Tag Archives: architects

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.

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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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Too Complex and Fast? Slow Down, But Don’t Oversimplify

oversimplifyTo lead our collaborative future, architects need to decentralize or risk being further marginalized.

Architects know that they need to collaborate to succeed. But how will they go about doing it? How, in other words, will they make collaboration happen? As importantly, how will architects make the changes necessary to become not only more collaborative, but leaders of this effort, amidst disruptive change?

AEC leaders already do a great deal to encourage collaboration amongst their teams, providing vision, collaboration-conducive work environments, collaboration technology, and by removing obstacles – including themselves –when necessary, gladly getting out of everyone’s way. They encourage diversity, discussion – even disagreements – as a basis for moving the project forward. By telling their collaboration stories, leaders paint a picture of what collaboration looks like when it is done well. Most importantly, AEC leaders make sure every team member is making the same project. But AEC leaders cannot assure this happens in every meeting on every project. Who, then, on the team will lead the day-to-day collaboration challenge?

Barriers to Collaboration

We know collaboration is hard and takes time — to build relationships, to clear-up misunderstandings, to listen and to get things done. Past experience can hold teams back, and one of the barriers to collaboration remains organizational silos.

Brand erosion is also an impediment to collaboration. For a designer whose singular voice is her expression through her work, collaboration is equated with joint authorship, to some the antithesis of creative expression, muddying the message of the work, dispersing and diluting the voice and design intent of the creator. This thinking is of course mistaken, as leaders need to make clear. One only needs to compare a Beatles tune with any of the band member’s solo efforts to recognize that teams make better decisions – and importantly, results – than individuals. The real fear in collaborating is that we – and our work – will be mediocre, a race toward the lowest common denominator, and with it, irrelevance: we will be seen as just one more designer among designers.

The truth, of course, is by not collaborating architects become marginalized. Not knowing how to effectively collaborate will lead to their irrelevance.

Complexity and Speed

Of the trends impacting our new world of work – including digital tools, collaborative work processes with attendant blurring of roles and responsibilities, working remotely and together earlier – two trends have made all the others a necessity: complexity and speed. Our technology has an impact on the anticipated speed of decision-making. When still hand-drafting, while facing a construction-related question or dilemma, architects would say: We’ll work it out in the field. This was the architect’s go-to VIF: where the contractor on the architect’s behalf would be expected to Verify In Field. Later, working in CAD, architects would say: We’ll work it out in shop drawings. With little bim: We’ll work it out in CDs. And today, with social BIM, We need to work it out NOW!

In the face of increased project speed, we will be tempted to slow down. And we are well advised to do so. Studies show to make decisions that stick, we’re better off delaying choices for as long as practically possible. According to Frank Partnoy in Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, the best professionals understand how long they have available to make a decision, and then, given that time frame, they wait as long as they possibly can: “we are hard-wired to react quickly. Yet we are often better off resisting both biology and technology.” Since our current technology and integrated work process does not accommodate our waiting – in fact, it discourages it – leaders need to make it safe for their teams to make assured, unrushed decisions.

Likewise, despite construction being wickedly complicated, we should not be tempted to oversimplify. We need to take the complex and make it seem simple – without oversimplifying – resisting the temptation to treat a complex task as simpler than it is, potentially leading to oversights and mistakes.

Decentralize or be Marginalized

Architects continue to see themselves as central to decision-making, whether at the top of the project pyramid or a prominent point of the team triangle. Contracts notwithstanding, architects are not the point. For collaboration to work, architects need to get off the pyramid and go wherever and whenever they are needed.

Decentralization implies the transfer of authority from central to local offshoots who represent the firm and serve as its public face, whether as project manager, project architect or project designer – sometimes any two, or all three. These offshoots – like starfish arms – contain the complete DNA and trust of the organization.

Although collaboration requires the architect to decentralize, it has to start at the top, where firm leaders entrust employees to lead teams. What will it take for architects to decentralize? Successful collaboration requires facilitative leadership. For the architect to take on this role, they must play the part of process facilitators over content creators, becoming in essence co-creators. When each teammate contributes as a co-creator, no single person has to carry the load, including the leader. Decentralization allows architects to join the project – and be immediately effective – midstream. Ideally, the architect is called in before the owner even considers undertaking a building project, but the reality is – due in no small part to their own making – the architect is often called upon when the project is already well underway.

