Innovate or Die

It’s a statement that gets thrown around every once in-awhile and was perhaps more in vogue historically than in current memory. Interestingly enough it comes from the title of a book “Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation” by Dr. Jack Matson; almost ten years earlier there was another book “Grow or Die” by George Land. Was the second influenced by the first; perhaps Land was a C-level business consultant putting forward a hypothesis around the nature of all things, organic, humanity, commerce being linked intrinsically around basic rules related to growth. You either grow, or die. Whereas Matson’s thesis was fail quickly and fail often as a means to be successful. Most interesting, Matson is an engineer by training, how many engineers do you know that go around preaching to their employees “we should fail on figuring out how to make this building stand-up”.

I’m being a bit facetious of course, arguably we fail every day as part of the process of designing a building or at least architects do, and I think the most successful engineers take a similar iterative approach. It’s far better for us to fail “on paper” than in the real world and undoubtedly Matson knew that when he wrote his book. We even try our hardest to fail in the real world before full construction by way of mock-ups, physical and now more and more virtual, with virtual reality gear and everything.

Obviously (if you’ve been reading any of our blog posts) you know by now that DTS’ theme this year is innovation and I think we’ve put together some really great topics to anchor our discussions (see our site for a full agenda). If we are by our nature innovative in our profession, that is attempting to fail until we find the right solution, what does that mean to us, to technology? Are we guaranteed to evolve? Are there consequences if we do not? Are there consequences for not being broadly innovative, so for example being “innovative” in how a project is designed, but failing to be innovative about the process that results in the design. Must you have both to be successful long term or can the innovation only happen in the results of practice and not the practice itself?

Practice itself is an interesting term unto itself, we “practice architecture” (or engineering, or law, or medicine) does the etymology itself imply Matson’s title? If we are always practicing, then do we ever compete, do we ever finish the race and what does that imply or mean in the context of innovation?

Are you scratching your head yet? If you are, then you belong with us at DTS in Toronto! We have a few spots left and we’d love to fill them. Please consider applying to attend through our registration process, if you’re keen to think hard and talk about what all this means and more then you belong with our group!

Innovation is usually a bumpy road

Recently we printed our first multi-material, 1/8th scale model of our high-rise urban habitat we call “Falcon Tower”. We ran into some issues with material fusion such that the structural analysis model didn’t match with the data we were getting from the printed sensors. The sensors were reporting a striated mix of concrete and steel in the core that was compromising the structure and that would not meet the safety requirements when printed at full-scale. Being such a new technology, it’s understandable that serious issues like this will arise and this is the reason that we went to the expense of printing a scale model. From the perspective of the design-technology leader, I feel the weight of this initial failure bearing down on me. Clearly though, there’s an issue with the translation and scaling of the BIM to the current build of the MMP software because the hardware checked-out fine and the model passed both an automated quality check and a visual quality check done by yours-truly. Still, there’s a lot riding on this for our company as well as a risk of great expense for our client so there can be no question as to the reliability of the delivery process. Luckily, through my participation in the Deign Technology Summit over the years, I’ve forged some great relationships with my peers, most of which are venturing down the same path with multi-material building printing, and I can reach out to them to see if they are experiencing the same issues at scale and discuss solutions that I may have overlooked. Innovation can be a double-edge sword but I believe that without great risk there is seldom great reward.

This is fiction. One day in the near future I may be having this issue and I’m certain that I’ll still be relying on the colleagues I’ve met at DTS to help solve the issues quickly. Join this community of Design Technology Leaders this summer in Toronto to talk about innovation and other topics, and take a step towards a greater future for your company through a knowledge network that’s unmatched in this industry.

Our attendance is capped at 40, so please apply early. If you’d like to attend but did not receive an invitation, please email us at: [email protected] and include your name, e-mail, title, company, approximate number of employees, company website and a brief response on “why you belong at DTS”. I look forward to seeing you there!

Registration Opens Soon!

Have you ever thought “I wish I had someone to talk to who understands what I’m dealing with”?  The Design Technology Summit is a great opportunity to collaborate with a room full of design technology leaders just like you… and registration is right around the corner!

We all have similar struggles, architecture and engineering alike.  It’s nice to get together with others who are experiencing those same struggles or have experienced them in the past and found a solution.  If you’re anything like me, it really helps to know you’re not alone.

If you haven’t attended DTS before, this is a great year to register.  We’ve modified the registration process and now anyone can apply to attend.  See Robert Manna’s blog post DTS New Year, New Faces, New Changes describing this and other exciting new changes.

