Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A new eco-city island near Istanbul designed by Dror Benshetrit of Studio Dror.  More info here and here.

HavvAda Island from Dror on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

Making Value:

Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

A free 48-page pdf report from a conference held in Washington, DC on June 11-12th, 2012.

A great report, now to apply these ideas to the change-resistant construction industry.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MIT Conference - The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S. - and the Future of Architecture, Engineering and Construction

On May 8-9th, 2012 MIT hosted an event on "The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S."

Here is a list of the speakers with links to their video presentations.

Below is a video of Rodney Brooks with an overview of manufacturing and technology.

It begs the question, will we always manufacture most homes on site by hand?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Frank Gehry on Building Information Modeling

"Ahead of the Curve," Frank Gehry on technology and the future of the building industry
in the Financial Times. Great article and an interesting quote, "The next generation of architects is going to draw right on the machine, I am obsolete."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Build the home of your dreams hands free, from your hands to our factory.

We have been building the back end for this project for years and have decided to finally release an alpha version video.   Updates soon.

Bruce Sterling at Wired magazine posted the video here and is driving more traffic.  He referred to it as weird, we think it is exciting.  Wait until you see verion 2, 3, 4, etc.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The MacLeamy Curve - Real World BIM and IPD.

The MacLeamy Curve is often referred to in discussions about building information modeling and ingtegrated project delivery. MacLeamy refers to Patrick MacLeamy, CEO of HOK. While more than one person claims the credit for having developed similar graphs and ideas, Patrick has continually demonstrated leadership in actually applying the ideas. He also created a very good video series on "The Future of The Building Industry" which I highly recommend. Patrick is also a strong advocate for interoperability and is the International Chair for buildingSMART. The image makes obvious what many of us in the business know both intuitively and from years of painful personal experience - the entire process in architecture, engineering and construction is broken and inefficient.

As the architects Kieran and Timberlake make clear in this quote from their book, Refabricating Architecture,
"The single most devastating consequence of modernism has been
the embrace of a process that segregates designers from makers:
The architect has been separated from the contractor, and the
materials scientist has been separated from the product engineer."

by integrating design with fabrication and construction, the improvements in efficiency and predictability can be extreme. So why isn't it happening?

Combine these inefficiencies with dropping productivity in the building industry, clearly illustrated in the chart below by Dr. Paul Teicholz of Stanford's CIFE, and one wonders why the industry refuses to evolve.

Our work is focused on applying a fully integrated design-fabricate-build process. This is rarely even discussed and certainly almost never applied. To better define the process I often refer people this definition of fabrication information modeling as defined by Acecad/Strucad (recently acquired by Trimble).

Rather than waste more time endlessly discussing the inefficiencies of the industry, why don't do change by demonstrating what is possible on real building projects?

Founders of Leap Motion: Our Amazing 3D Tracking Will Be Everywhere - Where will it be in Architecture, Engineering and Construction?

Watch this video and ponder what tens of thousands of software developers will do with Leap Motion once they get there hands on the developer kits.

For more information read the full article on the Singularity Hub website here. Take a look at the Leap Motion website, and join the discussion in the Linkedin Group Leap Motion.

McGraw Hill is hosting a conference called FutureTech in San Francisco on July 10th. Included are session on Augmented Reality and other new technologies in architecture, engineering and construction. The list of speakers is impressive, and the focus is the construction industry as is made clear in the marketing blurb below,

"You will also hear where the next wave of exciting innovations will be coming from that will continue to provide powerful benefits to early adopters and change the landscape of the construction industry forever."

And while a few hundred AEC professionals converge in San Francisco to discuss technology-meets-AEC, a few hundred developers will be too busy coding to attend. Despite all the talk about building information modeling and virtual design and construction, the information technology industry and the AEC industry still don't really trust one another and are barely on speaking terms (my opinion from spending more than 10 years in each industry). Software will eat the AEC industry, as it is almost every other industry, and with hardware/software innovation like the Leap, the potential (inevitability) for massive disruption grows daily. The vast majority in the industry will miss the opportunity because they fear change, but it will be forced upon them by consumers themselves who will use new technologies to interact with product and service vendors thereby forcing change from the demand side.

Imagine how much change will occur between the sessions at this year's conference and next year's conference. Tens of thousands of developers will be developing demos and applications using Leap Motion and a few hundred (or even thousand) will focus on computer-aided-design data, and the really forward looking ones will focus on design and computer-aided-manufacturing data, linking design and fabrication. This is where it gets really interesting. And it is the area we are focused on.

This is going to be a wild ride indeed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Digital Fabrication: From Digital to Material

Although this 3 page PDF is from 2003, it is still a very good introduction to digital fabrication for architecture, engineering and construction. The author is Branko Kolarevic and it contains edited excerpts from his book, Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Leap Motion in Architecture, Engineering and Construction

How can one use this technology in the building industry? We have a few ideas. Watch (interact with) this space.