Given the collaborative nature of today’s project teams, consideration needs to be given to the firm representative’s leadership and communication style. As proxy stand-ins for the firm, each team leader needs to be able to communicate effectively at all times, with all in the room. Architects’ often-unconscious communication habits will be increasingly scrutinized and decreasingly tolerated in these tight-knit groups. Architects, working more closely with others from every facet of practice, will need to become more familiar with their communication style, paying particular attention to the ability to adjust one’s style to those of others from other work cultures and walks of life.

FOCI: Multiple-centered – not centerless – leadership

Architects – seeing that others have helped narrow their options significantly – narrow them further by opting to see themselves as single purpose entities. One example of this is described in Victoria Beach’s salvo in the newly published 15th edition of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice where she asks architects to see themselves more as design-focused celebrity chefs and less as engineers assuring the health, safety and welfare of the public. For architects, it’s a both/and, not either/or, proposition.

In fact, architects in the coming years will be needed less as content providers of design intent than as facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators (or FOCI) of this information and process. Architects will have an opportunity to lead this process if they can learn to become better listeners, aggregators and refiners of the information that arises during the various stages of design and construction.

With the blurring of roles brought about by working collaboratively on integrated teams, the architect’s job is to keep decisions – often multiple decisions – in play. Collaboration and digital practice require a formwork on which to base multi-faceted decisions on increasingly complex projects. One such formwork is that of the rubric FOCI: in lieu of a singular central focus of the center, think of the multiple centers of the ellipse. A redefinition of decision-making that takes digital technology and collaboration into consideration creates such a formwork that will help the architect to communicate effectively with multi-disciplinary teams. To move from a circular to an elliptical model, the architect needs to decentralize.

To decentralize, architects also need to move away from the spotlight where they are the central focus. Many architects are introverts and would gladly succumb the spotlight to others. Architects don’t need to be the loudest one in the room to lead, just the one who listens best. To accomplish this, architects need to focus less, and FOCI more, by serving as project facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators. By decentralizing, the architect is no longer decision-maker so much as facilitator of project information and decision-making process. As facilitative leaders, architects can become experts in knowing how to find information as opposed to what the information is. When collaborating, it is not about how much any one person happens to know: projects today are too complex for any one person to know everything. Knowing from whom – and where – on the team to find information is more important than one’s ability to store and retrieve it. Architects will also serve as strategic orchestrators of large teams from the earliest stages, often made up with primary, secondary and even tertiary players. The C in FOCI is in flux: the C can represent collaborators or creators or controllers or coordinators. Architects, of course, are component and system integrators.

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

What Will You Do That’s Extraordinary?

onelifeArchitects and others in the AEC industry are well-aware of the forces at work changing the way they go about their business.

Forces brought about primarily by the advent of the computer.

When in all pares down, there are three approaches you can take to participating.

You can work by hand, collaboratively with machines, or allow machines to do most of the heavy lifting.

In other words:

1. Analog

2. Man-machine collaboration, and

3. Machine

While in 2014 it is still possible to design a building and complete a set of documents by hand, you can also add, subtract and multiply on an abacus.

Doing everything by hand is a legacy from a bygone era.

While hand drawing is still a desirable skill to have in one’s toolkit, it’s an unrealistic proposition if you are going to compete in an industry where the only hand drawing is done primarily on tablets.

Working without the tools that are available in our era is an act of protest.

And regret, for living in an age dependent on all things digital. So going analog is no longer an option.

At the other extreme, firms like Aditazz recognize that computers can be put to use to help design projects – and discern the best alternatives – in less time, using less manpower.

An approach that can be especially useful when addressing complex building assignments.

Most architects, engineers and construction professionals today fall somewhere between the two extremes of analog and machine.

They recognize that computers have helped them to become more effective at what they do.

But that computers can’t make all the calls – ethical, contextual – at least not yet.

Working digitally today is a given, even if the AEC industry itself hasn’t become more productive or effective since the 1960s despite the introduction of computers into our workflows.

Computer Aided Drafting/Design (CAD) never lived up to the hype or promise to make architects, engineers and contractors more productive.

In many ways, CAD just became a digital version of what architects had long done by hand.

