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Integration Track—Intermediate

Courses labelled as tbd are placeholders for future development. We encourage you to submit your comments, proposals for syllabi and details of your ideas about these courses.

An overview of integrated practice

Align concept, scope, and budget

Frame the best possible solution to respond to the project. It is critical to envision the project properly. With the correct strategy and vision for the project, the phases that follow become easier to manage and more successful.

The Validation Process identifies the strategies for successfully designing, constructing and managing your facility, project, or process. The goal is to get a good, objective definition of quality; to define success at the beginning; to set appropriate expectations; and to develop solid project controls. The size and technical expertise of your firm will likely drive your approach to integrated practice.

There are designers who cannot handle the technology or resent overlaying this level of control on their design process. This is counterproductive to integrated practice.

By allowing these attitudes you may be positioning yourself for a sub-optimized process.

It is best if the designer, as a minimum, creates the concept prototype. Analysis and costing are also ideally designer functions, supported by technical experts and integrated databases.

The process works best when the designer uses the technology tools to consider alternatives, at the BEGINNING. Tapping into all of your firm’s resources to get the Validation right will make sure that your projects start right.


The BIM process is by its very nature sustainable. When you work in a BIM process, you are by definition eliminating waste and reducing the inefficiencies that plague the building industry. As an inherently sustainable process, you are making a major impact.

BIM models give you many advantages over the traditional process. Your bim tools allow you to analyze energy use. The same is true for resource reduction, daylighting, and solar energy. You can make adjustments and try multiple options quickly and inexpensively. Using the same tools, you can also evaluate environmental safety, security, and a wide range of other issues.

Everyone should participate in this process.

We describe the Validation Process in a linear fashion. That is how courses work. In practice, the steps move about.

Design Criteria might come at the same time or before the Digital Prototype. The Cost Model might happen based on the Digital Repository Model created in Needs Analysis. You change the flow to work best for you and your project. The parts should all be there. At times, they occur in different orders.

Needs Analysis

You start with a Needs Analysis that focuses on understanding the client’s physical and underlying issues.

  • Time—Document time goals, project performance requirements, flexibility, and restraints using scheduling and mind-mapping software.
  • Constraints—Document financial, site, regulatory, and expandability issues.
  • Mission—Document owner business requirements and any change management issues.
  • Goals & Objectives—Document organizational goals, form and image goals, and functional requirements.
  • Economic—Document management issues and financial restraints.

During this step, documentation can take several forms, depending on the level of project integration.

The status of the owner’s BIM resources also becomes a factor. If your client has implemented integrated systems, much of this material may already be available within as-built grade bim models, IFC files, and other formats.

An owner who has implemented a BIM-based capital asset management program may have tightly integrated business process and facility asset information. If so, much of this effort revolves around data extraction and verification to support your project.

In the vast majority of situations today, owners have not created not implemented BIM nor integrated their archives and business processes. In this case, your efforts become much like any traditional fact-finding and site survey task, with the added requirement of processing the results to integrate with a BIM solution.

Documentation should feed to a data structure in a standardized format. The goal is to develop normalized data that easily integrates with rules-based planning systems.

Program Analysis

In the Program Analysis, you break down client requirements and structure the data to get a clear picture of relationships.

  • Physical—Diagram and understand project use, space requirements, relationships, and adjacencies.
  • Schedule—Analyze phasing, occupancy requirements, and delivery issues.
  • Function—Develop logic diagrams, block diagrams, and functional characteristics.
  • Strategy—Develop initial delivery and procurement strategy.

Many options exist for this step. The main purpose of this step is for you to understand the project and to develop initial concepts for possible solutions. In the next phase, you will begin to create prototypical models to generate the parametric data required for detailed analysis.

In this phase, you become fluent with project requirements, owner issues, concerns, and limits. Therefore, you should use tools that give you this level of clarity. You should also school yourself to use tools that generate and manage data similar to those used for Needs Analysis.

Digital Prototype

The information from the Digital Prototype stage becomes the baseline for all future development. It becomes the Objective Measure of Success for the project. The goal is to define a solution that you can implement successfully within the owner’s goals. This solution becomes the platform for studying and testing assumptions.

Cost Model

The Cost Model is a financial planning tool to help the owner understand project cost constraints. We develop the values in a process similar to the Design Phase Program Estimating support used by agency construction managers and pioneered by George Heery, CM Associates, and others in the late 1960s.

The entire validation process happens quickly. For typical projects, the entire validation process takes about two weeks. Few projects take longer. The Cost Model comes together without slowing anything down.

The Cost Model relies on quantities extracted from the prototype model. Since we are usually working with a conceptual model at this stage, missing quantities are projected using rules-based tools and our internal knowledge base. We then use a combination of RSMeans’ Cost Data, DC&D Technologies’ D4Cost, and internal cost data to arrive at cost projections.

