Googlizing the AEC Industry

IPD-BIM and SMART Culture Launches AEC Industry to New Levels

I recently posted an article "Googlizing the AEC Industry" on our NoSilos.com site outlining the basis of a new series of live seminar and workshop events to be held in 2014 and 2015. In keeping with our goal of breaking down silos of information and operation within companies and project, we are offering a full two-year training effort called "The Smart Built Culture" to transform those who attend this series. There will be other webinar and free website information and presentations to inform our readership about these resources and presentations so, even if you can't make the live events, you will be able to get some of the benefits of our research and experience over the past ten years in this emerging business model.


"ick" Factor of Recycled Water...Just Get Over It-Now

Some of you know I live in the desert SW, specifically in Cochise County, AZ. We are officially in an extended drought, like most of our neighbors in NM, CO, NV and CA. All of us share the larger watersheds of the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. This year we have seen warnings that flows in the Colorado watershed will be restricted for the lower Colorado River. Tucson recently met their recharge goals ahead of time, but now we are facing a reduced allocation from the Colorado, which means the recharge rate in coming months will likely be reduced, just when we are getting this water supply thing in hand.


BIM mandates ... Is Snake Oil not far behind?

Many of you know I'm a very strong proponent of Building Information Modeling for many reasons, but when I start seeing government mandates for public works projects I have to take pause. Why? Well frankly after being involved with several GSA projects here in the US for remodeling, repurposing and new construction, I've not seen the GSA leverage the reality of BIM in their life-cycle use and maintenance.

What happened? I thought what we were doing was going to make a long term difference in the cost of operations for our government, but as I dug deeper, I found the operations folks didn't have the appropriate tools to take advantage of the products we delivered to them. Further, they didn't know if they would ever get the tools to leverage our work for their benefit.


Formula 1, Babies and Buildings A String of Connected Possibilities

A recent Ted Talk Peter van Manen of Mclaren electronics visits the possibilities of taking the thousands of data points of a Formula 1 car and applying them to to a pediatric intensive care ward. I applaud the inventiveness of the folks at Mclaren for taking a system which helps the most competitive motor sportscars perform at the highest level, to increase the survival of babies in their most fragile time of life.

As I listened to the presentation by Mr. van Manen I was intrigued to think if we monitored buildings with the same level of density as a Formula 1 or Indy car what would we learn about the interdependencies of the systems of the buildings we create. While racing teams build a new car for each season and then continually  refine the car with new parts over the racing season, buildings aren't tuned to the same level of razor edged performance. But how could buildings benefit from the clouds of information such systems create and how could they be built to allow for more constant upgrading to increase performance?

While the real-time streams help teams during the race, the real benefit to the teams is the pattern analysis of different systems interacting and the stories they tell about the performance of the vehicle. Patterns of interaction which warn of impending failure. Today there is a distinct possibility of converting buildings from acting like consuming appliances to being a cooperating, interdependent network of producers of power and electricity. But to accomplish this task will require a nervous system at the level used in the Formula 1 auto racing business.

So while we are using the continuous monitoring of and using real-time analysis of the data to forecast future performance of both machines and mankind, we might also be thinking of applying the same ideas to buildings to raise their performance levels, extend their lives and provide greater comfort and safety all at the same time.

See related article about Google Contacts

This is a continuing chapter in the interrelationships of discovery and application of technology and the built environment. The suggested connections and links between seemingly different applications can open new possibilities as a String of knowledge to make our lives better. 


Hospitals and a Barcalounger?? What happened to my hospital?

As an ex-CIO of a small healthcare insurance company. I remember attending some of the earliest conferences on the future of healthcare informatics beginning in 1984. The big discussion was the EMR or electronic medical record and privacy being implemented by HIPPA. Today you hardly go in any sizable clinic or community hospital without having some information collected about your health status which is stored in a form of and EMR. Even my small-town MD uses an Ipad to take notes for her records about my health and to look up information while we talk about a health issue. No she isn't one of those 'just out of school' MD's but in her 60's and ready to retire. So EMR's are in use and here to stay as they take on many different guises. UPDATE: Google announces diabetes monitoring with contacts


Is 57% waste real in delivery of projects in the Built Environment?

What is the highest portion of waste in construction projects?
It appears that rework tops the list. The data show that rework often has more than one cause. A recent CII study called "A Guide to Construction Rework Reduction" reveals that the biggest contributor to rework, at 25.4%, is scheduling, followed by issues related to materials and equipment (19%), design and engineering (14.6%) and instruction/monitoring (14.5%). Cutting costs too much can also drive rework. To save money, for example, some architects and engineers use old designs or templates for new projects, and those designs may have problems that were fixed on a previous job but remain in the original design and are passed along to a new one.

