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Interdisciplinary Education for the AEC Industry October 3, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in collaboration, education, problem solving.
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Fact: Of the 154 accredited schools of architecture & 61 degree programs in construction, only 14 contain degree programs in both.

We’re about to do something about that.

More on that in a moment.

Interdisciplinary education is essential for would-be professionals to address complex problems in the built environment.

Problems design and construction professionals face are intractable, complex and – as Howard Gardner attests – “wicked.”

Problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements.

Problems that require the vantage of many players – working openly, sharing information.

Problems that occur in rapid succession, often simultaneously.

An interdisciplinary education helps students to see these problems from multiple perspectives, resulting in quicker and more assured responses.

The goal with interdisciplinary education is to teach the whole architect, engineer and contractor – in the end creating more-complete, well-rounded, T-shaped design and construction professionals.

Coming closer to a Total Design education that considers learner’s needs, interests and abilities vs. fragmented competence in subject matter: the threshold of current thinking and teaching.

Interdisciplinary Multidisciplinary Trans-disciplinary Cross-disciplinary Education

Part of the problem is knowing  what to call it when the A, the E and the C work together.

In school – there’s teamwork and collaboration.

In practice – there’s Integrated Project Delivery, Integrative Practice and Integrated Design.

Here’s how I explain the difference in my book, BIM and Integrated Design:

Terminology can admittedly get confusing. There is integrated design, integrative design, integrated buildings, integrated design process, integrated practice (IP) and integrated practice delivery (IPD.) To understand the difference between IPD and integrated design in its simplest terms, one, IPD, is a delivery method; the other, integrated design or ID, a larger concept and process—free of contractual identity—that contains IPD.

Simply put, to integrate means to combine or coordinate separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole, organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively.

In school the challenge is that you need to have a base to work from before you can integrate or collaborate effectively.

Undergraduates – certainly in their first two years of schooling – can’t be expected to collaborate well since they have yet to develop a thorough understanding of how their disciplinary specialty fits with others.

A more in-depth look into this topic can be found here.

Architecture + Construction Alliance (A+CA)

7 years ago, deans and department heads of the accredited schools of architecture, degree programs in construction and those containing both programs, began to meet to discuss ways to collaborate, establishing working groups to share perspectives and showcase best practices for collaboration of architecture and construction programs.

It was soon determined that their gatherings were not sufficient to create the closer connections and joint endeavors necessary to sustain such efforts.

Thus, the A+CA was born.

The mission of the A+CA is to foster collaboration among schools that are committed to interdisciplinary educational and research efforts between the fields of architecture and construction, and to engage leading professionals and educators in support of these efforts.

An example of such a program is the PDCI San Luis Obispo, CA USA (the Planning, Design & Construction Institute, College of Architecture & Environmental Design, California Polytechnic State University) offers integrated studios for architects, architectural engineers and construction managers using an integrated project delivery approach. More here Cal Poly Home .. CAED Home .. PDCI Home

As A+CA explains, the professions of architecture and construction are undergoing significant changes as they respond to multiple demands and opportunities to increase collaborative project work.

They are propelled by changed societal and client expectations to more fully coordinate their formerly separate roles and responsibilities for the social, environmental, and financial performance of projects, while Building Information Models (BIM) and other digital technology provide emerging new vehicles for integration.

These changes – in our built environment professions – need to be reflected in the education of future professionals, with a major emphasis on fostering superior interdisciplinary knowledge, and team based skills that support synergy and innovation in the 21st century professional context.

A unique ability to play a leadership role in the industry

Architecture + Construction Alliance is a consortium of US universities that

1. have both architecture and construction programs within the same college, and

2. are prepared to act together to foster the necessary interdisciplinary and collaborative education needed by our professions.

Such an alliance of these universities has a unique ability to play a leadership role in the development, pilot testing, assessment and dissemination of courses and projects through coordination of the faculty, staff, and financial support for this activity.

Last Spring, CIB proposed a collaboration with A+CA. Read about it here and more about CIB here.

The Fall 2011 A+CA meeting will be held on November 9th, prior to the ACSA Administrator’s Conference in Hollywood, CA

The Spring 2012 A+CA meeting will be held in April, in conjunction with the CIB Board Meeting in Washington, D.C. This marks the first time in the CIB’s history that the Board meeting will be held in the US. A+CA meeting details forthcoming.

Member Founding Schools

Auburn University, California Polytechnic State University, Clemson University, University of Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska, University of Oklahoma, Prairie View A&M University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Texas A&M University, University of Texas – San Antonio, Washington State University, Wentworth Insitute of Technology & Virginia Tech

Oh, and one more.

(A new kid in town.)

The New Chicago School

Freestanding, not part of a preexisting university or college.

Which means it is less encumbered.

And, like architecture itself, a work in progress.

Integrated School of Building Chicago IL USA http://insb.us/

The Mission of the school is to educate and advance the knowledge of students in architecture, engineering, and construction by means of a collaborative and innovative platform.