When used collaboratively with the owner, the Cost Model has proven to be a highly effective tool for controlling project outcomes. The goal is to create a model, which includes cost placeholders for all anticipated costs in the project. This model becomes a design constraint. This model then becomes the objective measure of financial success for the project.

Factor scheduling and phasing into the Cost Model. Without understanding phasing, estimates can miss critical costs.

Without a delivery strategy, it is easy to miss both opportunities and dangers. Without an understanding of when construction operations will occur, risk management is more complicated.

Start scheduling and strategy assumptions in the Needs Analysis step. They should both be included in the Cost Model. By this stage, you should have a concept for the planned procurement and implementation of the construction. You should also have a clearly drawn timeline.

We usually do this with a scheduler such as MSProject. We then export schedule data to Mindjet’s MindManager for additional procurement and implementation analysis.

Make cost management one of the most important pieces of your process.

Good online estimating tools are available at a reasonable cost. With judicious application of construction knowledge, common sense, and a willingness to ask questions and learn, you can improve your estimating process. Depending on your resources, this may require you to associate with a good estimator. It may require you to get additional cost management training. It may require you to hire someone with estimating skills. However you do it, jump into cost control.

Base the Cost Model on data from you concept model and parametric rules-based cost data.

Design Criteria

Design Criteria is the process of documenting the project’s strategic decisions and the assumptions that drive costing and the prototype. Here you focus on the tools that make the BIM process so powerful. This is where you run tests and analyze the model.


The prototypes, models, and analyses developed to this point are parametric. Define these parameters by using rules of thumb, knowledge databases, standards, accepted practices, and experience.

You are able to pull a great deal of information from these parametric objects. As we discussed earlier, if you are designing a kindergarten classroom for twenty children you can—with a high degree of certainty—project the number of desks, light fixtures, and toilets. You can project the square footage required, as well as ceiling, walls, and floors. You can project most of the “things” that make up the classroom.

A mature bim solution allows you to embed these parameters. The embedded parameters can be data—lists of items tied to a measurement. Alternatively, they can be intelligent objects that have graphical representations. A chair can look like a chair or can be a description of a chair. In either case, your bim tools give you the capability to test and analyze the object.

These embedded parametric objects form the heart of the project. They establish the scope, scale, and quantities.

You can estimate them. You can analyze them. However, they do not include everything that makes up the project. For that, YOU fill in the blanks.

The goal of the Design Criteria step is to document the assumptions that you make when you fill in the blanks in the project’s parameters. You are creating “placeholders” that represent items that you know from experience will be required. Without these placeholder assumptions, things will be missing-you will create a flawed analysis.


Owners want to understand how their projects compare with similar projects. When you do not provide comparisons, your cost model will naturally be compared to out-of-context “cost per square foot” evaluations. It is likely human nature to test this type of information.

These comparisons will at best compare apple to oranges. Some will include site work, some will not. None will include project soft costs or interior fit up. These comparisons will make you look bad. They will not improve comprehension. They will get the owner worried. They will create confusion, not certainty.

Comparable analysis eliminates this problem. By actively leading this step, you help your clients evaluate their project based on standards correctly applied.

We use DC&D Technologies’ D4Cost system almost exclusively for this step.

The system allows you to identify a group of similar projects. It then allows you to adjust the projects to local conditions and the projected construction time. Since D4Cost is a database-driven system, the project data is consistent and repeatable. You adjust the level of detail to the owner’s requirement.

Pro Forma

The Pro Forma presents the client with the data to explore options for alternate approaches, reductions, and additions.

We selected the Pro Forma terminology to represent the partially complete nature of the data prior to this review and approval. In this step, you review and analyze project information with the owner. From this review, you make adjustments before finalizing in the Validated Program step.


One of the goals of the Validation Process is to frame the project with the components required for successful implementation. Successfully achieving this goal, results in a solution that closely matches the owner’s requirements.

An all-inclusive solution such as this provides the optimal approach to visioning a project. However, real-world issues (budgets, political restraints, etc.) often require compromises and adjustments. Because of this, it is critical that cost reductions, potential additions, design options, and other alternate approaches be included in the Pro Forma.

Validated program

Your final product is a validated program that defines limits and possibilities, and guides the steps that follow. The Validated Program can take many forms, depending on the client and situation. Ideally, an interactive Web-based document presents the data without losing the connection to the integrated environment. For many clients, a formal series of documents including a bound report, a presentation for public use and a series of databases and bim models in the project Web portal are required.

The solutions in the validated program serve several functions:

  • They become the space use program and measure of success for continuation of the project.
  • They become the statement of owner requirements to guide the design architect.
  • They become the basis of procurement documents for design/builders.

Design Prototype Model

The Design Prototype Model is the second step. It is central to the process.

