Category Archives: Leadership

Shake some trees, make some noise

How do you knock down the tallest tree? One hack at a time.

I was going to write about the upcoming AEC Hackathon at Facebook HQ, and my new BIMbuddy, Jared,

beat me to it. If you don’t follow Shoegnome, you really should.

AEC Hackathon 1.1

Last week I had coffee with Greg Howes of IDEAbuilder, and one of the AEC Hackathon organizers, and we had great conversations about BIM, digital fabrication, and the shortage of high-quality technical designers and fabricators. There’s such a lack of qualified people, that some firms who have traditionally been super competitive have to turn away work, or don’t bid on as many projects for feat they might win them all. The equipment, and by extension BIM software, doesn’t run itself.

Some well-respected designers in the AEC community have recently been quite outspoken on their belief that firm structures and business decisions are why they have not yet mastered their tools. To them I say, “stop making excuses.” The only way to master a tool is to both want to excel and put the time into doing so. There is no magic pill. I recently attended a great lecture by Andrew Kudless of MATSYS, who also happens to be on the dFab Net (Digital Fabrication Network) board with Greg Howes and other prominent industry leaders. AS he began his talk, he mentioned that while in Japan he learned that in order to be a carpenter’s apprentice, you must first spend a year in studies making your own tools. Only then are you allowed to work on a real project. Here in the USA, despite what some may think, training dollars spent on unwilling participants is wasted time and money. Jumping in with both feet or a project manager throwing bodies at a project with no training, à la ‘trial by fire’, can be equally destructive to the established team’s productivity.

The inefficiencies in the industry have very deep roots. Those roots are paper drawings, orthographic projection of 2D views, lack of understanding from clients, operators, and code officials as to why BIM will never flourish with these things in our way. Rather than save those roots, I say cut down the tree. Together, we can plant a new tree, or an entire forest. Things can be better. So, what can the construction industry do to get it’s groove back? Make everyone an expert in a particular brand of BIM software? No. Good start, and it’s not enough. We must also redefine the process, tools, and deliverables necessary to create a functioning ecosystem. Things are far too out-of-balance.

The industry needs more meet ups like the Hackathon. Did I mention that you should go? It’s not just for architects. You’ll find designers, engineers, contractors, fabricators, and a whole lot of software developers – many not even from our industry. As Jeff Kowalski said during one of the AU2013 keynotes, “the answer is outside.” The hackathon model, a similar event was hosted by Case at AU, is the perfect venue to partner directly with some very smart people in the technology sector to identify opportunities and roll up the sleeves to rapidly prototype solutions – all in the heart of one of the most innovative places on the planet, Silicon Valley.

In a time where there are many industry forces threatening to make the role of the architect less in the center of things, there’s a tremendous opportunity to redefine what it means to design and create buildings. It’s time to change the conversation. Don’t let the narrative that’s all too common out there get you down: “Architects are no longer master builders, and therefore doomed to become extinct.” Failure is inevitable. Well, that’s true if you’ve already thrown your hands in the air. It’s getting old people, and just another excuse. This reframing of the conversation for the AEC industry is critical to increase relevance in an ever more crowded landscape of constraints and competition.

We live and work in a time where we can create anything we want, including creating and reshaping the tools we use everyday. Design Computation might be is now a huge part of this opportunity. As I’ve said on several occasions, the sweet spot is where those tools combine with BIM to create the complete package of Computational BIM.

Are you ready to (really) change the world? Sign up for the AEC Hackathon, and if you need more reasons to attend, read the excellent article, on Shoegnome.

The Future of the Building Industry: What comes after BIM?

I must say, no one can drive a point home through a graph quite like Patrick MacLeamy, FAIA – the CEO of HOK. This one below will surely join his other greatest hit – the MacLeamy Curve, which although completely overused in every presentation today on BIM, was authored way back in the early days of BIM, 2004.

Comments are welcome.

Source: The Future of the Building Industry (5/5): BIM, BAM, BOOM! – YouTube.

Not all tools are created equal (Opinion)

“Before we use any power tools, let’s take a moment to talk about shop safety. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses. And also hearing protection when necessary.” – Norm Abram, The New Yankee Workshop

Don’t get me wrong, when working on a woodworking project, I love a good quality hand tool – but nothing beats a wood shop full of precision power tools. CAD is like hand drafting, minus the soul of that craft. BIM takes things to a whole new level. Having been through both of these transitions, I can honestly say that the process is not smooth, or painless. Sometimes, you lose a thumb.

In the case of the wood shop – the same product can be manufactured with each. Hand tools are amazing if you have clients who can afford your work, you are Amish, or you don’t mind only making a few things in your lifetime. With power tools, like those used by Norm, that hobby becomes possible to make a living.

Steve Stafford, hitting the nail squarely on the head, again with his post titled “Due Diligence“. Why would those who rally against BIM want to make this an ‘us’, versus technology battle? Revit is a tool, and a BIM process that supports the end goal of helping to make making buildings better. Why anyone thinks they can continue to live in the 2D drafting past and continue to get work as fees and schedules shrink is beyond imaginable, it’s irresponsible. Read more on Steve’s blog. I really like the analogy he presents.