I started a discussion on the Leap Motion Forum with this title, "Leap in the $4.8 trillion architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry" which now has more than 1,300 views. Not surprising given that in a recent announcement the Leap team stated that over 400 of the 26,000 applicants for their software development kit (SDK) indicated they intended to focus on computer-aided design (CAD) interface enhancements

For more information visit the Leap website, read this review by Wired (their video review embedded below) and join the linked in group "Leap Motion" to join in the discussion.

Using Leap for augmented reality apps in AEC has great potential. While there has already been a lot of discussion about using augmented reality in the industry, leap technology will enable any user to interactive with 3D model data intuitively. And as the interactive functionality supports an increasing amount of real-time, multi-user collaborative design, the possibilities seem almost endless.

McGraw Hill Construction is hosting a Future Tech event in San Francisco on July 10 and the 9 - 10 am session is on Digital Visualization and Augmented Reality. Ideally it will be possible to include a demonstration showing AEC content using leap motion technology at the event.

And on Leap and the Third Industrial Revolution, here is a link to the discussion on the Leap Forums. Although the AEC industry has thus far been minimally impacted by software and technology, most of the really compelling innovation is technology-based, and the greatest potential to realize vast gains in efficiency will be through industrialization, however painful and slow that process is.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wood 2.0: mass timber and the tall buildings of tomorrow

Great to see the growing interest in massive timber buildings in North America. A good article here from Arstechnica. Great to see Hans-Erik Blomgren from the Arup office in Seattle heavily quoted. Here is a link to a video showing Hans-Erik Blomgren and the architect Joe Mayo making a presentation on digitally fabricated solid wood wall buildings to the Seattle Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee.

And be sure to download the free report on "Tall Wood" from the architect Michael Green.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Manufacturing: The Third Industrial Revolution and Collaborative Manufacturing

Two very interesting articles in the Economist.

Manufacturing: The third Industrial Revolution
- The digitisation of manufacturing will transform the way goods are made - and change the politics of jobs too

and also

Collaborative manufacturing: All together now - The advantages of crowdsourcing

As a person working in digital fabrication, I found both of these articles very interesting and also wonder how and when these converging trends will impact AEC (architecture, engineering and construction). When will building industry companies using business models similar to Local Motors emerge, with open design competitions similar to quirky with on-demand fabrication using cnc robotics? MFG.com is already very successful for widely distributed manufacturing but because buildings are integrated systems, assembly is efficient if it is too widely distributed. Quirky is doing interesting collaborative work as are the additive fabrication companies Ponoko and Shapeways. But the building industry? Our friends at the non-profit group Architecture for Humanity have been very successful at building community. I don't expect there will be one optimal model because the product is too varied, but it will be interesting to watch different systems emerge. Currently I find more of these companies in Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Austria then in North America. When will the local players emerge? Building has always been a very "local manufacturing" business and although design and fabrication can be widely distributed, assembly in to many locations becomes to complex and on site inspection requirements are also a major constraint.

An interesting problem and opportunity.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gaming Company Business Culture and Architecture, Engineering and Construction

To paraphrase the quote attributed to Science Fiction author, William Gibson, "the Future of building is already here, it is just unevenly distributed."

During my 20 years in the building industry I have been disappointed at how slow change happens in one of the oldest and largest industries on the planet.

I believe the biggest constraint to change is not regulation and litigation but rather the business cultures inside of companies in AEC. I also worked for many years in San Francisco and gained an appreciation for how quickly things change in the information technology industry. If only we could merge the two.

It would be great to work at an AEC industry company that had a culture similar to the one described in this job offer at the gaming company Valve. Indeed, imagine how much easier it would be to attract great employees and continually innovate if one could create such a company.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Lego reinvented its innovation system and conquered the toy industry

In the prefab building industry it is quite common for architects and builders to refer to Legos as either the inspiration for new building systems or as a easily understandable way to explain the efficiencies of building systems.

This article on the history of innovation at Lego is very interesting for a number of reasons. Professors David Robertson of Wharton and gave a presentation on "Rebuilding Lego" at the 2011 SXSW conference. You can find more information here.

I found it really interesting that Professor Robertson reported on how Lego management decided it was innovating too quickly and found it necessary to slow down to learn how to harness and manage the innovation. It did so successfully and is not the fastest growing and most profitable toy company in the world.

Here is an additional 3-page pdf report on innovation at lego from the Danish Centre for Design Research.