To most people the DPM is a “normal” bim model. You develop the DPM based on the decisions reached in Validation. The DPM most closely matches the models shown by vendors or used in a nonintegrated virtual building model environment. The models that you have seen have probably been DPMs.

The DPM may flesh out the Digital Repository Model or the Concept Vision Model. It can also be an entirely new design direction in response to the Validated Program. You and the owner decide how to proceed with this step.

The first decision concerns the design solution.

Is the concept in Validation the best solution? If so, you continue to add detail to your Concept Vision Model until the DPM is ready for the next step.

If not, you use the constraints from Validation to create the best design solution.

You have an additional option. Some projects are too large, too complex, or require special handling. For a variety of reasons, a large firm or a “signature” designer may be required. In this case, the Validation becomes the framework for managing the design. As the owner’s trusted advisor, you transition to other roles.

The second decision concerns implementation. What is the best format for constructing the project?

Do you have a constructor that can work from the model? If so, you are really integrated. You likely do most of what this course recommends daily. You built the DPM to allow for integration with the constructor. Your model includes the basics to support 4D and 5D. You model all systems with this in mind.

Would some level of design/build be best? Earlier we discussed using the Concept Vision Model and Validation data for bidding design/build. With the DPM, you can take this a step further. With the DPM, you have an ideal tool for reducing design/builder uncertainty to achieve better bid results and smoother projects.

Will the process look a lot like a traditional design/bid/build? You will have to produce public bidding documents. You will likely comply with a rigid review process that has defined submission requirements. You will concentrate on building the model to a level that complies with your submission requirements.

Construction Prototype

You are not limited to any specific construction delivery approach. You can use the process for all delivery methods. Tailor your services to the approach that is best for your client.

Are you public bidding your project to general contractors?

The CPM continues the development of the Design Prototype Model. You have arrived at this stage with much of the production work already built into your model. Your goal is to maintain this advantage as you extract and compose bidding documents from your model.

The level of detail and complexity that you build into the CPM allows automated extraction of construction detailing, schedules, and other documentation required for the bidding process.

This one process may require old-fashioned 2D drafting. However, this happens within the framework of the bim model, but in 2D linked windows.

Your bim tool should automate much of the process. The goal of this model is to produce clear, concise, and complete documents for public bidding, with a minimum of mundane and repetitive work.


As you have seen, the Procurement Phase can begin at many points in the process. You have tailored the process to your project. You have customized your model to match the best procurement method. You realize that the goal of the Procurement Phase is to define everything clearly. All decisions are integrated and available to bidders.

In the Procurement Process, you focus on clearly communicating and answering all questions, quickly and completely, no matter how obvious or mundane they seem.

There are no stupid questions—especially during the procurement process. Every question that you avoid or miss will return as a problem—at the worst possible time.

You strive to eliminate all unknowns and uncertainties. You respond quickly and make dependable decisions. This has the effect of reducing “placeholders” and contingencies buried in bids. The result is bidding that is more responsive.

You freely share your data with bidders—ideally, by sharing your model. You even share the data through “flat formats,” if that is what they require to do their jobs.

You understand that holding your cards close is the opposite of collaboration. You are here to get the best for the owner.

Clarity and simplicity are hallmarks of an integrated process. You arrive at the Procurement Process with a design that meets the owner’s requirements. It has received a high level of cost and design control. You and the owner know that the design is on target.

Whether you are negotiating with design/builders from a Concept Vision Model, bidding a design/builder from a Design Prototype Model, or bidding general contractors from a Construction Prototype Model, you are providing more data than is expected.

You couple that with a user-friendly project Web site to keep everyone informed. You fill in the blanks. You respond quickly and collaborate easily. This is how you get good bid results.

No matter how competitive the bid market is.


Interact with other professionals in the larger built environment. Focus on creating a highly integrated practice within a defined service area or branch out. Integrated practice, based on a clear understanding of BIM gives you the option.

The Construction Phase focuses on managing the project’s outcomes within a collaborative process where all team members focus on creating sustainable and high quality results. In this phase, Cost Models developed in earlier phases becomes a tool for monitoring actual costs.

The construction industry is moving toward integrated practice. Contractors and builders are in the process of moving to BIM technology. They have realized the potential benefits. Owners are pushing them too.

Vendors of bim tools have recognized that the constructor market offers them opportunities as well. Vendors have customized bim tools to support the building trades. This gives you options and opportunities:

  • Traditional—you can continue to act in a standard construction phase administration role. In this role, you optimize your process to support owners during construction. Your value to the constructor revolves around rapid decision-making, process controls, and collaboration.
  • Design/build—you can support design/build from either the owner’s side or the design/builder’s side. From the owner’s side, you prepare procurement documents and transition to a program management role during the construction process.
  • Support—the options above are not much different from the normal architectural role. You have the option to support the constructor with preparing Type 5 models and then managing the data through the construction process. A few innovators have worked in this role. Many of the constructors who are now integrating are working to build this capability within their organization. This is an obvious need. It remains to be determined how companies will ultimately structure this role.

