Tag Archives: Integrated Design

BIM and Integrated Design’s 17 Most Pressing Issues for the Decade

“The most fruitful and natural exercise of our mind, in my opinion, is discussion. I find it sweeter than any other action of our life.”

— Montaigne

Before we can all work cooperatively and compatibly, sharing information and models, working together for common goals, several pressing questions must first be addressed.

These are the most critical BIM, IPD and LEED issues I am currently wrestling with. Your insights here would not only be appreciated – they’re necessary – to keep the ball on track and moving forward. Are these the most important questions to address as we start 2010? Are there more urgent inquiries requiring our attention first?

BIM User Interface and Learning Curve – this may seem preposterous for those who have been working in a BIM environment since the stone age but newcomers and those still wrestling with stair design and object creation are left to ask: who designed this software (engineers, marketing teams?) why is it designed this way (to mesh with our product line, not human users like you,) and what are they going to do about it? For these reasons BIM has been more readily adopted by emerging professionals than by those in mid-career.

BIM and Gender – at the risk of coming across as sexist – it is a widely known observation that males have an easier time visualizing 3D models and spaces. “A male advantage in the ability to generate and mentally manipulate spatial representations of geometric and other figures has been well established in studies conducted in North America and in a host of European nations.” Results from these studies support male superiority in 3D spatial cognition independent from culture.  Anyone that has been privileged to spend even 5 minutes at Laura Handler’s blog will think this to be ludicrous, but does BIM, unlike CAD, put female design and construction professionals at a disadvantage, requiring additional effort on their part to achieve the same – or better – results?

Designing in BIM – currently BIM software is overly answer-dependent, requiring too much exacting data at a time when designers need to be loose, flexible and open-ended with their questions to be most effective. Conceptual and Schematic Design will continue to be worked-out in Rhino and Sketch-Up until BIM learns to truly think like an architect – as it purports to – and less like a contractor. If the architect’s core competency continues to be comfort with ambiguity, BIM will need to make room for uncertainty, mystery and other vagaries of creation.

Learning BIM and Integrated Design – the topic of my last two posts: Where BIM, IPD and LEED ought to be learned? In school, in the workforce, or on our own? With school curricula already overburdened and slow to change, is BIM and IPD work processes, mindsets and attitudes something best left to each student and emerging professional to pick up on their own?

Will Integrated Design Succeed only by Coercion? Or instead, altruism? For IPD to work must we resort to force? Will it only be utilized as a delivery method and BIM-enabled process when the Owner demands it? Must Integrated Design wait for attorneys and insurers to work out the details? When will participants willingly, proactively – w/o coercion – work with others in a cooperative manner? What does the ultimate pay-off need to be to see this succeed?

IPD Contractual Issues need ironing-out before industry-wide adoption – or require a delivery method rethought from scratch? If the owner, contractor and architect are to share information, risk and reward – the stakes need to be more evenhanded. Currently, the architect has the most to lose when considering that they are taking-on more of the responsibility, means and methods (normally contractually prohibited to the design team) and financial risk – territories outside their jurisdiction and expertise not to mention comfort zone. Next the contractor and lastly, the owner.

The Role of Midcareer Professionals Working in the BIM Environment – will they find their place sitting alongside BIM operators, applying their experience, willing to mentor-up and mentor-down? An especially critical question for those that have hoped to make it to retirement without having to take-on a whole new technology and way of practice. Will these more experienced professionals – with the unique ability to see the big picture and minutest detail all at once – be willing and able to adopt and adapt to this new environment?

The Impact of the Recession on LEED, BIM and Integrated Design Adoption and Implementation. Those recently laid-off – or underemployed – will they be able to seek and receive adequate training in BIM and IPD processes? Will this effort translate to jobs? If not immediately put into practice, as so often happens to the newly trained, will these individuals lose all they have gained and in doing so, lose hope as well? Will these candidates opt to find work, if and where available, in non-traditional practices or even outside the profession and/or industry?

Will Architects be able to Adapt to the Changes – of BIM technology and work processes – so effectively adopted by contractors in the last year? Will this decade see the architecture profession dissipate, morph into something else, or grow in resolve despite – or even because of – these changes? Will contractors take the lead – creating some kind of hybrid practitioner? Will architects rise to the occasion – taking on a leadership role in the process, returning to some version of the Master Builder, or instead be willing and able to participate in a new formation of the Master Virtual Builder team?