DTS is full of high-level conversation that makes gears turn and sparks fly.  I can personally say I’ve come away from each summit with multiple ideas on how to improve our company workflows, as well as confirmation on the direction we should be headed.

If you’re a design technology leader in the Architecture and Engineering (AE) industry who has ideas to share and is looking to learn from others, then add your voice to the conversation at DTS 2017 in Toronto this summer!

Is BIM Better… er…. er? (Part 2.0)

So much hype.
So much noise.
So many people shouting about the benefits of BIM.

Every time you blink there is a new BIM Consulting group out in the marketplace. Each time you turn around, there is another BIM conference to consider. Ok, so there is lots of energy, lots of passion, lots of excitement. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?

Well, mostly, yes. Still, with all that energy and passion, there must be some awfully good material out there that PROVES what all these people are saying, right? Ummm, no, not really… There are some very good reasons why getting valid comparative data is hard. We operate in a bespoke industry, with a severe lack of standardisation and repetition, even in those areas where such things could be viable. How do you compare data when two projects are different? You can take benchmarks for the project type I suppose? But every site is different, the builders are different, the client is different, the details are different. You could repeat a CAD project as a BIM exercise? But the project is complete, so you aren’t going through a design process, a revision process, and inevitably the issues dealt with on site the first time around will be (even if unconsciously) avoided in the BIM version. You could quote the ‘experience’, the anecdotal evidence? Well, umm, that’s anecdotal, see? Maybe you could run comparisons at a discrete point in the process, say with a QS doing cost planning? Still needs the two versions of the project, and much of that noise about BIM is lifecycle benefit, so stopping at cost planning isn’t the comparison we really want, is it?

Interestingly, YTL Corporation, in Malaysia had a project fairly recently, that was getting close to perfect. It was a development with several identical towers which, for political reasons, ended up being awarded to multiple practices. One was in AutoCAD, one in Revit. Initial design was complete, so it was predominantly a documentation exercise. Here was the chance to get truly valid data back on ROI and the comparison to existing methodologies.

But that didn’t happen.


Still, even here there is no truly direct comparison. Working methodologies vary, tool skills vary, even staff morale and motivation can have a big impact.

What about the broader industry productivity calculations? If BIM really is better, and we have seen some real inroads into industry practice by BIM over the last 15-20 (and particularly the last 5) years, then we should see that in stats for the industry, right? As it happens, NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States, published a couple of charts back in 2004 which have been WAY over used in conference presentations ever since. I won’t reproduce them here because you’ve probably seen them in the last 10-15 minutes.

One chart reflects productivity ‘gains’ in construction and non-farm businesses, and is labour focused, but is of note because of the simple fact that it shows that construction has not improved in productivity in the 40 years captured in the chart. The other examines ‘inadequate interoperability in construction, and estimates that this accounted for $15.8 billion dollars of waste in 2002 alone! Most have taken this to be an opportunity… “BIM can fix this!” Few seem to have noticed that NIST updated their data in 2012 (as they are wont to do), and what did it show? In the following 8 years of data, covering a significant upsurge in the adoption of BIM tools and processes, the change has been.. ummm… nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero.


I can think of a few answers, some of them as simple as the evolutionary timescale required to see change reflected in data in an industry as big and slow as ours. Let’s not forget also that for all the noise, BIM penetration isn’t really all THAT big yet. Nevertheless, it is certainly disappointing.

If BIM is so clearly better, why are we having such a hard time PROVING it?

Join us at the Design Technology Summit this summer as we address this and other topics focused on the challenges that face us as Design Technology Leaders.

The 411 on DTS Registrations!

Can you believe registration for RTC’s North American events is just around the corner! Phil recently blogged about some of the challenges surrounding the registration process for North America due to its popularity and number of unique events all occurring in just a single week!

To that end I wanted to reinforce that you will be able to register for DTS and RTC at the same time this year, as well as make your accommodation booking at once; however, because DTS is invite only, your registration for the DTS portion will only be approved if you are already on the DTS list.

Want to be on the DTS list, because you belong? Contact [email protected]

Has your e-mail changed or have you changed jobs, but still belong at DTS? Please contact [email protected]

As we have mentioned in prior blog posts we want to use DTS 2016 to focus on strategic conversations about topics that are relevant to you, Design Technology Leaders. The event site includes our current agenda and some information on our planned topics and goals. Our committee members have been writing blog posts on topics that we believe could engender some provocative, useful and interesting conversation:

We look forward to seeing you at DTS! Registering early will give you a voice in shaping the exact topics to be discussed. Remember our attendance is capped, so please sign-up in advance!