Well done.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Domestic Transformer" 344 sq. ft. apartment changes into 24 different configurations

Videos about this apartment keep popping up on architecture and green building websites. And it has over 6 million views on YouTube. Obviously people are interested in configurable small spaces.

The apartment was designed by the architect Gary Chang for his own use in crowded and expensive Hong Kong. He has lived in the same apartment for over 30 years (since he was 14). This apartment received wide media coverage including this article about it in the New York Times.

For more information, here is a link to an email interview with Gary which he gave prior to giving a presentation in New York about "Blurring the Boundaries."

I suspect this is the inspiration behind Treehugger founder Graham Hill's LifeEdited competition to have designers compete to design his 420 square foot apartment in New York City. See the designs from this competition here.

Imagine the potential market demand for a small prefab home designed with similar configurability and for high-performance to minimize the need to be on the grid.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shigeru Ban's Centre Pomidou Metz - the process

This is an amazing project and I was very happy to discover this 50-page PDF which tells the story about the design-fabrication process from the timber fabricator's (Holzbau Amann) perspective.

Ten Timber Software Solutions - from 2007 but still very valid

Finding a thorough review of cad/cam software for timber is difficult at best. I just discovered this review and hope an updated one is available or becomes available soon.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Declining productiving in the construction industry?

While many industries are increasingly "data-driven" (within the software community Google is frequently lauded and criticized for being too engineering and data focused), the building industry suffers from a dearth of good data. While information related to real estate is very abundant, little credible data from the building industry itself is publicly available, especially about process efficiencies (mostly inefficiencies).

While increasing productivity is widely recognized as a way to lower cost, the building industry is almost unique in that it is generally believed to be growing less productive. Below are some images and sources which use very diverse (and incomplete) data reflecting productivity.

The chart above is from Steven's Construction Institute and measures productivity in dollars per employee. It includes data up to 2011.

The following chart created by Paul Teicholz, Professor Emeritus at Stanford, and co-author of The Building Information Handbook, is one of the most frequently cited sources showing declining productivity.

Below the chart Paul makes clear the lack of available data which makes it impossible to drill down deeper in the industry. The data reflects constant dollars over hourly workers so while it does indicate declining productivity, it only provides a general industry overview and only includes data up to 2003.

In an AECbytes interview about the article Paul provides many reasons for the continuing decline. It is definitely worth reading and although the chart is dated, the change-resistant building industry largely remains stuck in its old and inefficient ways.

Can productivity be raised through increased used of information technology and cnc fabrication? McGraw Hill released a SmartMarket Report in 2011 addressing exactly this topic, "Prefabrication and Modularization, Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry." The report is survey-based but contains some interesting data in the 56 pages. There are many views on this topic which is not surprising given that the industry is extremely large (about a trillion dollars annually in the U.S.) and extremely fragmented (not to mention the poor data available) so it is difficult to demonstrate increased productivity at scale. However, a recent 10 million Euro study - Manubuild - by a group of industry leaders provides a strong supportive case as does growing interest in what is referred to as Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions (IDDS). These are interesting topics to debate but I believe the best way to demonstrate how information technologies can increase productivity is simply to demonstrate it on real building projects rather than endlessly debating the topic in academic publications.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Case for Tall Wood Buildings - Free 235+ page PDF on prefab wood buildings

An impressive network of collaborators in British Columbia just released this free 240 page pdf report and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in :

  • Solid Wood Walls / Cross-laminated timber / X-lam
  • Tall residential structures (20+ stories, 30+, and more)
  • Digital Fabrication of wood-framed buildings
  • CNC fabrication and passive house buildings
  • The organizations supporting innovation in the wood industry in Canada
  • The future of wood-frame building

The lead author is the architect Michael Green of MGB Architecture in North Vancouver. This research project was supported and included collaboration with FPInnovations, WoodWorksBC, the Canadian Wood Council, Equilibrium Consulting (structural support author, J. Eric Karsh) and others.

Michael Green is one of the leading proponents/advocates for innovative and green wood building in Canada. The videos below are from Michael and demonstrate his passion for innovation using Canada's abundant and renewable natural resource -wood.

In this video Michael speaks about designing with wood and airports.

And here he is speaking passionately about wood as an ideal building material.

Michael Green - "The Challenge of Housing the World and the Role of Wood" Part 1

Part 2

And here he is at TedX Vancouver speaking about "Love, Laughter, Sushi: World Housing and Climate Change".

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tectonics of Timber Architecture in the Digital Age

This is a great article for those interested in timber fabrication. The authors are some of the leading innovators in wood engineering and fabrication. An example, Hermann Blumer and his firm Creation Holz is recognized as one of the leading wood engineers and has worked on many very innovative projects, including recent projects like the Pompidou Metz (photo below) and work on the new Aspen Art Museum (at bottom), both designed by the architect, Shigeru Ban.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Integrated Design and Delivery Solutions event on April 18-19th in Washington, DC.