At the beginning of this year a conversation began between myself and collaboration principles of NoSilos.com. The reports from the Building SMART Alliance and the Construction Institute and others have been purporting A huge percentage of waste in our industry. While I cringe at the huge numbers, the reality is a lot of that number is infrastructure costs which are inflated due to the litigious nature of our business. Examples such as insurance, performance bonding and financing directly increase the cost due to the risky nature of the current methods we use to deliver Built Environment  projects. So eliminating these excessive costs will be difficult until lenders, insurers and risk assessment folks change their policies to favor less risky arrangements.

That said, the Cll study cited in the ENR article gives us a glimpse behind the numbers from yet another perspective. The study points out that rework, aka failure that manifests itself at the tail end of a project, is spawned by many different failure mechanisms. Bad schedules, materials, equipment, design, execution, supervision etc. etc. account for rework BUT most rework arises from more than one failure mechanism. Further, rework is merely the visible tip of the iceberg. The real failure points lie submerged and ignored.

If necessity is the mother of invention then crisis is the father of failure. And we see the father of failure sowing wild oats all over! And let us count the ways:
  •  RFI's
  • Energy
  • Re-work
  • Waste removal
  • Poor site logistics
  • Over priced construction materials
  • Over priced construction equipment
  • Poor delivery coordination
  • and more, more, more.....
At NoSilos.com we have a metric we use called ROF or Return on Failure. Sort of like the Return on Investment metric known in the financial world, but in reverse. The value of failure compounded over time creates its own wave of increased cascade of failure. 

So how much can be reduced. Past experience shows a possible reduction on privately funded projects of at least 10% and more likely around 15% when we used a modestly integrated design and delivery process not even close to true IPD process. The key to these numbers was a combination of great communication, clear goals and some judicious use of technology to help make the process a bit easier. 

The bottom line, from our perspective, is that waste and inefficiency are known realities by key stakeholders in every sector of the economy regardless of their willingness to admit to the presence of the waste. We bring solutions to identify the differences between uncontrollable and controllable waste. What our clients do to reduce those costs is up to them. There is a vast opportunity for every company to reduce their ROF and increase their ROI to levels not seen before. 


The five words that can swing a meeting in your favour

This post is taken from an article found on www.Techrepublic.com. While an IT-centric publication, there are often gems to mine and harvest and this is one such post. It's been in my holding folder for a while and it seemed time to use it.

Who wouldn't want to find a set of magic words that could swing momentum to your point of view in a meeting? When I saw the title, like you, I wanted to find out more. But instead of a treatise of discovery all I saw was a brief review of some academic research gleaned from listening to hours of recorded meetings. Actually they had used machines to help them wade through the morass of spoken word to glean the short, but important results.

Sure it was important to see the results of their initial work, but more importantly the results were augmented by technology being an enabler. Finding that the five words were  “yeah, give, start, meeting” and “discuss” was astounding to me. "Yeah" is a power word, what you say? It's such a common word, but apparently it does have more power in bringing people together.

So, what's the "take away" for those of us in the Built Environment business? For me it was we need to always be on the lookout for new and unexpected tools to help us discover the hard questions which seem so far beyond our abilities. Much like the linguistics, we are on the cusp of continuing to discover how more complex and pervasive data sources can make our lives more approachable and even better than before. Some call this the advent of "Big Data" but I think it's more fundamental and part of who we are as humans. Ever questioning the everyday to know why something works which seems unexplainable.

So keep your senses tuned and you are likely to find a serendipitous even happen right before your eyes.  And don't forget, "Collaboration is the glue of success."

By Nick Heath
June 25, 2013, 6:27 AM PDT

Takeaway: Frustrated your ideas go unheard in meetings? Academics have identified the five words successful managers use to win backing for their proposals.
Everybody’s sat in a meeting where they felt like they were talking but nobody was listening.
But what if there were a sure fire way to get your colleagues to take notice? Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management examined what language is most likely to win over peers when used in meetings.
These were “yeah, give, start, meeting” and “discuss”.
The word may ‘yeah’ seems surprising as a persuasive word, but, said professor Cynthia Rudin, “when we looked at the way people were using it, we found they were using it to show agreement with something that someone else previously said. Perhaps if you frame a suggestion as if it were in agreement with others, it’s more likely to be accepted.”
While ‘yeah’ was most frequently used to garner approval, ‘meeting’ was most often successfully used to shut down discussion of a topic, she said.
“For instance, someone might say, ‘Maybe this is something for the next meeting,’ as a way of gently moving the topic onward without causing offence. That suggestion was almost always accepted,” she said.
“We’re just at the beginning of finding ways to use machine learning to produce tools for more efficient meetings. Since everyone wants their ideas accepted, it’s worth considering word choice in proposals. You don’t want to undermine your idea by not using the right language,” said Rudin.

