the process you use to form them into a team is the most important component of a succesful project.

Key 2: Early Collaboration (Principle) – Clear channels of communication and efficient ways of working together must be established to ensure ultimate success.

Key 3: Built-In Sustainability (Principle) – Sustainability becomes a natural result of better design and the elimination of waste.

Key 4: Transformational Leadership (Principle) – Leadership must be flexible, trusting team members to work together and empowering them to solve problems.

Key 5: Big “BIM” (Tool) – Building Information Modeling is a game-changing technology. It facilitates early collaboration and allows the team to rehearse and resolve issues in a virtual environment that carries over seamlessly to real construction.

Key 6: Integrated Project Delivery (Tool) – The “siloed” hierarchy of Design-Bid-Build becomes a round table in IPD as the planning, design, and implementation process integrate all team members’ input and participation. Lean Construction is an increasingly important tool for team members to identify waste and measure performance.

Key 7: Trust-Based Agreements and Client-Centered Incentives (Tool) – All team members assume an equal degree of shared risk and reward, and profitability is inextricably linked to the success of the project.

Key 8: Offsite Manufacturing (Tool) – Fabricating materials offsite and in advance provides an opportunity to change the nature, quality and future of construction.

Key 9: Workplace Productivity (The Hidden Revolution) – When buildings are uniquely designed and constructed with the end-user in mind, the space created can enhance the quality of life and work for those using it and will deliver higher value to the owner. Alternative workplace solutions are one example of the mindshift model that stresses long-term strategic value over short-term transactional returns.

The authors write: “Building, at its essence, is a relational practice. It is creative. And, when done well, it is restorative.” I believe, if you haven’t already done so, that reading this book will be an equally restorative experience for you.

You can find a good summary and background here http://www.haworth.com/en-us/Knowledge/Mindshift/Pages/The-Consortium.aspx

An article providing some background by the author in DesignIntelligence here

And read chapter 1 (“The $500 Billion Black Hole”) here http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/65/04704574/0470457465.pdf

Makers of the Environment

Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard of this book.

Makers of the Environment: Building Resilience Into Our World, One Model at a Time, by BIG BIM little bim author, Finith E. Jernigan was released December 15, 2011 ($9.99 Kindle, though you will want a hard copy of the book so you can scan the QR code-like tags. I’ll get top those in a moment.)

Billed as “the first information model in a book” (where BIM = book information model,) Makers of the Environment is a true 3D reading experience.

You can read the book straight through or, using Microsoft TAGs spread throughout the book, link to the book’s website for richer data, videos, related articles and a deeper look into the subject at hand.

You can imagine my surprise while scanning one of the codes to find it lead to one of my own blog posts (i.e. a surreal experience.)

Read more about it here.

Observations

The book presents straightforward short chapters on various topics. These are followed by scenario plans that take place in the near future – or the recent past – and are populated by characters devised by the author. Here’s how it is described:

Makers of the Environment shows how an organization in a small, depressed rural county can pull together to take advantage of the opportunities to become a world leader in the management of information to change our world. With systems and processes such as Makers describes, we for the first time in history can define and manage real-world assets. The book’s central design future forms the backbone for three scenarios show how to use the information to improve the world.

Three of these scenarios are presented in the prologue, even before you hit the first chapter (which opens with another scenario.) It’s admittedly a bit rough-going, but well-worth the journey when you arrive at the expository writing and tags. That’s when the book really transforms (some, such as the tag on Georeferencing, are spectacular.)

The book presents a world of making or makers that is wholly inclusive and democratic. The book presents an industry where laypeople – real people – are participants who engage creatively and productively in the making and preservation of their world, and in doing so receive value directly from their involvement.

Technology is leveling the field for everyone. No longer must we rely on experts talking at us as we find solutions to today’s most vexing problems. We can all participate directly in the decisions, with real data, to get greater certainty of outcomes.

That said, one wonders if the title ought to have been Stewarts of the Environment or Makers of the Built Environment?

Some caveats: There is a great deal of repetition (whole sentences and even pages: p. 21-22, for example, are mysteriously repeated at length on p. 23-25) and the book, self-published, could have benefitted from some heavy editing and copyediting. Why, for example, are some chapters in grey background and others not? Some of the technology discussions come across as infomercials. Some of the scenarios sound as though they are taking place next week rather than in 10 years (this can be disconcerting for the reader who is constantly being asked by the text to place themselves in time.) The book’s sentences – that make up the paragraphs – don’t have a great deal of variation or differentiation in length. In this sense, the book sometimes feels as though it was in fact an information model in that it can feel as though it were written by a computer. This is a book that has enough valuable information to recreate the world – but, nonetheless, is still in search of a heart.

Kudos to the author for taking the innovative and creative route – it is always the more difficult to be a trailblazer.

It is very hard in a brief review to summarize what comes across as a comprehensive worldview – a view of the near-term future. Here’s how the book is described:

Makers of the Environment merges storytelling with everyday reality to offer a moment where we can rethink our expectations to understand how technology can and should be used to improve our world. The book makes the extraordinary ordinary, offering a vision on how society can take advantage of new and emerging technology to create a better, more sustainable world for our children.

I’ve barely touched on some of the major themes and ideas presented. You truly have to read the book for yourself to fully grasp it’s breadth, potential impact on your thinking and vision of the near-term future: the next steps for our industry and planet.

Forgiving some of the book’s more experimental and editorial shortcomings, I highly recommend Makers of the Environment for anyone and everyone working in – or around – the AECO industry.

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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

The Value of Versatility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIM Beyond Boundaries

by Randy Deutsch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Unlearning

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

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Detachment

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Collaboration

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

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

BIM Expertise Requires Depth and Breadth

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

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

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

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

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

What Do We Do Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Multidisciplinary Mindset

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

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

The Technology/Social Continuum

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

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

Leading from the Model

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

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

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

BIM and the Master Builder Team

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

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

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

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

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