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

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

7 Great Reasons to Attend this Year’s Symposium:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the Symposium brochure.

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

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

Thanks!

The facts: Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction

August 15-17, 2012

Northwestern University, School of Law

Thorne Auditorium

375 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago

www.techforconstruction.com

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

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A Seeker’s Guide to BIM and Integrated Design

If BIM isn’t a spiritual practice why does it have so many dimensions? – Anonymous

The vast majority of design and construction professionals are happy to put in their time with the model and go home at the end of the day knowing they’ve contributed their share.

A small handful suspect there is something more to BIM than that.

This post is for them.

If you count yourself among the few – consider yourself a seeker.

Seekers recognize that BIM is not just technology, the next generation software.

For these select few, BIM is not an end in itself but a means to a higher end.

For seekers, BIM is a calling: an opportunity to tap into – and act on – their higher selves.

They may not be able to articulate what this something more is – they’re seekers after all.

Call their approach Zen and the Art of BIM Modeling or Modeling on the Contractor Within – titles admittedly as trite as they are timeless.

But they very well may be on to something.

Their approach to BIM is the subject of this post.

While I’m going to get a bit new-agey on you here

– seeing that this is a why-to not a how-to blog –

I won’t ask you to model crystals or bead curtains in ArchiCAD.

If the last time you were so incensed was when you got miffed at someone in the field,

And if you have no patience for pseudo-spirituality, sentimentality, proselytizing, fanaticism, holier-than-thou delusions and spiritual tourism,

Read on anyway.

A Better Way

This post is for those who are seeking a better way – to live, to work and to practice.

Let me start off by saying that the word “seeker” has a vaguely 60’s sound.

OK it has an overtly 60’s sound.

While it may seem like the only seekers these days are job seekers,

This is just not the case.

Meditate on this

I suspect if you’ve come here –and read this far – that you may be a seeker too.

Wherever you find yourself on the BIM path – considering it, adopting it, implementing it, mastering it, transcending it – you are on the right path.

While BIM has only been in the collective consciousness for a little more than a quarter century – the wisdom of working in BIM is ageless – having been passed down by master builders from generation to generation since the beginning of recorded construction.

Passed down today in the form of twin tablet computers each inscribed with Ten Commands.

Here, for the first time, are the 20 Commands every seeker ought to grok when working in BIM and Integrated Design.

Command I. Master BIM

For those more familiar with modeling programs and computer monitors than prayer books, BIM returns the user to a reverence for architecture and construction.

Whether you prefer your Testament Old or New, add a black silk tassel and you’ll find yourself on the critical path.

Whether you

»        haven’t tried BIM yet,

»        have been trained in BIM but aren’t using it,

»        are working in BIM but have not yet mastered it, or

»        have mastered BIM and are teaching it

start on page 1, and make it your goal to work your way through – tips, techniques and tutorials – from beginning to end until you have achieved Mastery.

Accept BIM. For whatever you accept, you go beyond.

Increase you personal and professional mastery by mastering BIM.

Command II. Honor your Inner Contractor

The days of freewheeling design – without a conscience, without acknowledgement of impacts to the environment, budget, schedule, material and labor availability and construction methods – are over.

Architects claim these were top-of-mind when putting pencil to paper and they may well have been.

But perhaps not so much when they were maneuvering a mouse.

Construction has become too complicated to keep everything in one’s head.

So work with checklists, and honor your inner contractor.

You’ll feel more complete.

And when contractors honor their inner architects we will all be as one.

Command III. Choose your Guide Wisely

When the student is ready the teacher appears.

Just as Google is our main map to the information highway, what is your map or guide to BIM?

Consider this guide, or a teacher, trainer, mentor or Sherpa.

Every pilgrim needs a map when first starting out, to chart a path in troubled times.

Make it personal – after learning the basics, learn your own way, and take your own path.

Plan your own journey into BIM and IPD.

Determine what works for you.

Just as America is a cross-pollination of religious, political, psychological, metaphysical, and ancient traditions that have flowered into contemporary life, you bring to your study of BIM and IPD years of schooling, work experience, indoctrination, beliefs, preferences and prejudices.

From these you will carve out your own path.

Create from this a contemporary, personalized approach to practicing BIM and Integrated Design.