Even with BIM, when I ask architects how they are being more productive or effective working in BIM, they’ll mention that they create templates for repeatable portions of their projects (for example, in housing, kitchen and bath templates – with rules of thumb, building code and ADA constraints indicated.)

Which is great. A process that should be automated in the near future.

But one wonders if this is just the digital equivalent of the “sticky back” boiler-plate details we used to attach to mylar sheets in our documents back in the 80s?

As the saying goes: Measure twice, draw once – and use it over and over if you can.

Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times discusses Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s new book, “The Second Machine Age.”

Authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, their new book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives our economy…and our industry.

The book focuses on three massive technological advances that recently reached their tipping points, advances they describe as “exponential, digital and combinatorial.”

A commenter at the Times website wrote:

A time is coming when most routine tasks can and will be done by computers.

This is really how computers can best support design and construction professionals.

Becoming an architect, for example, was never about aspiring to address routine tasks.

Routine tasks – whether running prints, drafting bathroom or column details – were in the past taken-on by architectural interns.

Today, due to their considerable smarts and technological know-how, these same emerging professionals are working on entire buildings.

They’re the first lookers and early responders inside digital building models.

All the more reason that routine tasks ought to become automated.

Freeing-up design and construction professionals to do what they do best.

The article commenter continued:

What happens then to the average people in the world? Extraordinary people will find ways to take care of themselves, but not everyone can be extraordinary.

Not everyone.

But you can.

You can be extraordinary. In fact, for those who want to work in the AEC industry, it’s a requirement.

Being extraordinary at what you do doesn’t change due to the technology you use.

Being extraordinary is all the more important in the workplace and at the jobsite today.

To distinguish oneself.

To differentiate yourself.

What will you do that’s extraordinary?

Bringing your weaknesses up to a level where they’re not so glaring, where they can no longer trip you up and undermine your career ascension, will only get you so far.

Working on your weaknesses will only make you ordinary.

Not extraordinary.

This year, identify a strength and develop it.

Take it as far as you can.

Seek help. Get training.

Track your progress.

Share your results.

Most AEC professionals today who are gainfully employed are already extraordinary people who are extraordinary at what they do.

The trick is in remaining so.

Heed the words of poet Mary Oliver, and ask yourself:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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The Surprising Civility of Primal IPD

When we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

Verlyn Klinkenborg

After you. No, please, after you.

Have you ever approached a 4-way intersection at precisely the same time as another driver and played that game of Who Goes First?

That’s precisely what happened the other day at a crossroads just outside of Chicago.

As will sometimes happen, an Architect, Engineer, Contractor and Owner pulled-up in separate vehicles to a 4-Way intersection.

It doesn’t matter what they were driving.

The Architect drove a Porsche 911.

But what they were driving doesn’t matter to the outcome of the story.

The Engineer in a pre-Ford Volvo, the Contractor was in a Ford pick-up and the Owner in a 700 series BMW.

So, as the architect’s custom-painted lobster red 2-door sports coupe Carrera revved its engine…

But it really, really doesn’t matter what they were driving.

Or that the owner picked-up his Beamer in ‘09 for $46,500. [Lucky bastard.]

What matters for this story is that, as would have it, they all arrived at the intersection at precisely the same moment.

And somehow had to come to an agreement on how they would proceed.

Fortunately, all four were present at the intersection – for while three were otherwise engaged with their iPods, two were texting and one was on their cell – they could all nonetheless see each other’s gestures, eyes and facial expressions.

Rules of the Road

Now, the default rule to establish the right of way at intersections – where you defer to the person on the right – doesn’t apply here since they were all right of each other.

The “person on the right goes first” rule would result in everyone moving forward at once. No good.

Normally, whichever vehicle first stops at the stop line has priority.

Rules of the road would tell you that if two vehicles stop at the same time, priority is given to the vehicle on the right.

If three vehicles stop at the same time, priority is given to the two vehicles going in opposite directions.

What about when 4 vehicles come to a stop at the same moment?

This is the really amazing thing.

You ready?

If four vehicles stop, drivers use gestures and other communication to establish right-of-way.

That’s it.

There is no way around it.

Gestures and communication.