Featured here recently at ArchDaily

Areas of concentration include Construction Management, Project Management, Real Estate Development, Dynamic Design & Fabrication, BIM & IPD, BIM & Energy Modeling, Landscape Architecture & Public Space Development, Sustainable Design, Building Commissioning, Building Forensics, Post-Disaster Design & Reconstruction, Social Design & Development and Preservation & Historic Resource Management.

Look here for more on the InSB board, the programs and 2012 summer symposium: “The Fabric of the City” June 29th & 30th, Chicago IL USA

Twitter handle @theInSB http://twitter.com/#!/theinsb

“A better AEC education is not about making better architects, or engineers, or builders. It is about all coming together as one.” @tcpg

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Unlearning to Collaborate November 28, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, BIM, books, collaboration, IPD, management, problem solving, sustainability, the economy.
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Is the ability to collaborate something we are born with only later to forget?

Are we wired to collaborate?

Michael Tomasello in Why We Cooperate argues that we are – up until a certain age. Then – through conditioning – we forget. Tomasello’s book itself is an interesting act of cooperation, where the author invited his severest critics to poke holes in his argument and explore the implications of his work in light of their own research.

To put it another way: as we grow we cooperate conditionally, attending to the behavior of others. This has huge implications for architects and design professionals who might be naturally collaborative – through sharing knowledge, learning, mentoring and teaching – but are otherwise conditioned by the culture of the firm where they work.

Some firms encourage collaboration while others discourage it by focusing exclusively on individual achievement or by not valuing knowledge sharing. In a sense, you are collaborative because the culture of your organization is one that promotes and encourages collaboration.

The Latest Buzzword?

The word “collaboration” seems to have been invented to provide adults with a serious sounding activity that we, as children, seemed to do naturally.

We like to think of collaboration as the latest business buzzword but of course is nothing new. The word is actually 130 years old, making headlines nearly 100 years ago in the New York Times. We are all still trying to figure out how to do it effectively or at least how to sell it as a unique way architects work.

In any event, there’s a great deal we need to unlearn in order to return to our original sharing attitude and collaborative ways, including bad habits we’ve picked up since we left the cocoon of school and embarked on the hard knocks of a career in architecture and construction, where we learned to be mistrustful, skeptical, competitive, secretive, working independently out of silos. We unlearned all of the critical natural habits, attitudes and mindsets necessary to work effectively on integrated teams.

Collaboration Defined

While collaboration extends and reorients insight, increases efficiency, creates credibility and community, the word itself is too often loosely defined.

A definition of collaboration particularly relevant for our age of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible. (Grey, 1989)

Collaboration is simply when people work together to create something that couldn’t be done by someone on their own. We do it all the time when designing buildings, resolving problems or working with owners to deliver solutions. The difference today is that we need to get even better at working together and sharing knowledge to solve problems, which are getting larger and more complex.

Moving beyond our boundaries – personal, organizational – requires that we see our blind spots and who better than our fellow collaborators – seeing-eye professionals – can help us see our blind spots?

To do so we have to seek out people who have other pieces of the puzzle.

Wicked problems

Collaboration is best used to solve what Howard Gardner called “wicked” problems with “imperfect, changing or divergent solutions.” The problems architects face today are wicked in that they are complex, defying simple formulations and easy solutions, such as fighting global warming or increasing productivity in the construction industry.

Problems aren’t only wicked – they’re simultaneous – occurring at the same time. Buildings aren’t only complicated, becoming increasingly complex; they also change quickly, marked by a sense of urgency.

To remain efficient and effective, recognizing when it’s unhelpful to collaborate can be important. There’s no need to collaborate, for example, on simple, repetitive, fast turnaround assignments.

Conditions for Successful Collaboration

We don’t trust that this diverse group of people we hardly know will be able to perform better than we can on our own and tend to feel more comfortable and self-assured managing tangible things such as projects over people and relationships. Fortunately, architects are more people-focused later in their careers.

In addition to being people-focused, here are eight preconditions for successful collaboration:

Chemistry – because how can you work well together if you don’t like each other?

Equal, multiple expertise – it’s not truly collaboration if the manager cannot participate in design and the designer cannot participate in managing – it’s an assembly line.

A willingness to play – because fun leads to better, more creative results.

Listening – because it’s about the process of making something together.

Having an open mindset

Willingness – you must choose to collaborate – it can’t be done at gunpoint

Willful effort to work together to get things done; and

Trust between those involved

Why collaborate?

Because architects find themselves questioning their relevance, their collaborative participation is crucial. We perhaps sent the wrong message by recently honoring sole practitioners such as Glenn Murcutt and Peter Zumthor because it glamorizes autonomy over working together.

Why collaborate? Because if you don’t you will not fully participate in public, community, creative and economic life. We may be natural collaborators, but now it is time for us to build collaborative cultures.