Who will be your guide – your guiding light in these dark times? Who will help guide you on your charted or uncharted path?

Find a guide that sees themselves as a conduit to your professional education and fulfillment.

One that has your best interests and goals in mind.

To find a guide, look for signposts along the way.

Command IV. Let Go

Too many grasp – hold too tightly – to CAD, our old way of doing things.

Holding on to what came before. It is said,

A change here is a change everywhere.

So let go.

And let the program do the heavy lifting of coordination.

Freeing you to do what you do best.

The reason you went into this career in the first place.

It’s a scary proposition: BIM frees you to be what you were meant to be.

No excuses. No blame.

BIM is the end game.

You can think of working in BIM as dealing with loss – losing what came before.

But it is better to think of working in BIM from the perspective of a beginner.

To approach BIM with beginner’s mind.

For you cannot approach BIM with a CAD mindset.

There’s an art to starting over. It’s the art of letting go – of the old ways of doing things.

So let the new way in.

Relinquish the past and the future and work in BIM in the here and now.

Command V. The Best way to Learn BIM is to Teach BIM

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother. Einstein

Spending the past year writing a BIM book I have had to explain the concept to far too many grandmother types.

The best way to learn something is to teach it.

It is a priceless exercise to hone what you know by communicating it so simply and clearly that anyone could understand.

Even a seventh grader.

Most journalists are instructed to write so that a 7th grader could understand.

Could you explain what you do to a seventh grader so that they understand?

Volunteer at the local campus, sit in on crits, give a lunch and learn in your own office of that of a competitor, or help out those in the workplace by mentoring up or down.

But whatever you do – in order to learn BIM – you’ve got to teach it.

Command VI. Chop BIM, Carry IPD

Enlightenment can be found in the practice of BIM.

So practice BIM as though it were an art form.

But also practice BIM as you would do the dishes or brush your teeth.

Think of practicing BIM and working in IPD as nothing special.

Make BIM your practice and IPD your path.

Be present when working in BIM and mindful when working in IPD.

Bring awareness to every move you make in the model and at the table.

Command VII. BIM Marks a Return to the Shaping of Space

You were meant to be many things.

But perhaps most of all you were meant to be a shaper of space.

Working in BIM provides you – once more – with the opportunity to shape space.

We hear a lot about BIM objects.

The essence of BIM isn’t objects but emptiness.

BIM empowers you to work with all that is absent, what is not there.

Just as the air between the spokes forms the wheel.

Use BIM to give shape to the space between things.

Command VIII. Change the way you look at BIM and BIM itself will change

Use BIM to help you simply see things most people do not.

Look at BIM as just a tool – and that is what it will be for you.

Look at BIM as something more – a process, a path – and that is what it will be for you.

Your choice.

Don’t try to change BIM – it’s hard enough to get hold of someone at Autodesk – change the way you see it.

What’s easier? Changing you or changing Autodesk?

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change. Max Planck

Working in BIM and IPD should provide a peace that comes from seeing the world differently, more openly.

Command IX. BIM is not a Destination but a Journey

BIM is a tool as well as a process.

But what sort of process?

BIM is a process for reaching personal, professional and organizational goals.

A process for getting more work and becoming more profitable.

And a process for remaining relevant.

A process for working cooperatively with our teammates.

Make working in BIM your process, your journey, your path and you will prosper.

Command X. To Work in an Integrated Manner, Work from within – not without

BIM is an inside job.

Working in BIM will teach you that a building is not a rectangle with a roof and entry added any more than a bird is not an ellipse with head and tail added.

That’s SketchUp.

BIM is instead yet another form of your inner being, which you first have to identify yourself with in order to become a silent link of the creative flow.

In other words, you have to see yourself as integral to the design and construction of the model.

You do not stand apart from it.

Nor do you see yourself as separate or isolated.

It is not that you become one with the model.

That’s when you misidentify with what you are creating which can only lead to frustration.

Instead, become part of the process itself.

Not additive – though it may seem this way – but integrated.

You are working toward making a complete, whole work of art and architecture.

Not a building with things that can be blown off in a strong gust of value engineering.

With BIM everything is both connected and interconnected.

Command XI. The I in BIM is for Building

Enough has been written and said for now about the “I” in BIM.

BIM plain and simple is about the experience of Building.

Building, not destroying or tearing down.