Integrate—Constructors are starting to integrate. You are integrating your practice. You have the opportunity to branch out and provide a completely integrated service or to find constructors who will work with you in an integrated mode. They are out there. Moreover, there will be many more in years to come.

You will find the possibilities to be a revelation.

Operations & Maintenance

The processes to this point produces highly detailed and complete digital models that can be used for long-term operations, running simulations, and planning for the project’s life.

Traditionally, planning, design, construction, and facility management are separate tasks in the life cycle of a building. From the perspective of the owner, separating these tasks resulted in additional costs and inefficiencies.

Elimination of waste and inefficiency such as this is one of the most beneficial parts of BIM.

With BIM, you extract most building information from the bim model. With this information, you can automatically handle a much larger portfolio. Facility management support becomes a natural outgrowth of design and construction phase models.

The data contained in your models allows the owner to analyze and monitor their facilities using tools such as Business Intelligence’s Crystal Reports.

Integrating facility management forces you to take a long view, in order to maximize the benefits to owners.

Focus on value

Building trust

The dictionary defines validation as—to establish the soundness of—to corroborate. By completing the Validation Process, you have confirmed owner requirements. You have used building information to give the owner a high level of certainty. The level of trust that this builds places you in the position to act as the owner’s trusted advisor. It makes you a valuable resource.

Because of this, you have options. You have the option to continue through Design and Construction. You have the option to transition into a project or program management role. Alternatively, you have the option to move on to the next Validation, handing the project off to others for implementation.

Leverage value

Integrated practice is a mechanism for focusing attention on helping clients find certainty about their projects. It minimizes the wasted effort and inefficiencies that cost owners extra money. The process gets projects designed and built, on time and on budget, while meeting owner requirements. It gives owners unprecedented control of the life of their facilities.

Integrated practice helps owners make decisions with more dependable information at the earliest possible time in the planning and design process. The goal is a process that makes decisions happen at the optimal time in every project. The process moves to the best solution for each specific instance.

Using bim, you create more information earlier. Early information allows earlier decisions and greater control.

The Validation Process typically occurs for every project. You tailor the prototyping required, procurement approach, and construction methods to each engagement. The selected delivery approach determines when we move from a “model only” approach to composing bidding documentation. Bidding documentation can be extracted from any model—even the Concept Prototype.

The Construction Prototype is not always required and the Procurement Phase can (and does) occur as an overlay to any of the other phases.

80/20 Principle

Your objective in the Validation Process is to focus your efforts and thought on the important things. You achieve the most when you realize that 80% of project results flow from 20% of causes. If you focus on the issues that fall into the critical 20%, you maximize results.

People call this the 80/20 principle. By applying the 80/20 principle, you focus your energies on developing a high degree of confidence in your early decisions. You may not know how the final product will look, since design comes later, but you will create a dependable vision that, applied correctly, will closely match the finished product.

Many people put average effort into too many things. If you can focus your efforts on the critical items, you can dramatically improve your results. The Power of Sixteen Concept theorizes that efforts in the top 20% of an activity are sixteen times more important than the efforts in the other 80%. By focusing on the most critical 20%, you leverage your effort.

In project terms, this means that, if you focus on improving up-front decisions, you can put yourself in the position of maintaining the advantage during production—rather than spending your time focusing on construction documentation. You can achieve gains that are even more significant in your productivity if you take this one-step further and apply the 400% Rule.

80/20——- this is outlined background from others!!!

Few people take objectives really seriously. They put average effort into too many things, rather than superior thought and effort into a few important things. People who achieve the most are selective as well as determined.Pareto principle : also called the 80/20 principle, because about 80 percent of results flow from 20 percent of causes.

Checklist: The Seven Secrets of the 80/20 Leader

1. It’s almost certainly true that 80% of your profits are made in chunks of your business that comprise less than 20% of your revenues. The ‘chunks’ may be particular products, customers, channels of distribution, geographies, stages of value added, or combination of these. Do you know where your critical 20% lies?

2. Once you know your critical 20%, you can try to multiply this type of business. It’s worth it, because adding another 20% of critical revenues could add another 80% of profits. Do you have a plan to double the critical 20%? Is it working?

3. Probably 50% of your customers, products, components, suppliers, and stages of value added add less than 5% to your revenues and profits. I call this the ‘weedy 50%’, because they are weeds that just get in the way. Do you know what your weedy 50% is? Are you acting to get rid of it?

