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? 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.