Building, however virtually.

When you build in BIM you are building virtue-ly.

Not just with one’s eyes or hands alone, but with all of one’s senses, heart and spirit.

BIM allows you to put all of yourself into the model.

So put yourself into the model.

Don’t talk. Don’t draw. Build.

Command XII. BIM is the Path back to Purpose

We were doing ourselves a disservice.

We were designing irresponsibly.

We went into our chosen field – architecture, engineering or construction – for a reason.

So many of us have abandoned this reason.

Because it became more important to make rent or mortgage or associate.

Than to pursue our dreams.

BIM allows you to honor yourself. Your higher purpose. Your reason.

BIM gives you the opportunity to design and build honestly.

BIM and IPD together offer the chance to work honestly, with trust, with reward.

Command XIII. When you Work in BIM you Make Things Whole

There is a hidden wholeness in all you do.

You job is to discover it and uncover it.

Just as Michelangelo said every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it, so too it is your role in BIM to discover the building inside.

As it is your role in BIM to discover the builder inside you.

We have for too long been incomplete, part architects.

Make it your goal to become whole again.

More complete architects as Winter Street Architect’s Paul Durand put it so aptly in BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011.)

Command XIV. BIM and Integrated Design’s Holistic Approach to Construction

Integrated Design is where a building is designed holistically using input from key stakeholders, including architects, contractors and owners.

A Whole Building Design approach involves immediate feedback from stakeholders on design decisions – an iterative process that draws from the wisdom of all involved throughout the life cycle of the project.

Resulting in greener projects, projects with less conflicts and needless cost expenditures.

Whole architect. Whole contractor. Whole building.

Command XV. BIM as a Discipline by which the World of Construction may be Rediscovered

BIM doesn’t teach you to draw, it teaches you to see.

Working in BIM helps you to learn to focus your attention while drawing, designing and constructing the model.

BIM teaches you that it is more important to be concerned with what you are observing than what you are putting down on paper or feeding into the monitor.

Observing the order of construction, layers of materials.

The steps taken in your seat are the steps taken in the field.

You understand why trades tripped all over each other at the jobsite,

Because you were doing so in the drawing.

You have a newfound appreciation for what comes after design.

Because you are at the jobsite when seated at your monitor.

On your bouncy ball.

Command XVI. Flow and Working in BIM

With BIM, there’s workflow. And, with BIM, there’s flow.

When so engrossed in what you are doing that time stands still?

Or disappears altogether?

That’s flow.

Get to the point where you are challenged by the work at hand.

But not so much so that you have to stop and ask questions every 20 seconds.

Aspire to ask questions every 30 seconds.

Then one every minute.

Doing so feeds the soul on a level akin to meditation.

And won’t aggravate your colleagues as much.

Work in BIM. Melt into the moment.

Command XVII. Approach BIM and IPD with Fearlessness

Look boldly at these tools and processes we have been given.

Here, now, on earth.

As a design professional or construction worker.

Everything changes…

Be bold.

Master the art of BIM to produce positive changes in our profession and industry.

Master the art of IPD to produce positive changes in our world.

This is not the time to be a wuss.

Command XVIII. Listen to your Body

BIM is intense work.

Taxing on the eyes, neck and wrists.

Long hours at your workstation, face in monitor – takes its toll.

Do not underestimate the wear and tear on your body.

Honor yourself. Play foosball. Take a prescription painkiller. Take a break.

Command XIX. “Live the Questionsrather thanSeek the Answers

A wise colleague estimated that when first starting out in BIM there will be one question every 20 seconds.

That can be taxing on you – and your more knowledgeable teammates.

Try this.

Come to them with solutions – suggestions – not questions.

Not how do I do x?

But when I tried x this happens WTF?

Not is there a better way?

But rather is this a better way?

Provide alternative solutions as you seek to understand.

Command XX. Create a Supportive Community

Join BIM groups on LinkedIn such as BIM Experts or AUGI.

Join BIM groups in your city or community.

But don’t just join – participate.

As with all things when you co-join you are helping to create community.

Meet with colleagues and peers after hours in your breakout room.

Make sure there’s plenty of Dos XX.

If for no other reason than to remind yourself:

You are not alone.

It is up to you to let everybody know:

We are all in this together.

