Tag Archives: construction

What Will You Do That’s Extraordinary?

Architects 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?


Leave a comment

Filed under BIM, collaboration, design professionals, modeling, people, workflow

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.


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


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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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.


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

Why Bring Another Book into this World?


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

a Pecha Kucha talk entitled

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

20 slides,

20 seconds each.

Let me know what you think.



There’s a crisis in the profession

At 2 industry events just like this

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

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

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

To quickly and effectively confront this situation head-on

I wrote a 300 page book

And published it with a traditional publisher

In just over 2 ½ years

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

I started by building an online platform

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

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

What else you got?

Most writers have a book but no publisher

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

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

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

The publisher selects 3

Three that they feel would make a compelling book

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

There was a sense of urgency – time was running out

The architecture profession is experiencing an identity crisis

The way we communicate knowledge to one another is changing

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

Nor, for that matter, bookstores.

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

So is our environment

The world has a problem – it is heating up

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration takes work and a prepared mindset

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

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

My book sought to fill this gap.

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

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

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

Like Two great tastes that taste great together.

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

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

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

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

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

So why a book?

A book allows you to collect knowledge in one place

Tell a coherent, compelling story

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

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

Our communications today are ephemeral

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

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

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

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

I made the book essentially a collection of stories

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

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

Technology books are notorious for becoming dated or obsolete

To ensure that the book would remain relevant

Its focus is on people, relationships, and workflow.

These subjects are not as fickle as software and computers.

Technology may come and go.

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

I grew up with Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago

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

After 48 years in business,

Prairie Avenue Bookshop closed while I was writing the book.

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

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

and have started to formulate their own insights

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

People who were working in it,

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

And people who were teaching it.

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

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

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

Writing this book changed my perspective on everything.

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

It’s like the observer effect

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

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

We so often think of collaborating with others outside our organization

When the most effective collaboration occurs every day, internally

Mentoring up and down

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

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

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

How can BIM advance the profession of architecture?

How can collaboration assure the survival of the architect?

This is not a technology book or a process book

This is a knowledge book

A book assuring that this knowledge is not lost.

Over 100,000 books are published in the US annually

So why bring another book into this world?

To shed some light

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

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

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

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

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


Filed under BIM, BIM expert, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Design, people, process, workflow

The Needle and the Damage Done

I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
Neil Young “Needle and the Damage Done”

Ready for today’s physics lesson?

I’ll try to keep this simple (think of it as Physics for Architects.)

Think of a weight suspended from a pivot – so it can swing freely.

Think of it swinging .

Now, on one extreme is design and on the other construction…

 The Physics of Working in BIM

Like a pendulum, what architects sometimes need is that initial push. Just a little nudge.

Who will supply it?

Where will it come from?

Who will convince the architect to move from his complacent static state?


Not so fast. BIM is not the impetus but the enabler.

BIM is not the push – but the reaction to unforeseen (except for the industry’s seers) circumstances.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves in this lesson.

Bob the Architect

Recent changes in the AEC industry have displaced the architect from his position of resting equilibrium.

Let’s call this industry stalwart Bob.

Let’s subject Bob to a restoring force.

That accelerates Bob back toward the equilibrium position.

With me so far? Good. Let’s continue.

When released, the restoring force combined with the pendulum’s mass – Bob – causes it to oscillate about the equilibrium position, swinging back and forth.

Now, normally oscillating isn’t something you want to strive for.

Normally when architects oscillate it means they can’t make up their mind – while the building has not only been modeled and built but is well into its first renovation having recently received the 25 Year Award.

This isn’t that kind of oscillating.

But it is that very back and forth motion – swinging between the opposite poles of design and construction – that describes the architect’s current predicament.

DESIGN <———————————————————–> CONSTRUCTION

The time for one complete cycle, a left swing and a right swing, is called a period.

When working in BIM, depending on your focus and LOD, it can feel like your period is very, very slow.

Like, as in never.