4. Review all your growth initiatives and new projects. Almost certainly 20% or fewer of them will add 80% of the extra future value. Prune the bottom 50% of initiatives and give the resources to the top 20%. top

5. Who are the 20% of super-stars in your organization who will add 80% of the future human value? Do these few people get 80% of your time and attention spent leading, monitoring, mentoring, training and developing people?

6. What is the 20% or less of your time that adds 80% or more of your value? Could you double the time on this? What is the bottom 50% of your time in terms of value? Stop doing these things yourself delegate them, or just quit them altogether.

7. Organizations are successful when they are different from all competitors, provided that customers like what the corporation does when it’s different! Make a list of all the customer-pleasing things that are different about your company. What are the top 20% of these differences, the few really important differences that make a world of difference? How can you accentuate these differences, and multiply their impact?

Five concepts to challenge your view of the world

Outlined Below are five concepts that are an extension of the 80/20 principle and 80/20 thinking.

Consider them carefully – the impacts can be quite profound.

1. The world is predictably unbalanced The concept that an unbalanced world is normal, and not the exception. Imagine the power this gives you compared to those who believe the world is 50/50 and do not understand that an unbalanced world is the norm.

2. The vital few hidden in the trivial many The concept that only a few things really matter – the vital few. But, they need to be identified from amongst the trivial many in which they are invariably hidden. Imagine the benefits of knowing that that there are only a few things that really matter, and the power of a strategy that enables you to focus on finding those few.

3. De-averaging The concept that the answer lies in understanding the forces that drive the detail. Averages hide a multiplicity of critical clues on what forces are really at play. Imagine the benefits of knowing the profitability profiles of your clients, and of knowing those that a serious money spinners an those that are serious loss makers – what would your strategy be?

4. Power of 16 The concept that a typical event in the top 20% is 16x more important / critical / significant than a typical event in the other 80%. Imagine the benefits of knowing how to exploit those few events that really have a huge payoff.

5. The 400% rule The concept that if the top 20% of events could be replicated 5x over, the result / output would be 400% of the original. Imagine daring to conceive of a world in which quantum gains are possible. To read more about these concepts we suggest purchasing the e-course “80/20 Thinking for Business”top

The 400% Rule

The 400% Rule shows that if you replicate your efforts 5X in the top 20%, you will see your output increase by 400%.

Focus on the critical 20% with laser-like intensity. Exploit the successes that come from this focused approach. Then repeat the process. Over time, you will begin to see quantum gains in your results.

How much time does it take to integrate?

You set the pace

Making the business decision to become an integrated practice is a big step. It takes time and commitment. The process requires planning and forethought. Budget the time to do it right.

At this point, let’s take a look at a couple of important questions:

  • How can I successfully transition my staff to an integrated approach?
  • How long should it take?

There is not one simple answer to these questions. Every firm will be a little different. Your firm has a different mix of aptitudes, resources and skills than other firms. Your firm works with different clients, in different markets. Because of these factors, the timeline for making your change to an integrated practice will vary. Fortunately, the steps will be similar for most firms:

Manage the change. The process touches all parts of your practice.

Step 1: Assess readiness

Are you ready for integrated practice?

You start with introspection. Look at how you do business. Look at how you interact with your consultants and suppliers. Understand how your clients will react to a new way of doing business. Assess how you produce documents and how your staff may react to the change.

You should budget several weeks for this process.

Step 2: Strategic Planning

You know that planning is important. Without planning, you react to problems. You never get ahead of the curve.

Start your strategic planning process by gathering information about what makes your firm special. Your goal is to understand your firm in the context in which you work.

Clearly define your objectives for integrating your practice.

Clearly document your financial conditions and history.

Clearly document your client base and markets.

Take enough time to do your planning well. It will pay off in a big way as you move forward.

Budget a couple of months for strategic planning.

Step 3: Design your future firm

Begin to plan for the design of your integrated process. From the outcomes of your assessments, begin to look at the best ways to optimize your strengths and to mitigate your weaknesses. Develop a plan for exploiting your opportunities and defending against threats.

Break your plan down into bite-sized pieces and prioritize them. Write an implementation plan. Create a plan that builds step-by-step and allows you to achieve small, visible successes.

What do you want to do in the future?

How will you meet your strategic goals?

What will your firm look like five years from now? Ten years?

Publish your plan. Talk about it to everyone you know. Make it important. You cannot put too much emphasis on your plan. It must become of major importance to everyone in your firm.

If you hold your plan close and do not involve your entire firm, your odds of failure increase dramatically.

Designing your process may take several iterations. Use the structure outlined in this course and your own skills and experiences as a starting point.
Budget two weeks to one month for design.

Step 4: Implementation

Three or four months have passed during the planning and design process. Obviously, some will have completed the process much faster and others may take longer. Now you are ready to start, knowing where you are going.