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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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My So-Called Parametric Life

This life has been a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have received instructions on where to go and what to do.                                                                                                         Angela in “My So-Called Life” 1994

Is it just me or has life gone totally parametric? Perhaps only a BIM evangelist, BIMhead or BIMaholic would propose BIM as a metaphor for life. (Guilty as charged.) So, what does it mean to live a parametric life?

It is not, of course, that you are a Revit model or are about to become one. While that is for some a distant possibility, your story – the one you are putting out there, not your life but your so-called life – has become a Revit model. Have you noticed?

Ask yourself this: At any time in your previous life (BB = Before BIM, AC = After CAD) did you ever dream in CAD? Those who used to work in CAD would recognize the scenario where you go home at the end of a long day at the monitor and dream in CAD – dreaming that you are living in a 2D drawing – in a CAD world.

Living a Parametric Life

I am not asking what it means to dream in BIM or what it means to have BIM dreams. To work so hard and for so long in BIM that we start dreaming in…3 dimensions? We already do that and have for millennia. Little more than wearing 3D glasses to bed.

But living in BIM? That’s something else altogether. Living in BIM is something that we’re only now getting around to doing. We find ourselves living in BIM

  • because in some ways we’re well ahead of the technology, processing information and anticipating next moves that leaves the software – however well-intentioned – in the dust.
  • because we recognize some of the amazing things the process accomplishes and we want to model the behavior in our own lives.
  • because we know in our bones that BIM is the future – we get it – and we want to be part and parcel of this future.

We’re told over and over that the software thinks just like us – architects, contractors, whoever. But most of us have discovered, some the hard way, that we have come, over time, to think like the software. Revit doesn’t think like us – we’re thinking like Revit. That’s living in BIM.

I offer these 14 Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM not as failsafe rules we need to follow – but to bring to our attention things we’re already doing right, right now, and ought to build on as we move forward. In other words, behavior – not buildings – that we ought to be modeling.