Given all of the advanced technology available to us today – the fact that our vehicles are really just giant computer chips on wheels – the only way four people in modern civilization can proceed to move forward from such a situation is to…talk.

To each other.

Ideally, openly. Transparently.

And gesture. Communicating however one can manage.

For this is the new rule of the road:

You’ve got to go primal to proceed.

BIG IPD little ipd

In the past, the A, E and C would have deferred to the Owner to lurch forward into the intersection – to go first.

But that was before everything changed.

For today it sometimes feels like if you were to wait for the Owner to make the first move you might be sitting there, at the intersection, for a long while.

A long, long while.

And so others at the intersection – and this junction in time – are taking matters into their own hands.

They’re finding workarounds.

They’re finding ways to gesture themselves forward even if all the legal and contractual ramifications aren’t all hammered out.

For all four to proceed, it doesn’t matter who goes first, so long as someone does.

That someone has got to make the first gesture.

It’s all about leadership.

Primal leadership.

Move – do something – while keeping everyone informed, and the others will follow.

Call it little ipd.

In IPD, all 4 (AECO – count ‘em) arriving at the table day one of an Integrated Design project are all equals.

At the start – before the contracts are drafted and signed – in order to proceed, in order to move forward, they must defer to their higher selves. Their humanity.

While it is easy for the foursome to get caught up in legal language and a focus on contracts, it is best to think of the arrangement at first as a social contract rather than a strictly legal one, whereby each team member desires to maintain order and so subjects themselves to a higher order – or higher law – in order to maintain this order.

Before the team grows beyond its initial core, and everything gets all complicated, there’s a magical moment at the start of every project when the team members defer to simple etiquette.

Social etiquette.

The Four-Way Team

After the last post was inspired by a Neil Young song, it is only natural that this one references a Crosby Stills Nash and Young live album: 4-Way Street.

CSNY, a quartet, with their 4-part harmony. Working together, acknowledging the other players in the band.

CSNY, the first true folk-rock super-group formed by four guitar-playing singer-songwriters from other popular bands.

[David Crosby came from The Byrds; Stephen Stills and Neil Young came from Buffalo Springfield; and Graham Nash was a member of British pop band The Hollies.]

Much like the mix and match make-up of an Integrated Design team where it is more important that team members have BIM experience than the loyalty of a longstanding relationship.

And like OAC, they were originally a threesome: CSN.

AECO, where a quartet is more harmonious than an OAC trio, and the architect and engineer are distinguished and independent of one another.

For, when we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

Afterword

Here I’ll repost in its entirety After You, a short essay from the New York Times and the source of this last quote, by our very own 21st century Emerson/Thoreau, Verlyn Klinkenborg.

Recently, I have been considering the four-way stop. It is, I think, the most successful unit of government in the State of California. It may be the perfect model of participatory democracy, the ideal fusion of “first come, first served” and the golden rule. There are four-way stops elsewhere in the country. But they are ubiquitous in California, and they bring out a civility — let me call it a surprising civility — in drivers here in a state where so much has recently gone so wrong.

What a four-way stop expresses is the equality of the drivers who meet there. It doesn’t matter what you drive. For it to work, no deference is required, no self-denial. Precedence is all that matters, like a water right in Wyoming. Except that at a four-way stop on the streets of Rancho Cucamonga everyone gets to take a turn being first.

There are moments when two cars — even four — arrive almost simultaneously. At times like that, I find myself lengthening my own braking, easing into the stop in order to give an unambiguous signal to the other driver, as if to say, “After you.” Is this because I’m from the East where four-way stops are not so common? Or do most California drivers do this, too? I don’t know. What I do know is that I almost never see two cars lurching into the middle of the intersection as if both were determined to assert their right of way.

I find myself strangely reassured each time I pass through a four-way stop. A social contract is renewed, and I pull away feeling better about my fellow humans, which some days, believe me, can take some doing. We arrive as strangers and leave as strangers. But somewhere between stopping and going, we must acknowledge each other. California is full of drivers everywhere acknowledging each other by winks and less-friendly gestures, by glances in the mirrors, as they catapult down the freeways. But at a four-way stop, there is an almost Junior League politeness about it.

