Monday, December 31, 2012

Team Building with Marshmallows

Great TED talk video from Autodesk Fellow Tom Wujec showing how certain personality types think and interact around a tactile team challenge.

I can't help but love the Kindergartner's scores! Imagine what they could do with Rapid Cost Modeling...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Five Truths on BIM

In my experience in using BIM, I have become keenly aware of a number of "truths" in the arena of VDC. That said, I'm heading to the zoo with "my zoo" in tow today so I'll make it a quickie if possible.

Truth 1: The Owner owns the information (model).

If you're under contract to an Owner to design, construct and/or operate a building, they own the models and the information, just as they own the building. Our role as designers, contractors and operators is to be excellent stewards of this data as it passes through a building's informational life cycle and to optimize its use.

Truth 2: More information is not better. The RIGHT information is. 

Take a door for example. The Architect is interested in:
- code compliance
- was it sustainably sourced?
- the doors hourly fire rating
- available finishes
- hardware styles
- security level

As the responsibility for the door passes from design to construction, the information needed by the Architect to make good decisions is not the same information the contractor needs. The contractor needs to know:
- how many of each door there will be?
- does the warranty on the equipment match the specification?
- are there local suppliers?
- what are the costs of the doors?
- what is the availability and delivery schedules?

After the door is installed, the facility manager needs to have a certain level of information to do their work. This (on average) is about 10%-12% of what is aggregated throughout design and construction. Information such as:
- When do I oil the equipment?
- Where do I get replacement hardware?
- How do I program the lockset?
- How do I get to the warranty information?

The faster teams understand that some information is needed for the entire informational life cycle and that some has a shelf life; the faster teams achieve real clarity around how to pass useful information to the next project stakeholder. This eliminates the old way of heaving massive amounts of useless data "over the fence" to other team members to sort through and creates a deeper dialog of coordination in project teams.

Truth 3: Subcontractors should NOT run 3D coordination sessions.

We work with some really good subs and while I am sure that most of those are capable of running clash detection meetings themselves... it is our job as construction managers to own the coordination efforts. This theory is due to a number of reasons and experience, but the main reason is when coordinating with multiple trades it is far easier to have a "third party" unbiased approach to systems routing and configuration.

In my experience, I have found that the sub that runs the meetings rarely moves and has other trades move around them. This is particularly true when the project is in the thick of things and everyone is experiencing a bit of project fatigue. Secondly, on contract delivery vehicles such as CM@R, CM led DB, IPD and even hard bid where the CM's or GC's carry the majority of contractual risk; the majority of risk mitigation efforts should lie with the major risk holder. If a CM isn't doing this they are letting a subcontracted party manage their risk with no reward model and this is never a good decision in any business.

Lastly, relying on subs to run coordination meetings creates inconsistency to these efforts. As most CM and GC firms work with different subs on each project, there is a lot of value in providing consistent deliverables for your internal staff, so they aren't re-learning what a set of deliverables may be for each new project.

Truth 4: Establishing a learning culture is more important than creating BIM standards.

For many organizations, this is a toughie.

As new technologies enter the market on a daily basis, successful firms are finding that there is more value to establishing learning as a priority, rather than standards.

Standards, while useful in some aspects of a coherent look and feel or deliverable process, often become outdated before they are widely adopted. For this reason, I encourage groups to look at how to create "one page guidelines" that allow for flexibility and creativity around a process rather than a 213 page BIM standard on model creation. Creating a guideline allows for new technologies and processes to be inserted into a workflow to optimize output. When you create a standard, the clay has already set and there is little to no room for innovation.

Truth 5: If you aren't engaging your CA or field staff in the process you will lose.

One of the most repeated questions I hear is, "How do we take all of this great stuff we've done in the virtual environment and replicate it in the field?"

I have found that the answer to this question is, engage your field team. The team that is going to be responsible for construction administration, or construction management MUST be plugged in to the process. Otherwise your results are often going to be sub-par. Why is this?

Well, to understand we have to begin thinking like a project superintendent.

Here is a guy or gal who has "x number" of years experience in building structures and now they are being told by some VDC operator how to build their project from what a computer is telling them. Guess what?