 This is another installment of collection of thoughts and reflections about how the Built Environment affects our lives. 


The Minnillieum Generation - How will they carry on the responsible development of our Built Environment?

Last week Market Watch, a online service of the Wallstreet Journal published another article in their "10 most" series. This time my local newsrag carried this installment so I wandered over the the WSJ site to see what others were saying about the article entitled, "10 things millennials won’t tell you". Believe you me, there was plenty being said, from both the Baby Boomer perspective as well as from others of the article's targeted audience.

Click to See Full Infographic for Millennial Leaders
While I belong to the praised and maligned Baby Boomer generation, I am also curious about what kind of legacy our successors the Millennials or Generation Y as they are often referred to,  are likely to leave behind. Being described as self-absorbed and ambitious. Their job skills and office etiquette being called into questions and even their ability to communicate outside the realms of Twitter and Facebook have given them a certain stigma which many of those in my generation who hold the strings of corporate governance, find difficult to deal with. Yet for all this generalization in the article there are always the exception to the generalizations and those exceptions shine all the brighter for the contrast of their more generalized partners.

What I'm wondering about is how will those who are coming up continue the legacy of understanding we must take a more pragmatic and responsible position on the environment which sustains us. Winnow through the morass of hype, misinformation and bias foisted on us daily by the media. A cacophony of voices from every stripe and type straining to have their voice heard. Our connected world provides the platform for these voices in a way never before possible. Our children grew up with the beginnings of this Information Revolution and are far more comfortable in it than even those of us who helped bring it about. How will this web of strings and connections effect them and their ability to deal with problems of higher complexity than we or our parents ever thought of to begin with?

 The info graphic above is taken from a recent survey done by Telefonica about the perceptions of Millennial's about themselves and the confidence they have in their generation to meet the challenges they see.  With much in the balance and critical decisions to be made, I wonder how this next generation will respond to the demands placed on them?

This reflection is a continuing conversation of the related connections of thoughts and how they link together and form a web of networked strings reflecting the complexity of our current society and its' relationship to the Built Environment.


Utility of the Future (UTOF) "Water Water where is it? There's not a drop to drink!"

A couple of months ago a report was issued entitled  “The Water Resources Utility of the Future: A Blueprint for Action.” was recently released by a coalition of organizations: The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), and the Water Environment Federation (WEF).

Article linked from Water Efficiency Blog. http://www.waterefficiency.net/WE/Blogs/1619.aspx

Some of you know from reading previous posts on this blog, I have contended that diversified water treatment is as important as the diversified renewable energy movement which has been afoot for about the last decade or more. In my mind, it is unfortunate we have not paid attention to the underlying infrastructure and social connection good drinking water has on our communities. 

The EPA is warning us that in less than a decade or so, there will be significantly more cities in dire straits to provide safe drinking water in their communities. This report echoes this call to actions. Our current state rules on water production and the often arcane water rights laws which change from state to state often cause difficulties for the emerging, smaller scale treatment options available. Greywater rules are one other point of confusion where it is actually illegal to use this water at all and in most other areas it is severely regulated as a resource. Here in the desert SW we have a more open mind to the value of water, but only slightly. We may have some of the more forward-looking legislation in Arizona, but the public is not educated about the significant impacts these laws could have on our severe drought conditions.  

Using some of the recent filtration and treatment technologies which began in the NASA science labs back over 25 years ago we are beginning to see commercially viable solutions which can take briny water and turn it into higher quality water than found in our local utility pipes.

Yet setting water quality aside it is often more of a quantity problem and here is where the leaky pipe syndrome is raising it's ugly head. Some local utilities have a leakage rate over 30% in some network areas which is a huge burden for the overall system. Fixing far-flung and aging networks is expensive and so are put off until they go beyond being a nuisance to a health hazard. 

How will a diversified water treatment and production effort change the UTOF? Instead of larger, hard to manage and maintain, should we be be looking at smaller, more diversified and dispersed treatment and production solutions? 

UTOF report indicates we need a significant change in thinking and implementation of both the treatment and production sides of water. With more and more communities facing difficult water supply and treatment issues, these questions aren't for the future, but for us to grapple with now. To be sure they are difficult, complex, wicked problems and take the efforts of entire regions and the stakeholders of multiple communities to arrive at possible strategies and solution paths. No one process or solution will be a "silver bullet" in any community. 

