At the sold out Design Technology Summit July 17th, 2019 in Seattle Washington, there will be discussion of Artificial intelligence (Ai). Ai is something that will surely feed the accelerating phenomenon of perpetual innovation our industry is experiencing. You will know from previous articles that the AEC Industry is seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of tools available to us and an increasing number of firms developing their own tools through scripting in-house. Before Ai really gets into the mix, there’s an important step that needs to be made in any industry to prepare it. Data collection. As dry as that might be, is critical for any sort of intelligence, even human intelligence, to be effective. In the case of Ai, any data we will want it to rely on will need to be collected and in a format it can “ingest”. Simple concept perhaps but if you look at current sources of data common in firms, the organization is highly varied. The outputs are inconsistent. Tying systems together is challenging at best.

Ai will need to be “spoon fed” data in digestible chunks to be effective. The information it uses is critical. Garbage in, garbage out applies. But for the AEC industry, and for AEC firms, where will this information come from and how is it best composed? The answer to these questions all depends on what’s being asked. For example, if a designer wants to know how annual wind patterns might affect a 200-foot high-rise, then she would want data from NOAA. If a Project Manager wants to know how to most efficiently staff a large multi-phase project then she would want project staffing, productivity, project change order data, bill-rates, and related data collected within her firm from past projects. The results of each of these are reliant on the quality of the data input. The recognition of the potential cost savings mined using Ai may be profound. It may be the proponent of significant change to how buildings are delivered. It’s uncharted territory.

As our industry pioneers into this new territory with platforms unknown, it makes sense to begin thinking about the questions that we will want answered and almost more importantly, the data with which it will be informed. Perhaps that data collection should begin now. How translatable is our data?

If interested in participating in next year’s Design Technology Summit, please send your meesage to [email protected]

Nirvana Workflow: What is it and is it possible?

Recently I came across a company that was a totally vertical entity, developing, designing,  constructing and operating high end residential towers… Wait for that to sink in…  Nearly every aspect of their process was done in house. This is a highly unusual circumstance in our industry, nye unprecedented, and one that is entirely fascinating from a design technology perspective.


This brought me down the road of a thought experiment.  What would a digital workflow look like if the only requirements were that it delivered a building and a digital dataset for facilities maintenance at the end?  If there were no technological restraints except that only commercially available tools could be used, these tools being readily available to all parties involved, and that the parties would only need to deliver their core requirements. For example,  Code review would only be required to validate that the design met code, and this could be done with digital tools.  This gets to the idea of what we’ve termed this year as the “nirvana workflow” and is one of the discussions planned for the Summit. What would this workflow look like? Is it even currently possible? Where would custom programming be required to keep the data flowing between development, concepts, model(s), and maintenance? What aspects of current conventional workflows fall away or become entirely unnecessary? What opportunities for automation are there? Where are areas that AI could step in to enhance it further?


For folks like us, this thought experiment is exciting and perhaps even liberating. The outcomes of such an exercise may identify opportunities to explore further, perhaps on real projects in our firms, introducing what surely must be efficiencies. Think on this idea. Where does it take you? What does your nirvana workflow look like?


Join the discussion at the Design Technology Summit next month and bring a napkin sketch of your nirvana!

I dug up an old workflow diagram of the schematic design phase from 2009 to help get your cogs turning:

Register your interest for DTS here

“Cost of doing business”

Writing blog posts about design technology leadership
continues the discussions from previous Summits. One of the topics often brought up is that of how other firms estimate the cost of BIM above and beyond what the firm usually delivers. Where does the line fall between the “cost of doing business” and “additional services”, and how much of this answer is dependent on the client?
Rather than provide answers that aren’t necessarily relevant to your firm or in your local, I open this thread to your input. Email the [email protected] and I’ll add it here.

Selling it

By Craig Barbieri


Introducing an innovation in one’s firm is a little bit like the role of a salesperson(vendor/Rep/etc.) I would argue a very important role if you intend to be successful. Innovations seldomly sell themselves. There’s always someone in the line of approvals who doesn’t see the value. In a past life I was a salesman for a short period.

In the mid-90’s I was an account executive at a routing logistics software company, and I was responsible for the Northeast USA. I made “sales calls” and introduced value justifications for purchasing the innovative system of ours to trucking and delivery companies. The technology was so new that few people had even heard of computer routing, let alone had a computer doing anything for them in this regard. I wasn’t very good at selling the system but I learned a lot about sales and the drivers that lead to them. Now that the tables are turned, and I am typically on the purchasing side of things, I feel I have some very useful insight to help negotiate and get the best deals for my firm. On the other hand I am also in “sales” to some degree. I’m selling the partners on why we should spend gobs of money on something that they’ve never hear of or understand fully. I do this because I take ownership of the technological path of the company and see the “big picture” as it were.

Techniques with which to introduce and “sell” within our firms might be a good topic of discussion. DTS is a week away and we’ll be discussing Innovation and aspects surrounding it, among other things.  Bring your own questions, challenges, ideas, and conundrums!


Questioning the Current Reality – Making it Better

The Design Technology Summit has posed questions like “Is BIM Better” and “Where does this BIM path lead [the industry]” and do we have a “BIM Hangover?” We have discussed topics such as design technology Management, Collaboration, Innovation, Training, Content & it’s management, Challenges, Standards, Productivity, Virtual Reality, Project Management, BIM Project Budgeting, and many more. Some attendees argue that although the in-session discussions are quite pertinent to modern day challenges and highly valuable, the conversations in-between sessions and at the social events are also just as valuable if not more-so. No-where else does one see 40 design technology leaders of large firms get together to discuss the industry challenges and solutions. This year we tackle the topic of “innovation” in and outside of the AEC and the Summit agenda is fantastic! If you’ve never attended, I encourage you to request an invitation below.

Design Technology Leaders is an independent & agnostic collective of design technology leaders and directors of over 250 large firms internationally, with over 300 participating members and maintains unique insight into challenges of AEC collaboration. DTS brings together professionals from large firms in the building Architecture and Engineering (AE) design industry who have a responsibility for managing and implementing design technology. DTS is a forum, a venue to discuss ideas – to share, to challenge, and to refine our thinking. The design world is a constantly evolving landscape driven by the adoption of BIM tools, availability of increased computing power, the ubiquity of mobile solutions and “always on” data access. These new paradigms challenge the traditional operations of AE firms and have resulted in a new domain of expertise at the intersection of technology and practice.
Attendance at DTS is by invitation only and limited to 40 registrants. We feel that his number will better foster an atmosphere of active and meaningful discussions between everyone.

  • If you received an invitation, we are hopeful that you are able to join your fellow invitees.
  • If you have questions feel free to contact [email protected]

• If you think you belong at this event, but did not receive an invitation, please email [email protected] to sign-up for future follow-up and communication (Please include your name, e-mail, title, company, company size, address (optional), and a brief response on “why you belong at DTS”?).