Using the Past for the Present and Future: DTS Position Statements

Without further adieu we present our position statements as a result of our DTS 2017 discussions. 


Over the past twenty five years, the architecture, engineering and design professions have changed significantly.  Demands are greater.  Deliverables are more detailed.  Timelines are shorter.  There are increasing numbers of specialists involved in our projects, adding to the complexity of a deeper level of coordination, and requiring familiarity with a wider range of subject matter.   


Historically, technology has assisted us incrementally with these challenges, but, as the pace of change increases, so must our willingness to evolve how we work, and the pace at which we do so. 


We believe the AEC industry is poised for modernization.  The pressures and expectations placed on firms have reached a critical threshold.  Technology has successfully assisted other parties in the AECO team, and it has the capacity to assist us as well, in significant ways.    


As practitioners and technologists, we have often been the ones called on to help our organizations find opportunities to modernize.  DTS brings us together to share our experiences and knowledge, and identify opportunities to improve.  It is from this background- and in this spirit – that we offer five areas of consideration that can positively impact practice:  


Lightweight Interfaces 
Our future employees and even the youngest generation in practice now are acclimated to touch based, intuitive interfaces and applications that are generally geared to specific tasks or functions. These modern tools and user experiences must also be prepared to be used with display and interaction technology which only today is being explored, researched and experimented with. 


Full Adoption of Model Based Workflows 
The elimination of traditional documentation or processes (ie drawing based delivery and quantification) will not come overnight nor; do we expect that it will be easy. We do believe that there are many avenues that design and technology companies can increasingly explore that can help the industry move in the direction of a true model based design, delivery and construction workflow. 


 Knowledge Capture, Management & Dissemination Platform 
While there are a variety of platforms available for knowledge management we have yet to see the development of something that easily captures latent knowledge and provides useful, contextual information. While “web” technologies have streamlined access to information and knowledge, and videos make it easier to disseminate and consume, the reality is that knowledge capture and dissemination is still rooted in the same techniques that were used to write manuscripts and books. In the same way that more people are becoming comfortable with the concept of an AI assistant at home like Alexa or Google Assistant we need similar learning assistants in our workplaces. Intelligent assistants that can learn our routines and ingest our design and business data to provide useful feedback will be the next major shift in how knowledge is captured and managed. 


Technology for improved quality of life (of designers and end users) 
Often times it is easy for all of us, including technology companies, to focus on improving workflow and information exchange; while pains may be taken to ensure the user interface and experience are improved, those advancements do not necessarily translate to improvements in the users’ quality of life. We advocate greater emphasis on improving day-to-day experiences, either directly through a tool, or as a result of it. 


Application Behavior/Performance 
Design applications must provide fluid and dynamic performance for our end users. This includes taking advantage of advancements in processing power– for example, multi-threaded, multi-core Central Processing Units and Graphical Processing Units. And as mobile technologies become increasingly pervasive in the office and on the job-site, cloud storage and processing options should be at a minimum as reliable and robust as local or server based storage. 


If any of these statements resonate with you and you would like to be a part of the discussion, please register your interest in the event to be approved to attend! We can’t wait to see you there.

In with the old and out with the new?

Some of you George Harrison, Beatles, and PBS fans might know that PBS has been rebroadcasting the 2002 “Concert For George” recently.   Led by Eric Clapton, it served as a celebration of George’s life and music, and was held one year after his death.  I may be a bit biased, but I recommend watching it.  He was great, and the concert is great too.   


I’m inclined to look at everyone’s instruments and playing styles during every live performance I watch.  While watching this one, I paid particular attention to Clapton’s guitar, and, as guitar players are wont to do, paid particular attention to his pickups.  For those who aren’t intimately familiar with how guitars work, pickups “pick up” and convert the physical vibration of strings into an electric signal that gets amplified through amplifiers, signal processors, recording consoles, and the like.  Basically, they convert a vibrating string into an electric signal that can be sent through a cable.  


What I noticed in particular was that after using some high tech “noiseless” pickups for some time, Clapton had switched back to seemingly “low tech” vintage-style pickups.  I wondered why, after all these years, why Clapton would have gone from a “superior” solution to an “inferior” one.  Perhaps Clapton simply preferred the sound of the old pickups, flaws and all.  I was reminded of a recent quote from the CEO of Gibson guitars:  “[The industry is] stuck in a time warp, and the ‘purists’ have a very loud voice…”.    


