Tag Archives: construction industry

BIM’s Blue Ocean

After I give one of my talks on building information modeling the question I’m most often asked is:

What’s the best BIM business model?

What is the best way to make a profit utilizing building information modeling on projects in their organization?

In other words, how can we leverage the technology to reap the greatest financial reward?

It goes without saying that they have invested a great deal of money in soft- and hardware – and time in getting comfortable with each – and now want to know what the return is on their investment.

Is it the Free business model?

The Long Tail business model?

Or something altogether different?

It’s actually a lot simpler than any of these.

It’s called “coupling.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, let’s take a quick look at two books that use the sea metaphor to help explain how businesses can best address our industry’s ongoing sea changes.

Then we’ll turn this metaphor on to design and construction professional’s situation to see how they can best benefit from the emerging technologies in their organizations.


A book every design and construction professional ought to read is

C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, a book that shows how businesses can survive and thrive in the digital media revolution.

Don’t be turned-off by the book’s emphasis on media – especially digital and social media.

It’s the metaphor that’s applicable here.

The book’s storyline goes something like this:

Not so long ago, the business landscape was easier to chart.

That landscape has been upended, and in its place a “C-Scape” has emerged—a world where

  • Consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where
  • Content, not distribution, is king; where
  • Curation becomes a primary currency of value; and where
  • Convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business.

Taking a more in-depth look at each of these 4 Cs:

Consumers choose what, how, and when they consume information. This has given consumers more power than ever in the relationship with content creators and information sources. Those who don’t respect this new relationship will perish.

Content becomes king. With the Internet able to directly bring the buyer to the seller, the need to have a better product, not just one that is distributed better, will become paramount. Those who had distribution advantages will struggle so long as they are averse to focusing on competing with direct distribution.

Curation cures information overload. Businesses will need to monitor and curate conversations about their brands in order to prevent major blunders.

Convergence revolutionizes every form of communication. New forms of storytelling will emerge as all forms of communication converge on a single platform for the first time. Companies need to learn these new ways of telling stories about their products and brands.

You’ve probably experienced some of these forces yourself, on your teams and in your organizations.

There are some obvious overlaps with the construction industry.

But that’s not where we’re going with this.

While these concepts are astute, they represent the digital media’s C-landscape.

Not our own (unless you consider the idea that every organization is now in the media business.)

Design and Construction’s Seven Seas

Design and construction has its own seascape or C-Scape.

But its seven C’s don’t stand for consumers, content, curation and convergence.

Our seven C’s stand for:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Community
  • Complexity
  • Co-location
  • Co-creation

C-words, make note, all beginning with “co” – for “together.”

While Construction is another one (Coupling is as well) these 7 C’s represent our seascape or blue ocean.


Because in our profession and industry collaboration and the other six concepts are virtually uncharted waters.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant,

You might recall is a book where the blue ocean metaphor represents a vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate.

Unlike “red oceans,” which are well-explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” stand for “untapped market space” and growth.

A few of the book’s basic concepts – implying where we are today and where we are headed – can be summarized as follows:

  • Compete in existing market space >>> Create uncontested market space
  • Beat the competition >>> Make the competition irrelevant
  • Exploit existing demand >>> Create and capture new demand
  • Make the value/cost trade-off >>> Break the value/cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a company’s activities with its choice of differentiation or low cost >>> Align the whole system

BIM isn’t our blue ocean.

Collaboration is.


Because BIM has become – or is fast becoming – ubiquitous.

And collaboration is still largely uncharted territory.

For BIM to live up to its promise, we must make it our goal to use emerging technology to address analysis such as building performance and energy use.

As Phil Bernstein FAIA predicts, “as these platforms get more robust and analytical algorithms get more sophisticated the whole analysis problem moves from things we understand right now – things like airflow and the modulus of elasticity – to building codes and air quality.”

To accomplish this we’ll have to share what we know with one another.

There’s no other way for our industry – and for us – to move forward.

In order for us to achieve our goals and in order for BIM to realize its promise, we will have to first accept, then relearn, how to communicate and share information.

The best way for design and construction professionals to accomplish this is by working together.

