With Moneyball in theaters, the playoff season in full swing, and the 2003 book by Michael Lewis climbing in standings, data geeks are all the rage.
This fact cannot be lost on architects and others in the construction industry.
In the movie and book, the 2002 Oakland Athletics overlook the former criteria for player selection (brawn, looks and stature) in favor of data and information.
Doing so was unorthodox to say the least. The equivalent of design professionals proceeding with a design based on data over visuals.
But in doing so, the Athletics managed an all-time record winning streak and made the playoffs with the major’s smallest budget.
Which leads us to ask of ourselves two questions:
- Is it time we honor our inner geek?
- Is it time we get creative with our data?
Information and Process Builders
In his brilliant undated letter to the profession entitled “BIM ball,” Kimon Onuma’s focus was not on the 3D nature of BIM, but almost entirely on the “I” of BIM:
“Information and data integrated with 3D” models.
Due to the threatening ‘evolve or dissolve’ resolve of the subtitle, this fact was lost on the average reader.
A few cogent lines from the letter tell the story:
- We charge our clients 6% plus of construction costs to assemble information into documents
- Most of the knowledge and information that is assembled for a project goes into the lines of a CAD file that essentially has only one use
- The value in architectural services rests in the knowledge and experience to assemble information and execute projects
- The only possible solution is to solve this using the technologies available in Building Information Modeling, standards and interoperability.
- Architects are positioned at the center of the design and construction process not as the “master builder” integrating and organizing all the disparate pieces of the building but now as the information and process builders and coordinators in this process
From this we can deduce that information is at the heart of our evolution as a profession and industry.
Which leads us to ask:
What will we do with the information available to us?
To continue the base hits of visualization and clash detection or home runs of analysis?
Reevaluating Strategies that Produce Wins on the Field
Just as Moneyball
- focused on the general manager – our story ought to focus on the BIM manager
- focused on the team’s modernized, analytical approach to assembling a competitive team – our focus ought to be on the BIM analytics
- has done wonders for unorthodox analytics – our use of BIM ought to do the same for analysis
- team used statistics that are relics of a 19th century view of the game – our industry continues to use methodologies for estimating cost and anticipating schedules and predicting accuracy that are relics of centuries past.
- central premise is that the collected wisdom of baseball insiders (players, managers, coaches, scouts, front office) over the past century is subjective and often flawed – our focus ought to be on the fact that our own collective wisdom has not led to increased value or productivity nor reduced waste
- isn’t really about baseball or statistics, but about challenging conventional wisdom with data – our understanding ought to be that BIM isn’t about technology, but rather challenging design and construction professionals to use information available to them to increase productivity and reduce waste.
Like the general manager in the movie, it’s time we give the data a long hard look.
Like the 2002 Oakland A’s, we as a profession and industry ought to be re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field.
Anything but a Field of Dreams
There’s a fear that BIM does away with design in favor of data.
This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.
As long as architecture remains an art, it will always maintain the element of the will.
Architectural design is an essay in willfulness.
Design work that is described and then either justified (with information) or rationalized (with pedagogue and agendas.)
Or post-rationalize out in the field.
This last option – our industry’s history up until now – has been anything but a field of dreams.
In 1896, Louis Sullivan asserted:
Form Follows Function
In 2011 (and beyond) in order to reach home:
Firms Follow Information