And when the stoplights go out at the big intersections, as they do sometimes, everyone reverts to the etiquette of the four-way stop as if to a bastion of civilization. But there are limits to this power. We can only gauge precedence within a certain distance and among a very small number of cars. Too many, and self-policing soon begins to break down. But when we come one by one to the quadrille at the four-way corner, we are who we are at our best, bowing, nodding, and moving on.

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Filed under BIM, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people

Switch or Stitch? A formula for saving the architecture profession, construction industry and maybe even the world

This post will introduce two concepts for bringing about much-needed change.

Switch

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard is the name of the new book by Chip Heath & Dan Heath authors of the serially successful Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Stitch

Stitch is a metaphor invoked at a recent TED talk by REX founder and former OMA architect with REM, Joshua Prince-Ramus.

Switch

Architects know that they need to change.

They know by now that BIM, IPD and LEED will together help bring about the changes necessary for them to flourish as well as for their survival.

So why is change so hard?

Stitch

In the first 2 minutes of his TED Conference talk, Building a Theater that Remakes Itself recorded at TEDxSMU, Prince-Ramus summarizes the architect’s by now all-too-familiar back-against-a-wall predicament.

Switch

The book is a rich, fascinating read with a single important premise: our minds are driven by two, main components: one emotional and one rational.

The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner.

The emotional system is impulsive and instinctual.

When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily.

When they’re not, change can be grueling.

The Heath’s finding is of particular interest to me because the premise of my book – BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice (Wiley, 2011) – grew out of something GSA’s Charles Hardy heard someone say:

BIM is 10% technology and 90% sociology

In other words, BIM is 10% rational and 90% emotional

Architects I’m afraid are neither internally – nor externally – aligned.

In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems?

Stitch 

In the TED talk, Prince-Ramus calls architects to the mat. In the opening moments he announces “It’s time for architecture to do things again, not just represent things.”

Switch

Chip and Dan Heath believe it is possible to align the two systems. 

In Switch they have made their game plan for change available to everyone in the hope that they could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier.

If you are searching for a framework to think through current BIM, IPD or LEED change efforts Switch is the book to read.

The authors present a 3×3 approach for helping the reader to initiate change:

SECTION ONE: DIRECT THE RIDER
i. Find the Bright Spots
ii. Script the Critical Moves
iii. Point to the Destination

SECTION TWO: MOTIVATE THE ELEPHANT
i. Find the Feeling
ii. Shrink the Change
iii. Grow Your People

SECTION THREE: SHAPE THE PATH
i. Tweak the Environment
ii. Build Habits
iii. Rally the Herd

and
iv. Keep the Switch Going

Nothing compares with reading the book, especially when 50%_off. Once you have you can explore some of the free resources here.

Stitch

Prince-Ramus talked about the state of architecture and architects today. “We are for decorative purposes only. Now who do we have to blame? We can only blame ourselves. Over the last 50 years the design and construction industry has gotten a lot more complex and litigious. And we architects are cowards. And so as we have faced liability we have stepped back and back. Unfortunately where there’s liability there’s power. We have found ourselves in a totally marginalized position way over here. What did we do? We’re cowards – but we’re smart cowards. We redefined this marginalized position as the place of architecture. And we announced, ‘Hey, Architecture, it’s over here!’ We’re going to concede control of processes. And we’re going to do something that is horrible for the profession. We actually created an artificial schism between creation and execution. As if you can create without knowing how to execute and execute without knowing how to create. Now, something else happened. And that’s when we began to sell the world that architecture’s created by individuals creating genius sketches. And that the incredible amount of effort needed to deliver those sketches for years and years and years is not only something to be derided but we would merely write it off as execution. So what do we architects need to do?”

Switch

In the main metaphor for the book, the Heath brothers liken the emotional mind to an elephant and the rational mind to a rider. The elephant’s sheer force results in it directing most of our behavior, while the rider is often passively on top thinking he’s steering.

Readers will recognize this metaphor from Jonathan Haidt’s brilliant and brilliantly-written, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, whose main hypothesis is that people make decisions with their gut and then use their brains to rationalize those decisions.

Three components of a successful change initiative are presented: Direct the Rider, Motivate the Elephant, and Shape the Path.

In each of the three components, three primary actions are recommended.

Architects are used to justifying their elephant-like ideas by appealing to their client’s rider, and to a lesser extent, by appealing to their elephants.

Stitch

Prince-Ramus: “We need to stitch back creation and execution. And we need to start authoring processes again instead of authoring objects.”

Stitch: How to Mend Creation and Execution, Architecture and Construction, Architects and Contractors.

Joshua Prince-Ramus believes that if architects re-engineer their design process, the results can be spectacular.

Switch

The Rider (i.e. our rational side), the Elephant, (i.e. our emotional and instinctive side) and the Path (i.e. the surrounding environment in which change initiatives will be conducted).

The challenge is to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path to make change more likely.

“No matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant…If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don’t have lots of power or resources behind you.”

Stitch

At the 5:25 mark of his talk, Prince-Ramus asks: “If we are so good at our craft, shouldn’t we be able to conceive of an architectural manifestation that slides seamlessly through the project’s and the client’s constraints?”

This is the challenge that he poses for architects, firms and the profession.

Now that we know how to go about change, are we up for the challenge?

Switch

There will always be those who would rather fight than switch. I suspect that there are some readers of this blog that would count themselves as fighters.

For everyone else, near the end of the book the Heaths summarize how to make a switch.

“For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently.”

Will it start with you?

“Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team. Picture the person (or people). Each has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side.”

Which should I appeal to?

“You’ve got to reach both. And you’ve also got to clear the way for them to succeed.”

This is what is needed now from our leaders in the profession and the industry.

This is what is needed now to save the architecture profession, construction industry and maybe even the world.

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Filed under BIM, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD

The Way Out is the Way Through

Happy architects are all alike; every unhappy architect is unhappy in his own way.

–          with apologies to Leo Tolstoy and Anna Karenina

Architects complain that contractors and owners are positioned to benefit from utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) but that architects are not.

It is clear that owners and contractors benefit from BIM and IPD. That there are fewer RFIs because the technology detects clashes before they occur in the field alone should be reason enough to convince owners and contractors that it is to their benefit to work collaboratively in BIM. But there is more – cost estimating done in advance, value engineering on the fly – the list of benefits seems to get longer every day. So who wins?

The owner wins. And to a lesser extent the contractor wins as well.

What about the architect?

No so much.

Architects complain that they have to do a lot more work up front, often hourly at-cost – and do work that they normally would do later in the process, and get generously compensated for.

So what are architects in it for? What do architects hope to gain by going down the BIM and IPD path?

Who benefits?

We were warned at the outset that none of us would get rich (nor become Frank Lloyd Wright.)

We went into architecture originally to be professionals – and somewhere along the way we were wooed by the prospect of making money. Yes, we need to survive and not be victimized, take-on needless responsibility and risk without opportunity for reward or recompense.

But the truth is if we work hard and do a good job it will be recognized – perhaps not on this project but the next.

We are motivated to do a good job – not by extrinsic rewards but rather by the promise of rewards more intrinsic.

But then the money’s doled out and we cry foul: the contractor and owner see all the benefit.

First we must realize that this is not true. We always did more work than we were compensated for. Today, with BIM, LEED and IPD, is no exception.

To empower ourselves – right now, at this moment in time – we need to do the work, earlier in the process, upfront, and yes maybe more of it than we’d like.

What’s the value proposition? We ask, despite the fact that if we were honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that the words – “value proposition” – weren’t even in our vocabulary a few years ago.

The value – and benefit – will come. It will come when

1. We first value ourselves and our own contribution and our own people. If you don’t value yourself and your people how can you expect others to?

2. Do the hard necessary work. Communicate with the contractor – what is needed for their model to be worthy, useful? Talk to your attorney and insurer – identify where they are willing to give a bit – and take it.

3. Be the ultimate professional you are capable of being. Be fun to work with – yes, fun. Be someone others want to work with. They will come to you again as much for the experience as for the sheer joy you create in others.

4. Identify the things you can leverage – your permitting ability, your political connections or clout, your experience and insights.

So for now, you may not get rich like the contractor or like the owner, but…do it anyway.

“80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen

Do it anyway? That’s right.

But what’s in it for us architects?

1. You’ll stay in the game.

2. You’ll be the first others think of when things pick up.

3. You’ll gain valuable experience working with BIM and related technologies and the collaborative work processes enabled by them.