14 Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM

  • Be the interoperability you want to see. The old words don’t apply – learn the new vocabulary and make sure that everyone you speak with understands how you are using these terms. You want to be speaking the same language, make sure you are working on the same page. Until the time comes when models talk with each other, and software speaks fluidly with complete comprehension, take it upon yourself to make sure you are speaking the same language with those you work with, no matter their role on the team. How can we expect our software to be interoperable if we aren’t?
  • A change anywhere is a change everywhere. You get the concept: Work you do in one part impacts the others. Parametrics, of course, is a distinguishing quality of building information modeling (BIM.) As with bidirectional associativity, a change anywhere is a change everywhere. There’s no escaping it – a change made in one place – compartment, area, phase – of your life impacts all the other places of your life. So be careful about what you change – whether your work habits, the way you communicate or how you operate within the team. Whatever you change about yourself will have repercussions throughout. Being parametric implies you’re consistent, you stay on-story, and you’re building not just a model but a brand. No matter how they cut you, you’re the same through and through.
  • Your space-keeper and workaround is someone else’s obstruction. The choices and decisions we make must have integrity because they will be repeated everywhere. What’s worse, you will be judged by the integrity of your information. If you are awaiting information and need to plug something in just to keep the ball moving – notify the team – especially contractors who view missing data as roadblocks, no matter your good intentions or justification. And don’t make a habit of it. Your goal ought to be to see how long you can keep the plates spinning.
  • You can’t step into the same model twice. A model is more like a river than a thing. Your contribution to the building of the model has more to do with the communication of information than the rock-solid enclosure you consider your domain. We’re not designing objects or things (and never really were) – but flows, communicating information to others. The model you jump into and help out on today is not the same model you worked on yesterday – especially if you’re working on an integrated team. The more you can think in terms of systems and flows the better off you’ll be.
  • Run an internal clash detection of your team before starting on the project. Look for supportive personalities, learners, those who are passionate and excited to work, those who enjoy what they do and for whom working in BIM – and ideally on this particular project – was a choice. And weed out the devil’s advocates and other contrarians – unless the criticism is constructive, regularly leading to decisions and action, offering alternatives when one course is shot down.
  • Consistency is king. Aim for an inherent consistency to everything you do. Take LOD. Make sure your team knows what level of detail (LOD) you are modeling to. That each part of the model has the same level of detail. Think of detail in terms of levels – as in levels of detail – that are built upon. A conceptual model ought to have conceptual level of detail throughout the model. Same with a model used for energy analysis, for quantity take-offs and estimating, for fabrication. And so on. Like roughing out a sketch – you start with the basic shapes, then you fill in detail, until the image is fleshed out. So too with the consistency of the information you impart. If you are job hunting – don’t, under your “Reading on Amazon” widget – have the 4-Hour Work Week as your recommended book. It undermines your message. Use LinkedIn’s book section to reinforce your message or let others know what you’re reading – but stay on-message. That goes for your work both in the model and on your team. Don’t say one thing and do another. That’s so CAD.
  • What you see is what you get. Your model is only as good as the information that you put in it. Garbage in, garbage out. There’s no hiding anymore. So be real. There’s no faking it either– who we are and what we do are expected to be real, so be real. Hemingway had what he called a built-in bullshit detector. All the best writers have this. You need to develop or acquire this talent for yourself. And be aware that those working but upstream and downstream from you have their turned up on high.
  • Decisions are consequences. We’re no longer designing objects or things, but courses of action. Our decisions impact others – we need to be aware of the consequences for our courses of action on every facet of  the team and process. Look at every decision you make in terms of whom it impacts both upstream and downstream.
  • While you model the building, model your behavior. Think of each team and project you are on as an opportunity to put in an exemplary performance. You are serving as a role model for others whether you are aware of it or not. And as with raising kids, your behavior – the way you act and perform – is worth 10X the impact of your words.
  • Perform an expectation audit. How you see the model/what you do might be different from how others see it – ask them how they plan on using the model – then try as best you can to accommodate them. Ask the contractor early on how they plan on using the model, what level of detail they would like to see in the model, then try to accommodate them. If money is an issue, discuss being compensated or remunerated with the owner.
  • Play well with others even if your software doesn’t. Another way of saying get in the habit of behaving as though the software does what you want it to do – because the time will come, soon – when it will. You want to be ready for when the day arrives. Better the technology plays catch-up, not you.
  • Your model doesn’t limit itself to 3D. Why should you? Don’t limit yourself to 3 dimensions. What about a 4D you and a 5D you? If you are doing your job and even doing it well you might be selling yourself sort – by a dimension or two. Look for ways you can be contributing beyond your title and role. Because when you work on an integrated team, you are more – much more – than these labels. Yes, you need to perform and do the work that has been assigned to you, your teammates are relying on you for this. Your model isn’t limited to 3D – nor are you. What would the 4D version of yourself look like? But the true value of working collaboratively is the way you keep others – and their focus – in your peripheral vision – just of your own cone of focus. Look for ways to cut time – and save money – for others, and be prepared to make these suggestions before the subjects come up. Always keep an eye on the horizon – and the topic of the next team meeting.
  • Ask yourself: If I was the model what else would I do? What else can I provide that others may need? Your original intention for your model may have been to use the model for one thing – but what if you also used it for a rendering? For an animation? As a database to run energy applications? Similarly – ask yourself: what else can you do or provide that others may need? How else can you push the envelope on yourself in terms of what you can add in the way of value at this time, for these team members, on this project?
  • Are you leveraging the technology of your team? Look around you – at those seated at the table. Do they have certain skillsets, experience or resources that you could leverage to help you to meet and even surpass your goals? You leverage the deep capability of the software and virtual model – why not leverage these same attributes and qualities in those you count on every day to come through for you?

Your turn: Can you think of Rules for Living In, Out and Around BIM that are missing here, that you might add or rules you see that clash with this model?

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, collaboration, modeling, process, workflow

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) BIM, LEED and Collaboration

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony.

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello 

In much of the Northern hemisphere Spring will be soon upon us. Along with it comes the tendency to let go of our self-defining and self-improving resolutions (those not already long abandoned) and tend to our less bookish, self-incriminating pursuits as we head for the great outdoors.

I’m glad I caught you before you head outside for this post is a last-ditch effort to get you to prepare your bed for spring.

Metaphor alert

This is a blog post, not a PhD dissertation – we’re allowed to give it away. In fact, you can be too subtle in a blog.

For those immune to metaphor, I’d like you to take a moment to consider embracing the future. Your future. Our future. In this equation:

Winter = Our Now

Spring = Our Future

Because our future is almost here…Are you ready?

