Monday, May 6, 2013

BIMForum and the Generation Gap

Gilbane VDC recently attended the BIMForum in Miami, FL; where the theme was "The Human Side of BIM."


To avoid the "Death by Power-Point" syndrome typically occurring at these conferences, the presenters used the Pecha Kucha format, where they only have 20 seconds to address the current slide.  

Because the presentations were so short, it eliminated most of the 'fluff' that typically occurs, making the presentation all meat and no filler. 

During the course of the conference, several presenters tried to infer that there was not only a communication gap between members of the A/E community, but that communication gap could be filtered and ordered by age group.  

As presenters came and went, it became fairly obvious that most of the presenters were of the 'baby-boom' or 'generation-x' age groups; yet they were all speaking to the difficulties in managing the 'millennials', or people under age 30.

As us millennials sat in the crowd, continually being told that the A/E business doesn't, and will not support our desire for a fluid, collaborative, and ever changing set of workflows, I couldn't help but wonder if VDC, as it is used today (not truly integrated in design, development, or execution as one process) is just reinforcing the stigma that employment of 20 somethings is a necessary evil: to be used and abused until they've been broken by the system.  

Only once the fight to change the industry has left us, can millennials be assimilated into the 'design --> rfi --> communication failure dysfunction' culture of the A/E industry. 

      Resistance is futile

The reason for the above thought was highlighted later in the presentations: people in general have a physiological aversion to change.  Change elicits a 'fight or flight' emotion in almost everyone.  Because of this, persons who have been inside the industry for 15, 20, or even 30 years cannot understand how a sudden, cataclysmic event, such as converting a drawing-based process to a comprehensive model-based process could be a good thing for all parties.  

In some ways, they are right.  VDC is a disruptive process.  It tries to overcome (mostly) custom details and shoddy craftsmanship with difficult to use technologies and workflows.  Can you imagine if Mercedes treated their manufacturing process like the A/E industry treats it's products?  (We will address the custom fabrication of custom building components at a later date.)

Going back to disruption, it is my opinion that the adaptation of a model-based workflow which is run by young, eager, innovative architects and engineers could be compared to a tidal wave headed for shore. It is better to latch on early, (even if you fall off your board from time to time) ride the crest, and have a smooth landing than to stand in the way of the wave, fist shaking at the whippersnappers while the wave smacks you in the mouth.

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