Your plan is in place. You have a vision for your future. Now jump in and do something. Do not obsess about having a perfect plan. It is better (and more profitable) to spend your time doing something, even if it needs to change later.

This is not a static process. It will change over time.

Begin to develop your projects in a bim environment. Find new ways to create small successes. Tell your consultants about your new process. Market your new abilities and really work in an integrated way. Become an evangelist for integrated practice.

Find opportunities to share your successes, no matter how small. Keep talking and keep the focus on your plan. Get it done.

Step 5: Revisit

Integrated practice is not static. In fact, it can change every day. Because of this, your plan should be fluid and adaptable.

Integrated practice is a process change. As with any change of this magnitude, things will not be perfect. You will make mistakes and encounter barriers. The trick is to stay the course and adjust as you move forward.

You should plan a regular cycle for revisiting your strategies and solutions. Adjust them as you grow and become more expert in the process. As an integrated practice, become a life-long learning organization.

In the beginning, you will find yourself in a state of constant adjustment and correction. As you move forward, you should plan for quarterly or biannual reviews of your status.

Becoming an integrated practice takes time and commitment.

You do not have to integrate everything at once. Do what you can, right now. Over time, you will be able to build more and more linkages into the larger world of BIM. Start with a plan and build your processes step-by-step until you are an integrated practice.

Making integration integral to your business

A squishy fish tale

A few years ago, we worked with an airport planner, Hirsh Associates, on an airport terminal. The next December Joel Hirsh sent us a stress airplane tagged with “Celebrating 20 Years of Hard Analysis for a Squishy Industry.” It was a cute and different way to send a holiday greeting. The cards that we received that year went in the trash; the airplane is still on our shelf. It made a lasting impression.

The next September, we had our annual discussion about holiday mailings. As usual, we looked for ways to differentiate ourselves. Frank Brady, one of our 4Site Managers, suggested that we do “something like that—pointing at Joel’s airplane.” Leisl Ashby, a young architect, pulled out a stress fish that she had received from a wall-covering supplier—“Why not do fish? Why not play on the ATLANTIC theme? We could even do different fish every year.” The Design Atlantic Ltd squishy fish was born.

Right now, you are asking yourself—“What do squishy fish have to do with integrated practice?” Squishy fish have everything to do with it.

The fish are a mnemonic, a memory aid, to help communicate our corporate creed—We reduce your stress by getting you early, dependable knowledge about your project. The fish tie us to our roots—the Delmarva Peninsula, situated right between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. They are collectable. You can build your collection of squishy fish over time—as we help you to do for your facilities.

In early December 1998, we sent out our first squishy fish. Every year we send out new colors of fish. Last holiday season, we sent out our tenth anniversary fish. Our friends collect them. Our clients and friends identify us with our colorful fish. Recently a longtime client, quipped—“You better send me another fish”—when he heard what his new project would cost.

We have clients who call us for extras if we send only one. They are good conversation pieces. They are memorable. Squishy fish are integrated!

We hand them out at interviews and they help get jobs. We hand them out at shows and they get us leads. We use them as stuffing in proposals. We hand them out anywhere we go.

A couple of years ago, we were hired to help a fire company develop a strategic plan. If you have ever worked with volunteer firefighters, you know how passionate they are about their fire companies. When they are saving you from your burning house, their passion is a great and wonderful thing. When they are participating in a planning process, their passion takes some serious management.

As part of the process, they decided to hold a three-day retreat. The first day the group nearly became physical—they agreed to disagree about almost everything. The squishy fish suddenly took on a role that we had never envisioned. The fish are light and act like soft snowballs when you throw them. The group began to use the fish to take out their frustrations, by throwing fish instead of fists.

The squishy fish diffused the tensions. They provided a non-damaging outlet for the group to begin to reach a consensus. It looked a lot like a bunch of kids in a snowball fight. The squishy fish fight actually helped us reach agreement. By the end of the third day, the group created a strategic plan they could all buy into and support. The fish helped.

Plan your future

You have always been an information manager

Extensive libraries of intelligent objects are commercially available. Users create special objects, such as this 1879 Steam Pumper, as required during the process

Integrating technology into your practice is a business decision. Like any other business decision, you can choose to do it or not. Over time, your decision will enable you to benefit from evolving technology—or not.

Implementing BIM into the day-to-day workings of a profitable office requires a level of process change that some find difficult to justify. The changes often run up against basic design and office management beliefs and training. There are however, proven ways to maximize the benefits of the change.

Changing workflows and integrating technology is a change management process. Clearly defining your expectations for each step will make it possible for your entire team to work in concert to make the changes to your business, effectively and efficiently.

Before computers came along, an architect’s work revolved around information management. We called it something else, but it was still information management. We had to marshal all the possibly relevant data and then sort, filter, and massage it into useful project information. In the past, we accomplished this with notes, courses, Rolodexes, and stacks of index cards. Creating a design solution requires you to manage massive amounts of information. Are you doing it efficiently? Can you reuse the information? Are you reinventing the information for every project?