But in reality, for every move in one direction, there’s a corresponding move in the other.

In reality (we’re getting quantum here) – the two poles don’t exist – they are one and the same. When you work in one, you’re working in the other. But we’ll get to that in a moment. (This, in journalism, is known as a teaser.)

I know. Don’t tease me bro.Here’s one cool thing: the period is independent of Bob’s mass. In other words, it doesn’t matter if Bob’s a heavy weight or a light user, if a senior member of the team or just starting out – the swing back and forth is the same.

Hanging with Bob

The word ‘pendulum’ is from the Latin pendulus, meaning ‘hanging.’

A reminder that architects will hang themselves by not making a move toward construction.

If there is a message here: Get your weight moving!

And fast. Not to one extreme OR the other: but like BIM, back and forth, back and forth. Ad nauseum. (Or is that ad infinitum?)

Ad infinitum.

But back and forth at a constant amplitude.

Because it’s all about your amplitude and mindset.

What’s so cool about the pendulum, once started, it will never stop*

*Unless it does. Subjected to friction and drag – which all architects can attest to experiencing from time to time.

The weight (Bob) keeps moving – back and forth – at a constant positive amplitude.

So what happens when Bob, a rigid body, has a bad amplitude? And is unwilling to move from his position or to change?

Bob dies.

He disappears. Nada. Ixnay. Bob no more.

No more Bob.

Do You Swing?

For many architects, their pendulum only swings in one direction – left of center – toward design.

And that is because – as most clients and contractors and consultants and courtesans know – architects are addicted to design.

Only they’ve seen the needle but not the damage done. The damage to designer’s reputation, responsibility, reliability and resulting reward.

If they’ve seen it, they’re not letting-on. Not by changing their behavior anyway.

Nor their negative amplitude.

Architects need to find a new balance – and equilibrium – between design and construction.

Not one over the other (to those who would say upon learning BIM, “If I wanted to know how to build I would have become a contractor!”) but moving, back and forth, continuously between the twin poles.

For continuing to hover only to the design side of the meter is not only impossible and unsustainable – it’s unnatural and perhaps most offensive of all to the design set, inelegant. Like a lopsided clock.

Or one even more sinister and dire.Perpetual wallflowers, architects need to crash through their real and perceived barriers. Through education and training. And working on their amplitude.

This will require crashing through the proverbial electrical and invisible wireless dog fence that separates wi-fido from swinging into the adjacent construction yard. (“Has your architect made you sick with worry? Wandering around the neighborhood, visiting all his construction buddies leaving you scared because you don’t know where he is?”) As if! Not a chance.

Designer Drugs

Many clients know that, for their architects, design is their drug of choice.

And treat them accordingly.

Owners have been known to withhold it when they want something and want to be assured of getting it.

I know of one client who would – for sport, bemusement, vindictiveness – give an architect a design assignment at 5PM on a Friday and say they needed it by 8AM on Monday and when that time rolled around they never called. The only thing rolling was the client in hysterics on the carpet.

And the architect’s tired eyes.

How did they know the architect would spend all weekend working on it, for, say, no pay?

They were once architects themselves.

Or – as clients – still are.

There are interventions for architects who need to wean themselves off the designer drug and the best 12-letter, 12-step program I know of is spelled C.O.N.S.T.R.U.C.T.I.O.N. (count ‘em.)














When you break construction down to its constituent parts architects realize it is less threatening because construction is really design’s missing twin and other half – opposite swing – of what architects do.Construction contains the very essence of what defines design – and vice versa.

To see design and construction as somehow separate has been a convenient, ill-advised and largely wrong-headed contrivance for the past half-century. A century for architects that apparently has yet to end.

Design contains construction, and construction contains design. They are both part of each other, of the pendulum swing, dependent on one another.

Lesson wrap-up: If you have the sort of pendulum in which most of the mass is concentrated in Bob, the center of oscillation is close to the center of mass, and Bob swings more freely between design and construction.