By leveraging each other’s experience and expertise.

By keeping an open line of communication and exercising it constantly.

By looking to one another for insights and solutions.

If we are to survive and overcome the forces that are remaking the design and construction landscape, we will do whatever is in our power to learn to work compatibly and effectively.


Coupling Design and Construction

Design professionals, especially, like to go it alone.

They find the idea of sharing design input, and more so, responsibility threatening.

“Let me take it back to the office and study it” is their onsite mantra.

Concerning our desire to peel away and sequester ourselves, I love this quote from the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.

Four small words that were barely noticed when she said them at the Jackson Hole Symposium:

“Decoupling is a myth.”

Making the case for the key issue for the world economy:

Everything is coupled to everything else.

As futurist and iconoclast Stowe Boyd notes, “the steps taken to date have not decomplexified the economic tarball. No real steps have been taken to make the world economic system less connected, and that is the only path to a safer world.”

Like the rest of the world and economy, we are all in this together.


There’s no extracting any one entity from the collective.

For design and construction professionals, it’s all “co” from here on out.


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Filed under analysis, BIM, BIM organizations, business model, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, modeling

Are We Productive Yet?

The message was clear.

The way we – as a profession and industry – were going about things was self-destructive and unproductive.

It wasn’t working. Not for us and not for owners. Something had to be done.

Enter BIM and Integrated Design

Together BIM (Building Information Modeling) and IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) would save the day.

No longer would construction be the lone industry to not see any increase in productivity over the past 40 years.

Our troubles would be behind us.

Together this dynamic duo would optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste and cost, shorten project schedules, improve working relationships and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction.

Together, cost overruns would be overcome; delays and late changes would be history.

Or so the thinking goes.

Where are we headed?

Take a look at the above chart.

The orange line indicates construction productivity.

The blue line, the one edging upward, is everybody else.

If you look closely, the above chart takes us through 2004. Maybe 2006.

That’s roughly around the time IPD was first being discussed and soon introduced as a full-fledged delivery option.

We’re in need of a new chart – to see if BIM and IPD together are working.

Are making us more productive.

If all works as planned, the next release of this chart will look something like thisBut we know these things take time.

We hear every day even if we were to turn on a dime and change our wasteful, harmful habits that global warming would take decades before we saw improvement.

It’s a bit like unemployment where we need to create jobs just to stay even.

Where even if we were to create 90,000 jobs per month that we would just break even and see no decrease in the current unemployment rate.

So why should we expect to see any improvement in the years since this chart was issued?

Because we started to work with BIM?

Because we have the first evidence of teams working with some success in Integrated Design?No one believes things will take a sudden turn for the worse.

This is not even an option.

We will all be shocked and dismayed should the next release of this chart show that despite our changes and intentions and best efforts that things have started to go south


Has our industry flat-lined?

While we need to be patient to see results and an improvement there is still much we can be doing.

Unless we want to see our productivity remain flat well into a fifth decade, and accept the consequences, we will have to change.

100% adoption and implementation across the industry of BIM tools and work processes.We need to move swiftly and expertly up the D ladder – using BIM not only for the low hanging fruit of coordination but working collaboratively, to reap the real benefits of using these tools on integrated teams.

And most importantly, we need to do this together.


We need to work for the project – not for our own private gain.

With the faith, belief, understanding and irony that when you work for the project, all gain.

We need to commit to making our teammates successful and look good and believe that by doing so we will look good as well.

We need to give up our self-regard when it comes at the expense of the team and the owner’s goals.The project comes first.

We will not suffer any consequences if we maintain this as our mantra heading into the foreseeable future, one blessed with increasing workloads, design and construction opportunities.

Uppermost graph courtesy of Paul Teicholz, founding Director, Center for Integrated Facility Engineering, Stanford University


Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, Uncategorized

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


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?


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?


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.”


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:

i. Find the Bright Spots
ii. Script the Critical Moves
iii. Point to the Destination

i. Find the Feeling
ii. Shrink the Change
iii. Grow Your People

i. Tweak the Environment
ii. Build Habits
iii. Rally the Herd

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.


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?”


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.


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.


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.”


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?


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.


Filed under BIM, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD