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Need for Speed Driving Smarter Design

Need for Speed Driving Smarter Design

By Paul Doherty, AIA

Welcome to the New Economy of the Cloud-based world. It’s a world where the combination of Design and Online creates a new high contact sport. Meaning you cannot design for the Online world offline. Our New Economy has created a challenging intersection of speed and an increased value of the intangible. Design today is about delivering valuable intangibles.

Design is not about delivering CAD drawings, BIM reports, fabric swatches or cut sheets. This new world is not about embracing technology, because it doesn’t hug back. Computers are not about computing, they are about communicating. Today’s world is about bucking conventional wisdom and embracing the velocity of change. Technology tools like e-mail and the Web have provided this change of focus from technology to information, making access to information easy and transparent. Our new digital challenge is to create valuable information content and provide them into comprehensible packages of knowledge. This creates not just information resources, but knowledge models that we can connect into a growing system from which we can learn. It’s not about just designing fast, but how fast a firm can understand its decisions and learn something new. This puts a larger emphasis on post-mortem meetings and analysis. In essence, creating a mix of atoms and bits that emerges into a knowledge management-style system.

The design firm that harnesses the output of digital data to speed up its operations is going to outperform competitors, create new standards and be more successful. In the past slowness protected market segments. Today, the difference between those who use speed and those who don’t is no longer incremental it is a quantum leap.

What are the trends and new design metrics and measurements that will help quantify and qualify speed as an integral element of design practice? Here are a few short observations:

  1. Cloud Portals – Sometimes called Thoughtware, the development of information/knowledge portals in the Cloud represents a transition point in computing and a massive change in how we will all function in, and design for, the electronic work environment. Personalized access to applications and relevant information through a simple Web browser is emerging as the standard we will all work in. Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Box and other Cloud storage tools are bringing this to reality… and mostly for free. The person who brings to market a useful Cloud Management solution to manage all of my Clouds will make a fortune… because too many clouds usually mean a storm.
  2. Open Source – Led by the software development community, open source for the rest of us means quality, interoperable software for low cost, or in some instances, free. Freeware abounds in the Cloud, taking its nature from the Internet’s original intent of being a place of free exchange. GoogleDocs, iOS Apps and Android Apps are leading this movement to inexpensive or free software that works.
  3. BIM 2.0 – A designer’s ability to provide 3D digital information models of their projects has become an expected part of providing design services. 3D visualization and data have been associated together to give a first generation of BIM users the ability to solve issues in the AEC community. The next generation of solutions will be developed to be used further into the life-cycle of the building and democratize design for the average person. BIM 2.0 may come from outside the AEC industry… think of Minecraft as the new BIM.
  4. eCommerce is not Dead – One of the forms of data that can be attached to BIM is cost. This allows smart designers to add cost criteria, based on performance specifications, onto the open market for estimating, bidding, purchasing and/or delivery of product to the job site. The emergence of cashless transactions via mobile devices is another area of innovation that promises to forever change how transactions occur in the AEC market… watch Apple Pay and the soon to be announced agreement with Walt Disney Corporation along with the universal acceptance of NFC as framework examples for AEC.
  5. Mobile Devices – The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices everywhere (50 billion mobile devices in active use by 2015 according to numerous reports) has forever changed the AEC industry. iPhones, iPads and Android devices will continue to drive innovation in our industry with surprising results. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is being driven with Accessible Authenticated Project Data (AAPD) giving you unprecedented opportunities to enable a successful project.

The current and emerging AEC generations are thinking differently. The traditional systems will work harder to maintain themselves, but the old ways of doing things are just not sustainable. Aptitudes for change and growth are the single biggest challenges to the design profession. Remember that extinct is forever. When the dust from the transition to the New Economy settles, the architectural landscape will be strewn with carcasses of firms that were unable to adapt. Don’t let yours be among them.

John Perry Barlow, Founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has said, “The new workplace is no longer about brick and mortar. If I have a Mobile device and a laptop, I now have all the elements I need to do business. You should be designing for the workplace of the mind.” The emerging Knowledge Age practices we see being experimented with today are becoming entrenched and commonplace. The 5 trends of Cloud Portals, Open Source, BIM 2.0, eCommerce and Mobile Devices provide us a glimpse of how we can all look forward to the fact that they will take on new forms that we can hardly imagine today. The key to success in facing the challenge of this transformation lies in understanding the underlying dynamics of work and design processes and in adjusting expectations and practices as those processes reconfigure themselves in the new environment.

It is hoped that the AEC professional creates the environment to measure the effects of the velocity of design and of change in our interconnected world. Not by fixing yesterday’s problems, but by focusing on the preparation for tomorrow’s opportunities. Life is short. Design Smarter.

A co-founder of the AEC Hackathon, the author last month was named a senior fellow by the Design Futures Council. He is president & CEO of the digit group inc.

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