Who Will Lead the BIM and Integrated Design process? Architects, Contractors or Owners – or some new combination of these entities? Repeat clients get the benefits of working with the Integrated Design process, while newcomers and first-time Owners don’t. Who will master the communication skills necessary to describe, explain and justify a process that potentially can benefit all involved?

What Will the Next New Technologies and Work Processes Be? And will architects become disciplined and proficient enough with the current technologies and work processes to be able to identify, adopt and implement the next big thing – such as design-by-computation, drawing-free design – on the horizon, in  an effort to bring greater results for the owner and public-at-large?

BIM and LEED – Will harnessing the power of BIM and the integrated work process enabled by it ultimately result in a positive impact of the built environment?

Who Owns the Rights to the BIM Model? Who is responsible for the information contained in the model? When does the hand-off occur between the architect and contractor who often need to refine the model for use in construction as well as for use in clash-detection and coordination? Does a hand-off even need to occur? How can architects ask this question without resorting to protection of ownership and territory – helping the team move forward and reach its goals together? How can architects be encouraged to share their models with all involved? Who will make the first move?

The Question of Insurance – Still in a “wait and see” mode, insurers are supposedly awaiting the results and outcomes of the first IPD contracted projects and how they hold up under real life conditions. How long will this take and will someone introduce a workable workaround to bypass this impediment to progress?

One Model ideal vs. Many Models – For a truly integrated project – the one comprehensive model project, shared by all parties, would seem to be ideal. File size can be dealt with quite readily – and interoperability is on its way. That said, must we resolve to live in a multiple model world?

Existing Buildings, BIM and LEED – What impact, if any, will the widespread reuse and restoration of our existing structures – and infrastructure – have on improving energy use and the environment? And what role will BIM and Integrated Design play in this purview? Will design professionals be the keepers of the data and metrics serving as evidence of BIM, IPD and LEED’s impact on owner’s next projects?

How and When Will Architects Get Along? With everyone, not least of which, each other. Architects need to relearn how to play well with others and together. Whether that means going back to what Louis Kahn called “Volume Zero” or kindergarten, relearning to share, communicate orally and verbally, accept some risk, trust and collaborate ought to be front and center concern and focus for every architect willing to enter this bright new world before us.

4 Comments

Filed under collaboration, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling

The Future of Practice

I had the opportunity over the weekend to attend end-of-semester case study presentations by 6 teams of IIT graduate students taking part in the College of Architecture’s inaugural Master of Integrated Building Delivery degree program. Headed by Assistant Professor John Durbrow, the course was taught by Aaron Greven, owner of AG Design Works with one foot in architecture and the other in construction, where he masterfully mediates and positively influences the two.  IIT’s program is one of 60 or so BIM and/or IPD programs currently offered at universities worldwide. For a few hours in the lower level of Crown Hall on a sunny Saturday I witnessed what will no doubt be the future of practice.

The course in general utilized lectures, presentations by practicing professionals and off-site field trips to investigate new and emerging technologies and develop a detailed understanding of IPD. The students who presented had been studying integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building projects and participants. They developed case studies and collected unique stories of 6 projects’ successes and challenges working with BIM in integrated and collaborative processes, including the Tucson Convention Center Addition and Hotel; Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago; Crate & Barrel, Toronto; Optima Camelview Village Scottsdale, AZ; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the University of Chicago – New Hospital Pavilion.

All-in-all the presentations were informative, describing research gathered on a wide range of topics related to the practice of architecture and the construction of significant buildings at all scales.