I didn’t think so.

That’s OK. There are some easy things you can do right now to help yourself along the (r)evolutionary path.

All levels – individuals, design professionals, firms, organizations, profession and industry – serve to gain from the widespread use of BIM and Integrated Design process enabled by it. But there is one tier that benefits the most from the advent of these processes.

It’s not the owner and it’s not the contractor. And it’s not even the architect, engineers or consultants.

Who is it?

In an interview for my book, BIM + Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011) a lecturer, architect and technologist had this to say about the best place to start:

If you don’t start at the bottom tier, which is that person sitting behind a machine, trying to work through a problem – if the benefits don’t accrue very directly at that level; the rest of the stuff is just theory. The direction to move has to be a top-down thing. The agreement about philosophical alignment has to happen at the supply chain level, or even at the firm level. But the benefits – the day to day working benefits – have to start on the desktop and flow up.

That’s you.

It is up to you.

It all starts with you.

It all begins with you.

Not with the other guy.

Not with someone telling you, you got to do it

(including me.)

Not waiting for the other guy to do it first.

Not waiting for your boss to tell you, you have to do it.

Not your shrink or your executive coach or management consultant.

It’s you.

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome. Anne Bradstreet 

Our Last Weeks of Winter

Spring is our awakening – or epiphany – our realization that, to survive

  • we need to work collaboratively
  • we need to share tools such as BIM
  • we need to work more efficiently and leaner
  • we need to work more sustainably as in LEED

Let’s queue the sun.

But first, let’s take advantage of these last weeks of bitter cold and snow to address some inside work.

Before the outdoor work that lies in store.

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do – or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so.  Stanley Crawford 

There are a few places in the country where it is already too late to start any BIM initiatives, delve into IPD case studies or study for the LEED exam – where Spring has already arrived. That’s too  bad.

Now is the winter of our discontent. Shakespeare 

Where I live, just north of Chicago, it might as well be December but for the sun that has been coming out more frequently and sticking around longer – reminders that the time is ripe for studying, researching, reading, training, learning, inquiring, considering, contemplating, scrutinizing, musing, mulling over, meditating and speculating. These are all winter words. Who’s going to hit the books in April?

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

A Contractor’s State of Mind

There is a visceral fear amongst architects that contractors are taking over.

With the newly graduated lining up at contractors’ doors, with lively construction-related online forum discussions, contractors have embraced change and are reaping the rewards.

Architects – in these very same online forums – in comparison sound hurt, tired, fearful, victimized, at the end of their rope.

Architects worry that they will become no more professionals in their own right than consultants to contractors, the small-d design in design BUILD.

This is ironic, given that contractors are in a similar situation – in fact, as some would have it, worse – in that they are anywhere from 9-12 months behind architects in terms of when their work (constructing buildings and projects that architects plan  and design) returns.

So why don’t things sound dire for contractors?

Resources? Absolutely – contractors have depth.

Numbers? They have ‘em in droves.

But you know it’s something else.

Mindset.

And testosterone. From all those steak lunches at Carmichael’s.

Mindset…and gumption.

Changing Seasons/Seasons of Change

Architects need to change

  • contractors and others are eating their (steak) lunch
  • design-build appears to be the delivery method of the future
  • the old way of doing things doesn’t work any longer

Architects don’t want to change

  • uncomfortable, like to do what’s familiar
  • feel that working faster, leaner will lessen quality
  • believe  that design will get the short shrift/scant attention

Architects have to change anyway

  • Learn and master working in a BIM environment
  • Work collaboratively and openly with all in IPD
  • Be stewards for the built and natural environment

How is this change going to come about?

  • Survival instinct
  • Survival skills
  • Ingenuity/creativity that comes naturally to the architect

Start now – today.

How? A few suggestions – a few resources – to get you started.

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. Albert Camus

Don’t just do something, sit there

It is about taking your career into your hands

Recognizing the things you don’t have control over – building cycles for one.

Focusing on the things you can do something about: get your LEED accreditation.

Not ready to start studying for the LEED exam? Start by reading an inspiring book on sustainability – just to get yourself motivated. As Architecture Record editor Robert Ivy featured in this month’s letter from the editor as well as relayed on Twitter the other week:

Reading David Owens’s book entitled Green Metropolis. Essential reading for anyone thinking about, or designing for, the urban condition. 