Most of the naysayers I’ve encountered feel so strongly because they either don’t comprehend the shift in process and team organization BIM enables, or they went through an attempted implementation without a solid plan. Don’t believe the anti-hype. It’s human nature to be afraid of change. Change happened in 2008, and if members of the AEC profession that managed to survive that catastrophe still think business as usual is good enough, they won’t be around to make noise for long. By sure to sweep up the sawdust before you close up shop.

Read Steve’s take here: Revit OpEd: Due Diligence.


Revit Standards. Open for Business.

Do we really need Revit Standards for the firm that are paper-based doorstops? Will anyone read them? Usually, no. Most of us only have the patience for digesting spoonfuls of information at a time.

“The best thing about standards… is that there are so many to choose from.”

What’s wrong with the traditional BIM Standards Manual?

In my younger days, I have created a number of CAD Manuals, Handbooks, Standards documents, and guidelines. Too often the original intent gets obscured by committee ideas of what’s important to document – hint, if it’s in the help menu, leave it out. I am proposing we recycle those old dead trees, and move away from even the paper-centric Word or PDF format most of you probably have on your corporate Intranet.

It Begins

You have a ground-floor opportunity. Do you want to lead, or follow? Of course, the beauty of social network projects is everyone has an equal voice. Knowledge wants to be free. Momentum is building. Announcing: The Open Revit Standards Project:

The idea behind this is a wiki-based, open source, and free location where knowledge and best use practices can be documented for using Revit on projects. Developing a core approach, that is not specific to any one industry, locale or governing body, should allow this to grow and represent a very large collective knowledge base on which firms could build their preferred workflow. We want this to be accessible to new and experienced users of Revit.

The Tweet Heard Round the World

It just so happens, one year ago I picked July 4, Independence Day here in the US, to declare dissatisfaction with the various industry group attempts to create CAD and BIM standards. While they continue to slog along creating behemoth pay for play documents, not even considering that much of the AEC industry gives little thought to CAD Layers anymore, we’ve moved on. Even those that do address BIM, approach it from the wrong angle. We don’t need to keep debating what BIM is, if the vast majority of mid to large firms have already been doing BIM to some level for a number of years.

Coordinating Efforts

As someone in the AUGI forums once said: “The best thing about standards… is that there are so many to choose from.” There’s something deeply disturbing about that concept. When you and the hundreds if not thousands of CAD/BIM managers out there toil away creating your perfect manual (that no one will ever read), it’s not really a standard. Standards are at best: good practices, or recommendations unless you get a larger group to adopt them. My original thought was – Why haven’t application specific solutions developed that work toward helping to define best practices in the US? For that matter, the only real solid efforts known to this author at the time were the AEC UK Revit BIM Standard, and the ANZRS, published soon after the Gold Coast Revit Technology Conference.

I have since learned from the outpouring of volunteer support for this effort, that this could have a global effect on the way Revit is implemented and used every day. That really has some folks jazzed. If we can work with the existing groups mentioned above, who are already focusing on Revit, all the better. So this little community is forming. As the site becomes more active, features are added and the standard grows, it may just help influence your next project.

More About “The Project”

There are too many people to thank that helped get this started. David Fano at CASE has really been instrumental in pulling this new community together. He helped out with initial funding and build out of the hosted website. The Twitter banter was very engaging and can be followed here:!/search?q=%23OpenRevStds. There is also a LinkedIn group:

Other references to this effort, by some notable contributors:

LF8081 - Leading Change Reinventing BIM Leadership from the Ground Up - Slides

Leading Change

Feeling stuck as a CAD or Model Manager? Stepping up to the challenges that await you as a BIM Leader is a healthy change we can all take boldly.

Be proactive, not reactive

Leaders are important throughout an entire organization. Understanding that the role of a leader is to inspire, this can happen at all levels of an organization – not just the BIM Manager. You can be seen by your fellow project team members as much more than simply a model manager. As a project BIM Leader, you must demonstrate the ability to effectively lead strategy, not just technology for successful adoption of a true-BIM workflow. Be proactive, not reactive.

AU Leadership Forum

I moderated a discussion during the Leadership Forum in an unconference session at Autodesk University last week. The topic: Leading Change – Reinventing BIM Leadership from the Ground Up. Participation was rather lively, and many who attended approached me afterwards with kind words. For those who would like to see the summarized notes, helpfully taken by Jason Grant on his iPad using my favorite new app SoundNote, you may download them from the links below. The beauty of the aforementioned app is the notes are timestamped and associated with the audio. Now, audio recorded even with the best equipment in a large room renders less clear commentary, so I provide with hesitation. Use at your own risk.

LF8081 – Leading Change – Discussion Notes

LF8081 – Leading Change – Audio Recording

And, for those who have the SoundNote App: Download the data file directly to your iPad. 

For those who attended my class: that roast duck hasn’t landed yet, has it? Take action. The sea of change continues to bring waves of disruption.