Laiserin's Lemma—Ramblin' Wrecks Go Up the Down Staircase
Jerry Laiserin

In IssueFour (The LaiseBoy Philosophy, Part 3—"D-ness" Envy), while touching on the subject of industry migration to data-rich design modeling, we wrote, "In the short term, however, individual project entities, from designer to constructor to owner-operator, still need to spend a few years exploring and learning the many benefits and occasional "gotchas" of true multi-dimensional design." In response, our friends and colleagues at Georgia Tech, Chuck Eastman, Rafael Sacks, and Ghang Lee, were kind enough to share a pre-print of a paper on "Strategies for Realizing the Benefits of 3D Integrated Modeling of Buildings for the AEC Industry" (to be presented this fall at the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction. Their findings may surprise you.

First, the authors debunk many commonly believed explanations for the slow adoption of intelligent modeling technology in construction-related businesses. Moreover, they assert that most research in the field to date "emphasized long-term system benefits without identifying measurable short-term payoffs." Perhaps more telling, they address the notion that "that the owners and clients of buildings are the beneficiaries and should financially support this IT transition" with the counter-argument that "no effective business model has been implemented based on this premise." From these arguments they conclude that "IT technology innovation must evolve based on local benefits, not industry-wide ones" (emphasis in the original).

The bulk of the paper examines successful IT innovation efforts in the structural steel and precast concrete sectors of the overall construction industry. From their initial premises and these case examples, the authors derive a "Framework for IT Innovation in the Construction Industry," which they break down into a cascade or waterfall of seven conditions that must be fulfilled in sequence. They conclude that the conditions have been met in the structural steel sector and are being met in precast concrete.

Closing with an evaluation and critique of current industry-wide efforts at IT innovation, the authors offer explanations for the apparently slow progress on this front. For example, speaking of the hoped-for integration of analysis and simulation applications with architectural design, the authors drily note that "These benefits have not been viewed as significant by architectural practitioners (as evidenced by current investment)." They do, however, hold out hope for other industry sectors to follow the lead of structural steel and precast concrete with respect to IT innovation; sectors such as "curtainwall and window wall fabricators, elevator and vertical circulation systems, HVAC systems, and others, may have better business reasons to implement advanced IT." The optimistic conclusion is that the accrual of separate IT innovations across many such sectors will cause "the context for general contractors [to] change, leading to opportunities for them also to adopt advanced IT."

If the Georgia Tech paper is indicative of the quality of presentations to be expected at the International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction (to be held September 23-25 at NIST in Gaithersburg, Maryland), this promises to be a "must see" event. Hope to see you there.

Editor and Publisher, The LaiserinLetter
Analysis, Strategy and Opinion for Technology Leaders in Design Business

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