4. Perhaps most of all, you’ll be perceived as being easy to work with.

So in the meantime – no matter the answer – do it anyway.

While the answer is being worked out – you’ll be at the game, at the show. It will go a long way to prove yourself a team player. And that in itself, in this economy, in these crazy times, is something, not nothing.

That you’re in it for more than obvious financial gain will become apparent to all and appreciated by a few.

For now, for the time being, do it anyway.

Balky Architects

But they won’t praise us.

Do it anyway

The extra effort won’t be appreciated.

Do it anyway

It’ll just give us additional exposure we don’t need.

Do it anyway

It’s not our responsibility.

Do it anyway

They say they’ll just use another firm if we balk.

Do it anyway

They say we won’t get any more money because we should have been doing this all along.

Do it anyway

The Way Out for Architects is the Way Through

As much as you might like to, you just can’t avoid it. You can’t resist it. No, you can’t sit this dance out. You have to go through with it. You have to play to win. And if you play nicely, with a good attitude and a positive mindset from the outset – all the better.

The way out is the way through. There is no other way.

Not around. Not under. Not by standing still until 9you hope) it goes away.

There are no workarounds for architects in the Game of BIM, LEED and IPD.

You have to show to play. And you have to play to win.

Being obstinate won’t work. Blocking, playing hard to get, holding back, balking, withdrawing, thwarting, resisting or retreating – none of this behavior will work. There is only one thing that will work right now, today.

Give Unconditional Architecture

Author Kent M. Keith was a Harvard student in the 60s when he first wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments,” a manifesto about doing good in a crazy, ungrateful world. These commandments have been quoted by the Boy Scouts of America and discovered in Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta. They’ve taken on a life of their own and are the basis of his repackaged and expanded book Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World available for a penny, .01 cent, here.

What architects need most to do is to do the right thing.

Architects need to do good, right now, in a crazy, ungrateful world.

The Architect’s Paradoxical Commandments

1. People you work with and for are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.

Serve them anyway.

2. If you do good, contractors will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

4. The good you did yesterday will be resented today and forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

5. Honesty and frankness make you appear weak and vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

6. The biggest architects with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest clients with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

8. What you spend years building may be shelved or even destroyed overnight.

Design and build anyway.

9. The public and users really need help but may attack you if you try to help them.

Help them anyway.

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

– with apologies to Kent M. Keith

Until there is a clear advantage for architects – Do It Anyway

I was talking with a colleague the other day – she has been looking for work for some time and said that the basic attitude out there in the job-hunt warzone is:

“No BIM, no LEED, no interview”

Imagine a sign on the office door that reads:

No BIM

No LEED

No interview

You may not have a shirt on your back – and your shoes may be in ill-repair – but you can have these. BIM , LEED and IPD – or BIM and Integrated Design, for short.

You know the sign that reads: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service?”

BIM is the shirt on our backs.

LEED and IPD each of our shoes.

We’re not too far off from being turned away from RFQs and RFPs and, yes, from interviews:

No BIM

No LEED

No interview

There are a lot of reasons to learn BIM. And a lot of reasons to study and take the LEED exam.

Not fall behind, to remain competitive, to stay sharp, to help our clients achieve their goals,to help make the world a better place for all (need I continue?)

I have in my time been accused of being an architect. And, by association, idealistic.

I suggested the other day to a colleague in my network that there was a dollar amount above which was unnecessary for me to make to be satisfied, fulfilled and happy. And that person called me an idealistic architect.

And in doing so he was being redundant. Idealistic defined here as foolhardy, unrealistic and lacking any business sense.

And architect?

Doesn’t pay what I’m worth? I don’t care – I do it anyway.

There are lots of reasons NOT to do these things

No time

No money

No motivation

Helpless

Pointless

Too many people out there competing for the same positions

There are no jobs…

All excuses

No time?

Do it anyway

No money?

Do it anyway

No motivation?

Do it anyway (the most important writing advice I have ever been given? 3 words: Butt in seat)

Feel helpless? You are not your feelings. The feeling will pass.

Do it anyway

What’s the point?

Do it anyway

Too many people out there competing for the same positions.

Do it anyway

There are no jobs!

Do it anyway

You get the point…Do it anyway

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Filed under BIM, BIM employment, BIM jobs, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, Uncategorized