This is another part to the connections of thoughts about the Built Environment and the elements surrounding the efforts we take as humans to change and shape the environment we work in. A string of ideas, in this instance relating to clean water, the environment and sustaniability of our communities and a possible picture of the water utility of the future UTOF.


Lean Startups and the Flow of Value-A lesson for the AECO Sector

Dave West recently wrote an article in ProjectsAtWork.com's June issue  that I immediately identified with. In fact he almost writes a parallel post to one of my original posts which is also one of the all-time favorite posts here on this blog. BIM & XPM-A Made Marriage.

Dave is currently the Chief Product Officer at Tasktop and one of the foremost industry experts on software development and deployment. He has helped advance many modern software development processes, including the Unified process and Agile methods. As such, he knows of what he talks and it is a strong validation of the work I discovered somewhat by accident and happy circumstances over ten years ago.
Please read Dave's article here

Dave's mention of the Lean Startup movement, that is going through companies right now lead him to some interesting conclusions. As a mentor at our local Gangplank chapter in Tucson and having been through several Lean Launchpad  Startup workshops, I can attest to the parallels which Dave highlights. For the real focus on the Lean Launchpad is creating value and validation of a new idea using the minimum of effort to seek the greatest return. In a Lean Launchpad we don't go into big elaborate tests, but use simple tests to determine if an idea has merit in the marketplace. For me that was natural. I have been doing that in design practice for quite a while. Tweaking the context was easy for me to see how focusing on creating the greatest value using the least expensive means possible gave way to determine where the maximum effort should be spent as an idea matured and became validated.

How did all this resonate with me? I started using a variation of XPM and Agile back about 10 years ago in the design profession of architecture. The close parallels of SW development and working in the built environment design are quite scary. For that reason, and that it focuses on the value stream of information, the above rationale delivers very good results.

On my early journeys in this endeavor to find a better way to practice design I looked for ideas which would bring the design process together more efficiently. Since I'm not a purist on either the lean or agile side I just looked for what worked well and could be repeated over and over with consistent results. Creating a flow of information which delivered the value needed for timely decisions became our mantra. It reduced rework, it focused on the issue(s) at hand and set all others aside and above all was guided by the principle of keeping the end goal in mind.

Often, the project's end goal was modified along the way due to inconsistencies in assigning value in the beginning. But that is to be expected, since not all the value is known before a project starts. Discovering that new areas of value harvesting made more sense than staying with original ideas we were able to keep the project expectations in line and the Owner happy. More times than not, the final results were better than anyone would have imagined going into the project.

Who was responsible for delivery, everyone. If someone working on the project did not see it was their project to deliver value, they often were removed or isolated out to minimize their damage to the rest of the producing team.

As you can see, adaptability, collaboration, transparency, autonomy and focus on value were key components in our success.

Always remember "Collaboration is the Glue of Success"

Collaborative Construction Blog

This article is a continuation of conversations about how delivery of professional services in the Built Environment can change the way business is done. This article focuses on the change in focus from functional activity to delivery of value in every action and the need for all participants to own their part of the project delivery. It is a continuing String of thought with connections to project management, project delivery methods, change management and the continuing evolution of business delivery in our marketplace. 


Bullitt Center Accepts Living Building Challenge 2.0

Some of you may know of the Living Building Challenge it seeks to leverage existing technologies in a way which combine to make a building completely self-sufficient water and energy centers and at the same time increase livability in it's adjacent area. While the Challenge is a rating system for buildings, it is much more. Embarking on a Living Building Challenge is also becoming an active advocate for the process and how it changes the environment around the building.

The first Commercial building to begin to achieve this audacious challenge is the Bullitt Center, home of the International Living Future Institute, creator of the Living Building Challenge. So they are not only encouraging others, but demonstrating that their challenge is attainable and viable in a commercial setting.

Unlike other rating systems for a building to be granted and maintain their status as a Living Building Challenge building they must demonstrate with measurable and verifiable results that they do perform as they are designed to. These are exciting projects for those of us who contend that buildings do not have to be "appliances" plugged into infrastructure as consumers, but could and should be at least neutral to the supporting infrastructure for power and water and hopefully positive contributors for power and treated water. Truly, a community of buildings meeting the Living Building Challenge, could survive and sustain livability without huge central water treatment and power generation systems or even large surface storm water management systems. Buildings and their attendant support systems would be cross linked together to create local eco-systems of the Built Environment which were neutral to the surrounding environment or even positive in terms of water management and air quality.