When it comes to guitars, I’m one of those “low tech”players.  Most of my guitars are old.  I’ve had them for a long time, and I don’t see any need to replace them with newer ones.  And I like that they offer a window into another time and place, before I was alive.  It’s a way to keep some level of perspective on what and how I play.  


I can’t help but draw comparisons to the sometimes-dire forecasts of architecture firms, and how the industry must update our technological strategies if we want to stay relevant.  Yet many firms prefer to stay “old-school”.  Are their motivations similar to those of Clapton’s?  Does efficiency matter?  If so, in what way, and how is it defined?  Where and how can we begin to distinguish an old guitar from old design software, and when might we be able to learn from what came before, and apply lessons to today’s practice?


Is this the sort of conversation you’d be interested in joining? If so, please submit your Expressions of Interest for this year’s Design Technology Summit. Registrations open the 21st of March. The sooner you apply, the sooner you can be approved, and participate in what I think will be a very insightful event.

DTS 2018!

Greetings! As we near the opening of registration for DTS 2018, I’m happy to announce that we will be releasing our position statements as an outcome of DTS 2017. It’s taken a bit longer than we had hoped to get there, but the statements have helped to form the basis of how we will be running DTS 2018.


The document we will be making public is intended to be a starting point for further development and comes from last year’s extensive list of, topics, ideas, areas of concerns, challenges and opportunities, which left the committee with our own challenge of “what do we do with this”, “how do we make it presentable or useful”. In the end we decided the best thing to do was to attempt to aggregate the details into several general ideas or themes. The five high-level topics we developed are:


  • Adoption of Model Based Workflows
  • Knowledge Capture, Management & Dissemination
  • Improving the Quality of Life of Our Staff, End Users, Designers
  • Lightweight Interfaces
  • Application Behavior & Performance


In attempting to decide what our topics for 2018 would be, we realized that we had a readymade list to pick from! DTS 2018’s primary areas of discussion will be the first three topics and we plan to use the more detailed list of sub-topics as a means to moderate and lead the discussion. We believe the last two topics are better suited to be addressed more directly by the software and technology industry with input from DTS and other groups. To that end we also welcome technology vendors and technology consultancies who think they might have something to say on any of the topics to register their interest in participating in DTS.


Please look for the official release of our full position statement document on our Design Technology Leaders website later this week (monitor the hashtag #RTCDTS).


We hope that you will strongly consider joining us in 2018 to continue the conversation and help us further refine our ideas to be shared with the community at large. Registration is scheduled to open next week, and in the meantime you can email us to register your interest in the event.

Keep those Pencils Sharp!

Why do we continue to look for innovative technology?  The search is a daunting, never-ending battle.  In my (not so sound) opinion, Design Technology is like a lead pencil.  You use it and use it and it dulls.  You need to constantly sharpen it.  Why do you sharpen it?  Because a pencil is an integral part of describing our design ideas. Only with a sharp pencil can our ideas be crisp and clear.  Who sharpens it?  Pencil Sharpeners, of course.  We, the Design Technology Leaders, are the Pencil Sharpeners.  How do we sharpen pencils?  By constantly looking out for newer, better, and sharper technology. 

This metaphor was once the actual method for taking a design from our minds to reality.  We have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time.  Here are some sharpening blades 

we have adapted from other industries. 

  • CAD/CAM – Where it all started.  The Manufacturing Industry in the late 50’s. 
  • Parametrics/Collaboration – The Transportation Industry 
  • Simulation – Our friends at NASA 
  • Virtual Reality – The Gaming Industry 
  • Internet/GPS – The Defense Industry 
  • Handheld Mobile Devices – The Telecommunications Industry 
  • Augmented Reality – The Entertainment / Multimedia Industry 

All of us have sharpened our pencils with each blade in the list above.  However, we need to be more proactive in our search for Pencil Sharpeners from other industries.  We have collected our box of pencils and now we must focus on the finer points.  This year’s DTS will be a step in that direction. 

During last year’s DTS, we began to discuss several sharpening tools.  This year’s DTS will continue that discussion with a sharper focus on several distilled topics.  Check out Robert Manna’s blog post here to find out more. 

I am so looking forward to sharpening my skills at the next DTS in St. Louis.  I hope to see you there! 

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!