If you are like most architects, you have already spent money and time to automate your office. You use word processors, spreadsheets, and Computer Aided Design and Drafting programs to improve specific tasks. You have trained your staff to use these tools.

Rather than looking at integration from a systems perspective, you have focused on task automation. With a task-based approach, you likely ended up inputting the same information over and over—a time-consuming and error-prone practice. The problem becomes especially severe when you consider that fully computerized firms use a dozen or more different applications, from electronic time sheets to digital image libraries, each with its own database.

Create clear and understandable information to help you make the decision to change. Step back and look at the “first principles” that drive your business. Define your business goals. Evaluate your capabilities and understand how your clients will perceive the value of the change.

Values drive the change

The concepts that drive Toyota’s system apply directly to the systems and processes of the built environment. The TPS system includes these basic values:

  • Take the long view; even if it affects short-term gains.
  • Minimize waste at all levels—people, production, and resources. Eliminate wasted effort.
  • Maximize efficiency, even at low volume.
  • Produce many different products quickly and efficiently.
  • Make quality the first priority.
  • Empower people. Use consensus and rapid decision-making.
  • Place value on organization and control.
  • Use technology to serve people and processes.
  • Educate leaders. Become lifelong learners.
  • Team success is the measure of success.
  • Share risks, costs and information.
  • Make decisions based on proven results.

The lesson to learn from TPS is that many small steps correctly focused will make a major impact. Everyone shares in outcomes and anyone can stop the process to correct problems.

Using many small things done properly and consistently to achieve big results is what integrated practice is all about.

Integrated practice values

Toyota’s TPS relies on a series of values to guide their company. Successful integrated practice also begins with values. Without an agreed upon set of values, it becomes difficult to stay the course. The tendency is to wander off-track or to revert to the comfortable way of doing things when there is no clearly annunciated set of values. A system of values gives a framework from which to make daily decisions. The values that drive integrated practice are:

  • Be flexible and adapt to change. Plan and design for the life cycle of the asset. Take the long view.
  • Define success at the beginning and set appropriate expectations.
  • Solve problems as early as possible in the process. Early decisions have a major impact on the final product (and they cost the least).
  • Remove subjectivity. Get a good, objective definition of quality.
  • Keep the owner involved.
  • Understand the underlying need. LISTEN—communicate openly to understand expectations.
  • Form partnerships with people you trust. Avoid competition—work together.
  • Take responsibility and make things happen.

The example set by the Toyota Production System shows the value and importance of an easily understood system that everyone in the firm can embrace. Use this list to begin the value list for your firm. Develop the list with input from everyone. When it begins to take hold, post it for all to see.

Strategic planning for integration

Lead with well thought out strategies

Making the business decision to become an integrated practice is a big step. It takes time and commitment. The process requires planning and forethought. Budget the time to do it right. 
At this point, let’s take a look at a couple of important questions:

1. How can I successfully transition my staff to an integrated approach?

2. How long should it take?

There is not one simple answer to these questions. Every firm will be a little different. Your firm has a different mix of aptitudes, resources and skills than other firms.

Your firm works with different clients, in different markets. Because of these factors, the timeline for making your change to an integrated practice will vary.

Fortunately, the steps will be similar for most firms.

Manage the change. The process touches all parts of your practice.

Strategic Planning

You know that planning is important. Without planning, you react to problems. You never get ahead of the curve.

Start your strategic planning process by gathering information about what makes your firm special. Your goal is to understand your firm in the context in which you work.

  • Clearly define your objectives for integrating your practice.
  • Clearly document your financial conditions and history.
  • Clearly document your client base and markets.

As part of this benchmarking and brainstorming process, you may choose to conduct a formal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) process to identify and assess your situation.

Do not begin a SWOT analysis without clearly defining and agreeing on your objectives.

When you do SWOT, you assess both the internal and external factors that affect your firm.

Strengths and Weaknesses are internal to your firm and Opportunities and Threats are external to your firm. Keep them separate.

SWOT analysis enables a firm to focus on its strengths, to minimize its weaknesses, address threats, and take advantage of opportunities.

Take enough time to do your planning well. It will pay off in a big way as you move forward.
Budget a couple of months for strategic planning.

Implementation plan

Begin to plan for the design of your integrated process. From the outcomes of your assessments, begin to look at the best ways to optimize your strengths and to mitigate your weaknesses.

Develop a plan for exploiting your opportunities and defending against threats.

Break your plan down into bite-sized pieces and prioritize them.

Write an implementation plan.

Create a plan that builds step-by-step and allows you to achieve small, visible successes.

What do you want to do in the future?