Take some time looking at the Living Building Challenge website and the resources below and I think you will begin to see some of the possibilities for our future.

Wikipedia Article on Bullitt Center
Seattle’s Bullitt Center: Ready To Debut As World’s Greenest Office Building

Ashoka Fellow Jason McLennan on the Future of Green Building [video]

This article is one of a continuing series about the Built Environment and the sustainable design results which can be achieved when integrated design delivers buildings which are self sufficient in the energy and water they need to operate. It is a connection of strings of interest and links of connection which lead to a greater understanding and the possibilities  available to us today. NoSilos.com


Top 10 Renewable Energy Utilities in the US

Electric Power and Light just published the National Renewal Energy Labs (NREL) Top Ten list for Utilities selling renewable energy. Some familiar names continue to be on the list and some new names appear. One surprising ranking was the change in ranking of the top utility with renewable energy sales (megawatt hours /year), Portland General Electric (Oregon) overtook Austin Energy in Austin, Texas, in 2012, selling the largest amount of renewable energy in the nation through its voluntary green power program.

What I found interesting in this article is the wide geographical representation of utilities all over the US. While these utilities sell only a small fraction of the entire renewable energy sold in the US it is noteworthy that these programs are representative of volunteer programs where customers specifically elect to purchase renewable energy.

Here's the entire article


Texas Revises Legislation to allow more CoGeneration - Designers Awaken

If you don't know much about the power system in Texas they are about the only state in the 48 which has their own power grid isolated from their neighbors and it's been more blessing than curse to them. They don't worry about neighboring regional power glitches creating problems for them. Their energy policy is obviously driven by the oil and gas reserves they have which generates nearly all the power in Texas. But the folks in Texas aren't blind to the issues petrol-powered energy has and has a pretty aggressive policy to see a diversified energy production profile for the state.

Recently the legislators did something pretty bold for them, they lessened regulation on CoGeneration facilities. You see the Utility Commission has previously looked at these facilities as small utilities and as such it hampered the development of significant CoGen power where it could really help the grids in TX.

The Texas Legislature recently passed House Bill 2049, which removes regulatory barriers and improves the business climate for cogeneration facilities by clarifying language in the Texas Utility Code. "…this policy change will help the entire Texas grid by relieving grid congestion, increasing grid capacity and reducing the amount of water used in the generation of electricity," said Paul Cauduro, executive director of the Texas Combined Heat and Power Initiative.

See an article on this new legislation here from Fierce Energy

So how does this tie into the issues surrounding the Built Environment and my interests expressed here? Well it's pretty simple. While PV power is nice, it is designed as an add-on system to normal operations and is by it's nature diurnal. CoGen isn't. GoGen systems are designed to recover waste energy and increase overall efficiency by using that waste heat to create more power. Too many times we don't look at our buildings in terms of their waste energy profile. How much energy are our buildings throwing away with single-pass heating and cooling and even the recapture of excess heat in the summer being exhaled from our buildings by cooling systems.

The important thing to realize here these systems have been around a long, long time and even today there are emerging technologies which can absorb more and more excess energy to be either stored and used later or recovered and used immediately to generate power. We do have the technology now, we can use commercially available systems which are designed from residential scale to large industrial complexes. The problem is we are so in love with the PV solar story we have likely forgot some basics of systems design along the way.

My challenge to building design and execution teams is get educated about CoGeneration and it's advantages and educate your client base to it's advantages and quick paybacks and long-term benefits. Our neighbors in Texas have decided CoGen makes sense for their power needs, maybe the rest of us should start looking at CoGen harder and push for easier regulation and implementation in our own back yards.


Infrastructure and AEC Possibilities "Fix It First"

President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address we should be focusing on fixing the broken infrastructure elements in our country. Not long after President Obama's address the civil engineers announced our county only earned a D+ in infrastructure condition and performance. While a lot of focus has been on the roads and bridges our water systems are in deplorable condition. Many cities have pipes which leak almost 20% of their input back into the ground at a tremendous cost to rate payers. Electrical grids and telecommunication networks are aging and in rural communities are often among the oldest installations left in our country.

Roads: Why Fix Them When You Can Build More?