Start by teaching yourself Revit, download for free from Autodesk’s assistance program – Navisworks, Ecotect – yours for the asking. Get Paul Aubin’s latest book on Revit. Not a Revit fan? Invest in the scaled-down and MUCH cheaper ArchiCAD START edition 2009 available for ‘Entry Level’ BIM (suggested retail price under $2,000.)

Read – really study – the IPD Case Studies. Learn the process.

What’s to fear about collaboration?

I have always believed that every project I have worked on over the past +25 years has been improved by the input of others.

In recent years Pritzker prizes have been awarded to solo architects Glenn Murcutt and Peter Zumthor – two architects that have primarily devoted themselves to smaller projects working alone  – perhaps sending the wrong message about lone designers with the attendant need to control every detail at a time when we ought to be supporting collaboration.

Scott Berkun touched on  this topic in his breathtakingly good The Myths of Innovation. In the section entitled The Myth of the Lone Inventor:

“Everyone knows that Neil Armstrong was the first person on the moon. But how many people helped him get there?” Berkun goes on to list the crew, mission-control staff on the ground, people who made the complicated parts needed to construct Apollo 11, managers, designers, planners. Berkun continues:

“The numbers add up fast. More than 500,000 people worked on the NASA effort to put a man on the moon. For Armstrong to succeed required contributions from an entire metropolis worth of people.”

Architects are right to be concerned – about loss of relevance, about not being invited to the dance.

But one thing they need not fear – on the contrary ought to drop what they’re doing right now and embrace with both arms open wide – is collaboration.

Collaborating is the way things will get accomplished from here on out.

Tools to get you started

This is your last chance to catch-up on some marvelous sources on the subject of collaboration.

Collaboration Presentations and articles

Learn about how to select the right tools for internal and external collaboration – watch this presentation.

See Collaborating with Contractors for Innovative Architecture to better be able to evaluate the pros and cons of collaborating, including insurance and legal issues.

Become familiar with the myriad types of collaborative project delivery – including integrated project delivery – the most collaborative of all.

Collaboration Books

The Culture of Collaboration by Evan Rosen showing how collaboration creates value in business. Rosen consolidates the latest ideas on collaboration and brought them together into an informative, well-illustrated, easy to read and practical book. Aimed at anyone interested in fostering collaboration in their workplace.

How to Make Collaboration Work by David Straus offers five principles of collaboration (Involve the Relevant Stakeholders, Build Consensus Phase by Phase, Design a Process Map, Designate a Process Facilitator, and Harness the Power of Group Memory) that have been tested and refined in organizations everywhere, addressing the specific challenges people face when trying to work collaboratively. Each can be applied to any problem-solving scenario.

Collaboration How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten T. Hansen With approx. 37,000 books on the topic of Collaboration sold on Amazon.com this one is considered by some to be “the” book on the topic. Hansen bases his analysis in an economic analysis of when collaboration creates value that includes not only a project’s benefits but also the costs of collaboration and the cost of foregoing alternatives. Hansen is realistic about collaboration’s limits and attests that over-collaborating id a potential hazard: “Bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration.” Great book – a must-read. And as books go – a beautiful book to behold.

Not convinced? “This book represents the culmination of fifteen years of some of the best research on the topic of effective collaboration. It does not matter whether you lead a business, conduct an orchestra, guide a school, operate a hospital, command a brigade, run for public office, direct a government agency, coach a sports team–every complex enterprise requires collaboration.” –Jim Collins, Author, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall

Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer is completely different from the previous books. A practical, inspiring book about how innovation always emerges from a series of sparks—not a single flash of insight. Based on his experiences with jazz ensembles and improv comedy. For Sawyer, creativity is always collaborative–even when you’re alone.

And finally, The Collaborative Habit by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Life Lessons for Working Together. It’s a light book, airy, with as much white space as words – you could read it in an hour. But the stories are potent, the lessons memorable. You really get the sense here that she has lived every word of this book. These are hard-won, and heart-worn, lessons that will live on with you long after you put the book down. I recommend it.

So where is “the harmony, the sweet, sweet harmony?” Ask Elvis Costello – who collaborated to great effect with Twyla Tharp on a piece called Nightspot. You see, the harmony – it starts with you.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, IPD