There's no buy-in. In this scenario, there is no background being provided on the history to the decisions or directions along the way that could very well have created a solid product (this has to do with Truth #2). Thus the confidence level in that deliverable is zero, nill, nada.

Now think about how valuable it would be to have this same human database of information be able to participate in the coordination process with time tested input and real world experience. I won't give away the ending if this is news to you, but it will change your perspective real fast....also as a heads up this will often be where you will get some of the best ideas your organization has ever had.

That's it for now. I may do a part two, but we are going to go look at some monkeys. Let me know your thoughts and Happy New Years!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Keeps Us Interested?

Had a great discussion not too long ago to a group of students and great minds, where I was asked the question afterwards, "What keeps you interested in BIM and technology?"

[Insert long thoughtful pause here]

I answered, "I guess it would have to be the promise of technology. Not only to design and construction and BIM, but in what we haven't thought about yet."

While this was a very truthful (and somewhat esoteric answer), the reality is that I thought about this question for some time on the plane ride home. Wondering if I had answered in a meaningful way, or if I had just scarred and confused a promising young mind forever?

So what exactly is it about the promise of technology that keeps not just me, but a whole host of people engaged in meaningful dialogs across the world... plugged in and searching for an aha moment, a break through or an app that can read minds?

As I see it, I believe it is the challenge of technology and human connectivity that keeps us searching.

In open retrospect, we all seem to firmly believe that technology will provide us with the means of creating a better world. There have been great examples of how societies have changed for the better or where new advances in science and research have occurred because of technology....but was it technology or was it connectivity?

Some would argue connectivity, such as the stodgy old sales guy I'm sitting next to on this flight to Orlando. Others would argue technology, such as my generation Y brother, who when I last visited him, was playing xBox 360, whilst talking to Siri on his iPhone to find a "western buffet" and listening to his laptop that was streaming a Pandora playlist through Facebook. (Yes I bore witness to this)

It seems to me that the best answer of why we continue to connect, download and search is a blend of both. Simply connecting human to human alone isn't big or fast enough (for right or wrong). Yet technology without human context is a one way street. Then I had my aha moment... what we are building is why we connect.

The HUGE amounts of information that surrounds us in our daily lives is now able to be collected, sorted and displayed in various forms to other humans in increasingly meaningful ways. Whether you are building a historic archive of your life (Facebook, twitter, instagram) or creating a digital 3D model of Seattle that could someday allow a blind man on a bicycle to wear a headset to navigate his way through the city streets...we connect to what we build...and we continue to build information to connect to.

So maybe to the student who asked that question, I would say now, "Because I think buildings will one day be able to talk, people will understand and achieve homeostasis with one another and I'll finally be able to have my iPhone read my mind as I cruise through downtown Seattle blindfolded on my 'Back to the Futur(ish)' hoverboard.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Client Communication Outside of Projects, More Relevant than Ever Before

As I write this, I'm reminded of a number of project pursuits recently that involved early communication with Owners, board members and potential clients about what the latest tools and technologies were and how they are changing the industry. What was really interesting was how many opportunities it opened up, given the meeting wasn't held under the pretense of "give me work". As I work in the construction industry, we are notorious for becoming best buddies with Owners as their projects come up on their program and then losing contact with them like an annoying ex-girlfriend when they don't have any work.

The reality is that the game is changing.

Not just in design and construction, but in all industries. The norm of a sweet PowerPoint presentation, some flashy brochures and a great website is now the expectation and potential Clients are seeking real partners who want to be a part of their business to become engaged in a much larger way than before and to see both organizations grow. While cost continues to be a factor for project selection, it is interesting how it isn't the only factor for selection any more.

In my business, I have found that it's just as important to talk with potential Clients about whatever is relevant to their business, even when they don't have a project on the horizon. Whether it's technology, innovative processes, new tools or a more value focused offering, Clients usually have the time to chat and truly appreciate the connection. Additionally, these same people are usually very well connected with people in similar positions to theirs in other companies. Often these meetings mean so much to a Client that they will extend your network for you and make introductions to people who have potential projects or needs coming up or whom you weren't connected with before.

The real value in communication and information sharing is what "banner" it's held under. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, "The results of a meeting you have over tea, versus the one you have on the battle field are always different."