Democrats would rather build more than fix much of anything. Building new cost x times more than to fix what is already there. 
Cutting red tape, increasing private investment, and designating $40 billion for urgent repairs are the three cornerstones of President Obama's new plan for U.S. infrastructure.
Fleshing out the "Fix it First" plan announced Feb. 12 in the State of the Union Address, the White House issued a Fact Sheet on Wednesday (Feb. 20) with more details of the proposal.
"Investing in infrastructure not only makes our roads, bridges, and ports safer and allows our businesses and workers to be as competitive as they need to be in the global economy; it also creates thousands of good American jobs that cannot be outsourced," according to "The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure."
... What remains unclear, however, is how the Obama administration plans to pay for this and other infrastructure initiatives that the President outlined in his State of the Union speech last month.
In a speech to the National Governors Association Monday, the President fleshed out additional details of the plan, announcing that his administration will create "regional teams" that will assist states in implementing infrastructure projects.

Fact Sheet: The President’s Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure

White House fact sheet on infrastructure projects. 

Finally, what appears to be a 'shot in the arm' for the basic needs for the country is only a temporary fix to a systemic problem. Costs of federal procurement is higher than any other roadway and infrastructure project type of its kind. Lower real value is produced per dollar spent than in any other kind of construction. While welcome to the larger infrastructure design and construction firms, smaller firms will have to scratch it out to gather their part of the pie. And when the pittance of 40 Billion is spent when we are really talking about over 1 Trillion in needs, the short-term fix will leave us with significant needs to deal with.

Call and write your federal legislators in both the House and Senate to use this as a starting shot in the arm for real wage growth in the country. While you are at it introduce them to the idea of integrated design and delivery to help each dollar go further. 


Top Five Most Read Articles at this blog.

 Seems people over the past year were really interested in the lean topics but just as interesting three of the most popular articles came from pretty early on and all three were tied to BIM in some way. But one of my favorites about the Design Age is still there in the top five.
Feel free to chime in about your favorite. Oh, and if there's something you would like to hear about more let me know that too. 
And thanks to everyone for your readership and support. 
Remember, "Collaboration is the glue of success."


Why Do Projects Fail? - A contrarian POV

Earlier today I came across an article entitled, "Why Do Projects Fail? - Learning how to avoid failure."  An engaging topic to be sure. Especially for me, since I'm in the business of helping folks deliver successful projects and managing the change which often accompanies those projects.

Well the article rounded up the usual suspects of project requirements, losing focus, disengagement, impossible deliverables, the wrong deliverables, the wrong project statement, governance and poor implementation. Now I'm not going to debate the importance of everyone of the stated reasons in the article, but I am going to take issue with the basic premise of a project' existence. The single item above which get's closest to this idea is the 'wrong project statement.'

Project Statements and Their Assumptions

We begin a project with the best intentions in place. Thinking that it will deliver clear benefits to it's constituent users and make their lives better. But hold on a minute. Who asked the question about why this idea came about in the first place. Why did they think this was a good idea? Who is the real champion behind this idea and why are they interested? What is the failure surrounding this project's initiation? What is the value of that Failure? Even more importantly, what causes the failure in the first place?

Did you catch on the Who, What When, Where, Why theme. As a long-time problem solver both in the singular and collaborative group context, often I've found few, if any, of the above questions or others similar have been asked and seriously answered. In many cases the key question is about the failure surrounding the genesis of the project in the beginning. More than once when looked at closely, this failure value question gets to the heart of where the real solution lies and more than likely, the solution wasn't what people thought it should be.

So the assumptions made at the beginning of projects are more likely to contribute to the failure of a project simply because the problem statement is all wrong from the beginning. It is of no consequence if there was complete engagement, perfect execution and implementation; in the end the project will fail to survive because it serves no real purpose of delivers any significant value and will be abandoned.

I mention this not from the perspective of building projects so much as the processes we use to deliver projects. Often our efforts to make our businesses more effective only continues to contribute to the confusion and failure within and between organizations. We find ourselves chasing rabbits, ghosts and digging holes for no reason. All the ineffectual, "Stupid" stuff many of us deal with daily.

The Challenge

So the next time someone proposes a project, find out if it can stand the scrutiny of the Who, What, When, Where and Why sisters. If it does, then likely you are on the right path and success is more likely than if you don't.

This is a continuing series of monographs and conversations about the Connections of ideas as Strings and Links of overlapping ideas dealing with project management, business management, business processes and project delivery.
Remember "Collaboration is the Glue of Success."


Rigidity in Institutions is harbinger of failure

My good friend James L. Salmon has a blog called Collaborative Construction I know some of you read, but for those of you who don't check out this link to his post entitled (SMART)X Public Policy? While the article James refers to is interesting and on point to the medical profession, it is also a shade of foreboding in the Built Environment as well. As more and more public policy is enacted in the areas of building performance, emissions from the built environment, water purity, water usage and the like, we continually restrict the creativity of human minds and calcify the momentum we need to maintain to make the huge changes needed to create environments which are both environmentally and economically sustainable.