I wish I could attend this event to meet with others working to move building information modeling forward and connnect the cam/cnc fabrication community with academic research.

AECbytes had a good article last year on IDDS and referred to it as "Beyond BIM, It's Not the End of the Road."

The event is being organized by Virginia Tech and the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST)
and the Board of Directors of the International Council for
Research and Innovation in Building and Construction

Monday, February 6, 2012

Biologically Inspired Digital Fabrication at MIT

Dr. Neri Oxman in a in a 5:37 minute labCAST from MIT. Here is the text about the video,

"Mediated Matter research integrates computational form-finding strategies with biologically inspired fabrication in order to enhance the relation between natural and man-made environments. The group seeks to establish new forms of design, and novel processes of material practice at the intersection of computer science, material engineering, design and ecology."

Very inspiring. And great to see cross-domain collaboration.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

American Passive House Network

While the power struggles and controversy continue in the North American passive house comunity continue, a new agnostic group has formed and their website is now live.

Visit the website. Sign up for the newsletter. Contribute to the conversation.

Introductory information on passive house can be found on wikipedia here.

I also started a linkedin group for the APHnetwork, here is a link to it. (and to a post with a list of many other passive house groups). Please join.

Also be sure to check the website of the Passive House Institute in Germany, its Passipedia, the International Passive House Association, and the great resources on the IPHA Multimedia page.

The documentary film maker, Charlie Hoxie, also recently released a film, Passive Passion, with some excerpts embedded below.


Wolfgang Feist

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

30 stories in 15 days. In China, Watch and Think.

This video is generating a lot of attention on the web. More coverage here and here.

This story continues to get more interesting, now this is floating around the web, "200 story Prefab for 100,000 People Can Be Built in 2 Months."

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Economist now including Digital Fabrication in its Topics Index

As Digital Fabrication gains increased media coverage it is great to see the Economist offering increased coverage. See the complete Digital Fabrication index here.

The "Print me a Stradivarius - How a new manufacturing technology will change the world" cover article published in February 2011 was widely quoted (and enjoyed) on the web.

Antoine Picon (Harvard Graduate School of Design) at the Digital Crafting Symposium, Copenhagen 2011

More on Digital Fabrication from Denmark's Center for Information Technology and Architecture

Antoine Picon (Harvard Graduate School of Design) at the Digital Crafting Symposium, Copenhagen 2011 from CITA on Vimeo.

Autodesk and Digital Fabrication + Building Information Modeling

Autodesk and Digital Fabrication. At Autodesk University 2011 in Las Vegas Autodesk CTO, Jeff Kowalski, discussed five waves of technology disruption including digital fabrication in his keynote presentation.

Jeffrey McGrew of Because We Can discussed his experience with digital fabrication. Click here to begin the video with Jeff's presentation (if the link doesn't work simply move ahead to 23m 38s in the keynote video). Jeff also gave a presentation on Five Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions of Digital Fabrication from BIM at the event but it wasn't recorded. Jeff's 20 page presentation from Autodesk University 2009 "From Fabulous to Fabrication: Real-World Digital Fabrication and BIM" is available here.

Mark Hatch
, CEO of Techshop, discussed the democratization of digital fabrication and the open-access chain of workshops Techshop is opening across the country. Click here to begin the video with Mark's talk (if the link doesn't work simply move to 29m 37s in the keynote video). Here is a post on Mark's talk from Core77.

And here is Autodesk CEO Carl Bass speaking with Vivek Wadhwa about Innovation and Manufacturing at a Singularity University event in January 2012.

The entire interview is almost an hour long, jump to minute 47:25 for Carl's answer to "How does new manufacturing change architecture?" Direct link to his answer here:


Fabricators know this. And are collaborating with innovative architects interested in building the future - and the future of building.

And here is a link to a video with Autodesk Labs VP Brian Mathews showing a 3D printed motorcycle.

Autodesk does offer a "Using BIM for Fabrication" as a BIM Workshop in the "Extending BIM Beyond Design" series which references many other resources including relevant websites like this linkedin group, "BIM + Digital Fabrication = Smart Building"

Also see some of the Customer Stories at the Autodesk - Building Products, Equipment and Fabrication page and this post from Cadalyst on BIM and Digital Fabrication (1-2-3 Revit Tutorial).

If your interest is the digital fabrication of buildings, I highly recommend this video with Fabian Scheurer of Design To Production on

How to Fabricate

Fabian Scheurer (Design To Production) at the Digital Crafting Symposium 1 from CITA on Vimeo.

I also recommend the video below by David Fano of CASE from the Autodesk Yale University BIM Symposium