Here are some of my take-aways and observations from the presentations – with an eye on the big picture:

  • Content Representation I. If the AEC industry is experiencing a fundamental change in how services are delivered, and BIM and IPD represent paradigms in how these services are communicated and delivered, one might question the wisdom of delivering all the presentations in PowerPoint, perhaps the most conventional of means.
  • Content Representation II. If the medium is the message (Marshall McLuhan) and the message is the new work processes require collaboration – then IPD presentations ought to reflect this collaborative work effort. Team members ought to at least be aware of the material fellow classmates are presenting so as not to repeat – or at least to build-on – their content. In lieu of standard linear presentations where each student speaks at the lectern for 6 minutes and 40 seconds and then hands-off to the next student (the inapt image of silos comes to mind) a more imaginative – and consistent – (re)presentation might mirror the give-and-take of collaborative teamwork. Listing of project facts could be placed in a comparison matrix, approximating the parametric wonder of the technology that enables the IPD process. At the very least the presentations ought to appear integrated: fonts, style, etc.
  • Content Integration. If Integrated Project Delivery (IPD,) or here referred to as Integrated Design, is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices – then the content of the presentations ought to be integrated into a working whole.
  • Production Efficiencies. If IPD is to be a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction – then presentations on the subject ought to be exemplary examples to this effect. If fundamental changes in the process of delivering buildings are about to revolutionize the structure and practice of architectural design, when given 15-20 minutes to present – a talk on IPD that continues on 50-100% over the time limit can’t possibly serve as a proponent of the process. If anything, it makes a mockery of it. A presentation that runs over in terms of schedule can justifiably be seen as wasteful the instructor’s, classmates and visiting critic’s time. If the habits, attitudes, mindsets and practices required of IPD cannot be mastered in school – how should we expect them to be practiced in the real world?
  • Role and Identity. To its credit, the program recognizes that the role of the architect at the realization of current industry changes is not yet clearly defined, but it is recognized that it will be significantly altered from that of today. This critical, and admittedly quite scary, topic was discussed – obliquely by the presenters, more directly between the presentations – and perhaps ought to have been addressed directly as one of the observations made of each project presented by the presenting team. IIT has introduced the new curriculum to ensure that graduates are prepared for a rewarding and significant role in the emergent state of the profession – whatever that role may be.

Architecture school curricula are already overburdened with course requirements. How on earth are they to fit in courses involving the learning of BIM, let alone a thorough working understanding of IPD, where students are currently required to complete their degrees with demonstrated ability in Speaking and Writing Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Graphics Skills, Research Skills, Use of Precedents, Human Behavior, Accessibility, Sustainable Design, Program Preparation, Site Conditions, Building Materials and Assemblies, Construction Cost Control, Architectural Practice, Leadership, Legal Responsibilities, Ethics and Professional Judgment, Life Safety, Building Envelope Systems, Structural Systems, Environmental Systems and Fundamental Design Skills amongst others?

Here’s how. By placing the BIM model at the center – and learn the various areas of concentration working from the model. What better way to garner a deep and meaningful understanding of structures, environmental systems, sustainability and so on than from the building model that you have virtually conceived and built?

As for IPD, since Building Information Modeling is already the primary communication basis of IPD, course content such as collaborative work practices, leadership, legal and ethical responsibilities, can be covered much as construction-related topics are: from the model. Additionally, students currently learn several of the hallmarks of Integrated Design, including Learning Collaborative Skills (the ability to recognize the varied talent found in interdisciplinary design project teams in professional practice and work in collaboration with other students as members of a design team,) already an NAAB requirement for graduation, as well as Building Systems Integration (the ability to assess, select, and conceptually integrate structural systems, building envelope systems, environmental systems, life-safety systems, and building service systems into building design.)

Degree programs, such as IIT’s still nascent but growing one, builds upon what is already a requirement of every graduating student and provides a promising glimpse at what will come to be in the years ahead.

3 Comments

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

BIM + Integrated Design

I’m starting a blog devoted to my current focus on the impact of new technologies on firm culture and workflow in the design professions. The writing of the blog coincides with my writing of a new book, also entitled BIM and Integrated Design, to be published by John Wiley & Sons in 2011.

Here in this blog I will explore some of the same general themes as the book – only in a less formal, more conversational and exploratory, fashion. The emphasis here – as with the book – is on people and not technology or value propositions per se, except to the extent that they impact the people who use them. And by people I mean…you.

You are encouraged to chime in whenever you find something of interest – whether something you agree with or something that irks you. BIM and Integrated Design are both, like a good blog, collaborative and interactive tools.

You are the ones helping to make them into the transformative technology and process that they are. And likewise, you are the ones who can continue to build the dialogue as we work together to help make this a better world – one building, one bridge – at a time. Bon Appetite!

Leave a comment

Filed under BIM, Integrated Design, people, process, workflow