While legislation to improve air quality has seen some success, there is also abuse on both sides and this results in further draconian reaction from regulators, legislators and litigators. Like Professor Mead, the author of the cited post, points out, we need to refocus our efforts on getting the bloat out of policy and legislation and focus on more responsive means. The AEC industry needs to take note, we are already heavily regulated in the areas of building design performance, labor, material safety and job safety. The business does not need to bear more regulation for the sake of trying to be more responsive to the needs of society.

As an industry, we need to be more productive, innovative and responsive and supportive business relationships with a goal in mind to shed our old thinking for new relationships and better performance negating the need for more legislation and administrative oversight. Responsible change is less expensive for everyone concerned.

This is s continuing series of ideas based on Connections and Links which form Strings of knowledge related to the Built Environment and the issues surrounding project delivery and regulatory compliance. 


Recycling Renewable Energy-Seems like a natural but is it?

I was kind of pulled out of my chair this morning when I was reviewing some news feeds and came across this article.

Richard Gross, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NY-Poly), is deeply troubled that clean energy technologies meant to help preserve the planet employ nonsustainable, petroleum-based materials.
"The blades on a wind turbine, for example, are massive and need to be replaced about every 25 years," Gross said. "They end up in landfills, like any other nonrecyclable garbage."
This a clip from "When Wind Turbine Blades and Solar Panels End Up in Landfills" published in Electric Light&Power. What seems quite improbable to me is the statement by Professor Gross that a lot of the equipment used for sustainable "green" power ends up in landfills! What's going on with this. So I started doing some research for other articles and sources to support the professor's claim. [see delicious and search for recycle wind turbines]

I also looked back at the source of the information. Professor Gross has his own axe to grind here since he is looking for practical application for his research in bimolecular engineering. I'd add to his cry for other building materials which often end up in the landfills. For example, how about porcelain fixtures that get thrown out. Can they be ground up and re-purposed again? How are we recapturing the heavy and toxic chemicals used in PV based panels. Are a lot of these ending up in landfills, or not. 


Are EV owners buying their 2nd car? Research in Japan says ???

If the market research recently released about buyers in Japan is any indication, then manufacturers need to take a harder look. The all electric cars are suffering most in surveys asking "Would you purchase another electric vehicle?" Over 30% are saying a resounding "No." That's interesting news. Where Japan has much more adjacent locations and denser overall population than the US or even Europe it could be telling as to why these technologies are having a harder time with larger market adoption.
A McKinsey report just released cited an overall loss in satisfaction with their earlier choice.
These buyers said they were “seduced” by low energy costs, attractive subsidies, and a good test drive. But they were less well informed about EVs than were environmentally conscious “green enthusiasts” (who love EV technology for its low energy costs and comfortable driving experience) and became less enthusiastic about their purchase when they faced issues such as higher electric bills and locating places to charge their cars. 
If the US automakers are going to convince us that EV's are a sound choice they are going to have to have more education, better charging infrastructure and more support for the US driving public while reducing the cost of vehicles at the same time. I think the jury is still out on this transport solution. Look at the overall carbon and energy differential to make and operate these vehicles when most of that energy is still coming from high emission coal-fired plants, their very high use of heavy metals and difficult to recycle and their initial glamour of cheap driving costs is greatly, if not entirely offset, depending on whose research you believe.

Read the entire article at McKinsey

This article is a continuing post in the series of Connections and Strings ties to sustainability, environment, and changes in urban life. The electric, EV of the future will have to address many issues with the public like charging locations, initial cost and total carbon contribution over the life-cycle of the vehicle if it is to be a successful response to the lowering of emissions. 


The Employee Tracking Tag and Construction Sites

Recently the Wall Street Journal ran an article about a technology which has been around for a couple of years which tracks the location and tone of voice of the wearer and then correlates the locations w/ time to show the types of interactions between people. The premise of this technology is to discover social gathering and interaction modes of people in a specific space. (Read the article here on WSJ).

It got me to wondering if this kind of technology could have an impact on the efficiency on a construction or mining or oil production or any other construction related site. You see all the studies I've seen referenced for this kind of technology is in the office environment. The postulate would be if we haven't seen any real productivity in these types of environments over the past 40 years or so, then it might not be all technology and planning that is the problem, people and how they work together are likely part of the problem as well.

If you think you have a problem with this, you are probably aware all smartphones have GPS tracking features in them and anyone can track you if they know your number. Also there is an expending market to track vehicles, pets, mental and dementia patients, the criminal's ankle bracelet  and a host of other tracking methods being introduced which adds to the growing collection of Big Data which surrounds us every day.