How will you meet your strategic goals?

What will your firm look like five years from now? Ten years?

Publish your plan. Talk about it to everyone you know. Make it important. You cannot put too much emphasis on your plan.

It must become of major importance to everyone in your firm.
If you hold your plan close and do not involve your entire firm, your odds of failure increase dramatically.

Designing your process may take several iterations. Use the structure outlined in this course and your own skills and experiences as a starting point.

Testing new products

Ignore the hype and forget the marketing. Put your preconceptions aside. In this area, brand name recognition means little. Any of the vendors that sell Industry Foundation Class (IFC) certified products can sell you a bim solution. Vendors develop all types of strategies for getting architects to purchase their products. You see everything from giving away updates to non-BIM legacy products to subscription services. None of these really matter to your decision. If the software does not improve your process and if you are not comfortable in working with it, you should not buy it.

The costs of bim software products pale in comparison to the costs of a twelve-month trial that turns out to be a mistake. Such a trial can be an excruciating experience. Many firms that have tried to implement bim tools based entirely on their legacy systems have seen suboptimal results. In fact, depending on how you define the term, many of them have failed.

Find the product that lets you do work, as easily and effectively as possible.

Focused trial and error

Finding the right product may take some trial and error. Nevertheless, this search can happen quickly. The following approach to testing new products has worked for others:

A trial in three parts

Set aside three days to try a major new product.
The first day, go through the product tutorial, step by step. Alternately, sign up for the vendor’s one-day introduction course. This is the computer equivalent of “reading the manual.”

The second day, begin a new project. It should be a project that is typical for your firm, whether a new facility or a renovation. This should be something real, not something from the tutorial. Do not select the project for simplicity. You want to make this a real-life test.

By the end of the third day, your model should include—floors, walls, roofs, doors, windows, stairs, toilet and kitchen fixtures, and a basic ground plane. As a minimum, you should have produced photo-rendered images, presentation-grade plans, and elevations. All of these images should be at a quality level that is good enough to present to clients, with no apologies.

You should have also extracted the areas for all spaces with quantities and areas of doors, windows, and wall and roof surfaces. Some architects have also produced a virtual reality model or tested their model in online systems such as “Green Building Studio” at this point.

You have created your first prototype. You have had a productive three-day exercise that should be billable. If you are comfortable with the product, you may have found your modeling tool. If you cannot achieve at least this level of product by the end of the third day, try another modeling tool.

By the end of your three-day test you should have created a model similar to this. Or better!

Facility size

I just finished reading Mr. Jernigan’s book and am curious about the testing process for a major new product as discussed on pages 100 and 101. He suggests the level of work that should be able to be accomplished in 3 days, and I’m wondering what the facility size maximum he feels could be accomplished to this level within 3 days of testing?—Connie Ricer Principal / Information Systems Director

From what we have seen it is more about the types of projects that you normally design than on their size. For the most part, you do not want to be learning a new building type at the same time as you are learning a new process. In our experience, we have seen people go through the process on 200 square foot porch additions, 1500 square foot houses, 5000 square foot dentist offices, 15000 square foot fire stations and 50000 square foot retail spaces. A person that is fluent with office buildings, hotels or other ‘stackable’ types could test model and get results on a much larger building due to the repetition.

It really revolves around how much detail is input into the model and where you focus. I have not seen anyone jumping in to learn the modeling tools with a 1M square foot convention center, yet. However, by working at a level of detail that allows you to do a lot of area fast, it should be possible. Just like in the traditional design process you should be working from the broad concepts toward the detail. So if you can normally conceive a 1M square foot convention center in a couple of days, the same should be true with using a similar project for your training project, assuming that you know the project type cold. Learning how to create a conceptual model that can then be added to by others will generate a lot of data and will still function nicely in Green Building Studio and other analysis tools. That may be just what is needed to get a senior designer into the process.—Finith Jernigan

A little proof

A couple of the most telling exercises that I have seen on both ends of the experience scale include:

1. A newly minted architectural intern was given a 20000 square foot adult medical daycare center with a partially complete design concept. The client was very concerned about visualizing the interiors. The first morning she did the demo training. By the end of the second day, she was doing fly-thrus, turning lighting off and on and changing complete finishes packages. By the end of the third day she produced images and a vr that was shown to the client. From there she participated in the project’s development and in short order was producing the complete bid package.

2. In another situation, a senior (20+ years) CM/Architect went through the vendor’s one day intro course. The second day he worked on a 15000+/-square foot urban retail concourse. By the end of the second day he had modeled the space, was able to produce both traditional views and orthogonal imagery and extracting detailed quantities for use in cost estimating. Over the two weeks following his 3 day test, he produced the fit-up documents for the space solo. He went directly from there to designing and producing a 80000 square foot +/- (3) story police station from start to finish.

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