To put that another way, if the decision to move (toward BIM, toward IPD, toward the Future) comes from within – if it is an inside job – and not forced, coerced or manipulated from some outside source, Bob is more likely to continue moving.

Moving is good. It means you’re not dead yet.

And not dead yet is a good thing.

Gyration? Spinning? Dizziness?

One of the earliest known uses of a pendulum was to sway after being disturbed by the tremor of an earthquake far away. Think of recent changes – economic, political, environmental, technological – as a not too distant earthquake. These changes in the AEC industry and the profession are enough to get Bob moving into action.

Or so you would think.

An 8.8 magnitude earthquake could occur right beneath your pendulum and for some reason Bob just sits there, like nothing’s happened.

There is an explanation in physics for such inexplicably erratic behavior.

But this is a family BIM blog.

Like BIM itself, pendulums (penduli) had many uses – and also like BIM, most were not immediately utilized. Besides the low hanging fruit of determining the location of distant earthquakes, pendulums were used to locate satellites (before they were invented!), the turning of tides, as power sources for operating reciprocating saws and bellows, for pumping.

And for adorning end tables and nightstands.

But with its use for timekeeping, the world experienced something of a pendulum-mania much like the BIM-mania we’re experiencing today.The Curious Case of Collaborative Pendulums

Is it possible to take a metaphor too far?

Just watch.

Think of Integrated Design as coupled oscillators.

Fancy this. Two pendulums placed on a mantlepiece soon acquire opposing motions.

That is, the pendulums beat in unison but in the opposite direction, 180° out of phase.

Kind of like when architects and contractors were at odds years ago back when they worked in something then called the “Design-Bid-Build” delivery method.

Regardless of how the two clocks were started, observers found that they would eventually return to this state, thus making the first recorded observation – outside of an architectural partnership – of a coupled oscillator.

The cause of this weird, inexplicable behavior was that the two pendulums were affecting each other through slight motions of the supporting mantelpiece.

Which just goes to show that collaboration requires a strong foundation – built of trust, but oak will do – in order to act in unison. For more on pendulums go here.

Trust the Pendulum

Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr, a Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers – featured here in a recent post and mentioned here in a recent interview in the now defunct** BD+C  ‘IPD is light years ahead of traditional delivery’ – that for architects, the needle has swung too far away from responsibility.

BD+C: Do architects and engineers need to “own” their risk more often?

Ashcraft: The needle has swung too far in the direction of insulating oneself from liability and separating oneself from the other parties in the construction process. That really has not been a successful strategy. The needle needs to swing more toward accepting responsibility for the entire process and making sure that the bad events—cost overruns, failures, and the like—don’t occur.About the needle metaphor. While a meter is strictly 2D-like CAD, a 3D metaphor would be closer to the pendulum-like BIM.

Between designers/practical artists/architects on one side and contractors on the other.

In a recent blog post by the inestimable Jonathan Fields, he wrote about online marketer Wendy Piersall who said something that resonated deeply with Fields:

“She was talking about how she swings from being massively public and conversational to relative introversion. ‘Over the years,’ she said, ‘I realized I don’t have to be one or the other. I’ve learned to trust the pendulum.’”

It’s the idea that the pendulum is within you – and you have to learn to trust it – as you would yourself.

Trust that you will be able to move back and forth, as we’re discussing here, from design to construction and back.

Fields adds:

“Most of us turn away from the our internal pendulums, giving in, instead, to the pull to follow whatever action, response or expected behavioral convention is laid out by the communities we seek to thrive within.”

Turn toward your inner pendulum and we will all succeed.

**We live in tumultuous times. The needle metaphor used in this post comes from an article printed in a popular online industry journal that no longer exists. Click here for a press release about now defunct Building Design & Construction, also known as BD+C, and how it became that way. Adopting BIM and Integrated Design assures that architects will never need to issue a similar press release.

Pendulum trivia courtesy of Wikipedia.


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