I also include here the public sentiment on these devices being used from the WSJ poll as of this morning

Read the article and chime in with your thoughts and experiences.

A couple of links to the technology providers

This article is part of a continuing series of posts which look at emerging technologies, big data and efficiency in the work place. Specifically the Connections between unlikely events and technologies which create Strings of these Connections to reveal emerging patterns of our new economy.


4d Printing + BIM

Seems the folks at MIT are at it again. This time with Prof/ Skyler Tibbets working with mediums created on 3d printers, but which have the difference of being able to change their physical geometry when activated by an outside environmental change such as vibration, movement or presence of water for starters. It's been tagged as 4d printing. Seems the printing process is only the beginning of the process and depending on the engineering of the printed compound, change of state or organization is the intended outcome.

Some of these compounds change their shape from a simple linear form to more complex shapes. In some cases independent parts combine with others to form a new shape. All very intriguing. watch a couple of Vimeo vids [here].

Seems Prof Tibbets and Autodesk have an association to create authoring tools to help designers create these little gadgets. I find this interesting development, especially in the light of current professional conditions where designers have hard enough time designing railings and curtainwalls, now we are working on items they can design a dynamic changing artifact. Amazing, yet intriguing.

I hope some of you chime in with comments on where you think this will go.


The Discovery of Managing Fire and Our New Technologies

Can our new emerging technologies of BIM, Cloud Computing, Pervasive Social Media and "always on" communication compare to the importance of early mankind's discovery of how to manage fire?

Some months ago I posted a discussion point on the Integrated Project Delivery R & D discussion board on Linkedin on the topic of BIM metrics and what we could or should be measuring. This was in direct relationship to a blog post here around the same time. As a post it has laid dormant for quite some time. Here is a response I wrote to one of the recent comments on LinkedIn relative to the blog post. This comment goes directly to the points of our new company NoSilos.com and the kind of work I, and my colleagues believe needs to be done in many industries tied to the Built Environment, namely change our minds from one of continuing the pervasive compartmentalization of ideas and data and openly look for ways to bridge gulfs we have taken decades or even centuries to create. It is difficult work. It calls for people to forsake many ideas they have thought are the center of their professional lives and accept our new economic reality has no room for division and hoarding and requires collaboration and sharing to be effective business operators.

I hope you enjoy the response and will leave comments and your thoughts on these ideas. I believe it is imperative we openly discuss these issues if we are to remain relevant to the people we hope to serve and continue to make a livelihood at our chosen profession.

I think you are beginning to see and appreciate the silo's we at NoSilos.com work tirelessly to break down. For many reasons, economics being a major consideration, we have decided not to pursue work in the public sector as a primary effort. It's not that we wouldn't take a commission for the right project or set of circumstances, rather too many procedural barriers exist on both a financial and department levels to allow for much of our work to have any real effect. Too much protectionism of position and power is present to allow for real dismantling of these silos in public sectors at this time. 

Often, I think we would find there are many unexpected opportunities in this sector to take advantage of, but there's no evidence of the desire to change and take advantage of those opportunities. As to the different perspectives of how the change is effected in different levels of organizations based on size, service sector or maturity is important to be aware of in this business of BIM adoption.

You are astute to realize that while a central BIM repository in some format could be beneficial to the long-tail operation, maintenance, and equity preservation of a building or other asset, the people you need to bring together have never thought they would or could participate in a meaningful way. Our new consultancy practice is all about discovering how these kinds of new relationships can be fostered, included and implemented over long periods of time to maximize the real value of any Built Environment Asset. And I'm not limiting this to building, roads, bridges and waterworks or power plants, but including educational facilities, heavy industry and any natural extraction assets in the Oil, Mining, Forestry, and Agriculture domains as well. Not all of them need or can use a BIM solution, but they all require an enhanced communication method and collaborative / multidisciplinary focus to meet the challenges of our new economy.

BIM is only one small tool in the arsenal of technology tools needed to harvest the value of an extended value chain in the Built Environment. But technology by itself isn't a solution, rather a set of tools to shape and manage a new universe of reality possible because of the new technology.

Just as the discovery of how to manage fire became a revolutionary and transformative  technology to early mankind, so BIM and other highly communicative technologies will have impact over time on the Built Environment. We are now at the point we know that fire can be contained and managed. Now how do we harness that new found technology into meaningful and valuable results. 
Remember always that "Collaboration is the Glue of Success." sm

This is a continuing discussion about the Strings of Connections and Links around the changes needed to be considered in the Built Environment.