An occasional sampling of reader electron-mail, or "keep those waves and particles pouring in, folks!"
IssueThirteen's LLemmaLessons From the Plant Kingdom elicited strong and thoughtful responses from several long-time subscribers. Rich Nitzsche, in the Chicago office of Perkins & Will writes:
> "As always, an insightful article. Here's my take on the collaborative dilemma. We architects have systematically removed ourselves from large portions of the value chain (largely in the interest of reducing our risk, more on that later). Subsequently, as we sit in our little slice of the facilities value chain, we have more interfaces to the outside world (owner's reps, GCs, engineers, the client, other consultants). Each interface is an opportunity for a technological disconnect and we find this most often when we try to collaborate using project web sites of one sort or another. Worse, we often find that if we're the advocates of this technology, we're expected to pay for it, support it and we often become the IT staff on these sites for the aforementioned team-mates.
"Of course, although nearly all the benefits of good collaboration ultimately accrue to the owner, it is rare that they are enthusiastic about paying for this technology. Like CADD is today, these services are expected to be provided wholly within the provision of our increasingly meager fees. Unlike CADD, we seem to have skipped the honeymoon period where we did recover some of our cost, before owners insisted that it was our cost of doing business.
"Now we're staring down the business end of a building model paradigm. I've been an advocate of this approach for over 20 years, but let's look realistically at what we're talking about. The real benefit of modeling lies in collaboration, coordination and better information in the field. If we cannot collaborate effortlessly up and down the value chain with our current documentation paradigm, just imagine how we'll do with modeling.
"Until we as a profession (something of a misnomer these days and part of our problem), determine that we're ready to take on risk, expand our presence in the value chain (implying more risk) and control/own more of the process, we will continue to bring up the rear in this regard. When I own the entire value chain (or most of it), I'll drive whatever technology through it that I choose and reap the benefits.
"PSI was informed last week that (a group of legal advisors to large A/E firms) is considering a recommendation to counsel member firms to eschew web site ownership, sponsorship or authorship in the interest, of course, of risk reductionmaybe that's a way to get the owners assume the cost."
> Great letter, Rich! I have argued for years that the greatest obstacles to adoption of collaborative project delivery technologies, building information modeling and similarly progressive applications, lie not in the technology itself but in the misalignment between who pays for the technology and who benefits from it. If the design professions won't take the lead in realigning the costs and benefits, others will do it for uswith new alignments that may be even less to our liking.
>From Philadelphia, architect George T. Manos comments on "Lessons from the Plant Kingdom":
> "Thank you for this article, the analysis, and the comparo of A/E firms with alive-from-the-neck-up businesses. Being there among those folks must have been informative, to say the least.
"Once again we see CAD system developers following markets that know enough about their businesses to justify purchases of their software. Sadly, and to the detriment of the architectural profession, that has been going on since the first CAD system was born... (W)ithout a sea change in collaboration between firms on this matter, A-firms will ALWAYS be behind the real technology curve. Way behind.
"This must be particularly frustrating for you, who are tirelessly trying to raise architects' levels of consciousness on this point... In any case I hope the profession hears your message on this and I urge you to try to keep trying to find a way to get through to it."
> Thanks for the encouraging words, George! FYI, George and I first met nearly ten years ago in an early-days on-line forum on the pre-Web, pre-AOL Compuserve network, and we've shared ideas on-line and face-to-face ever since.
On a separate matter, George adds:
> "On the IssueThirteen's Profiles in Readership, I do not believe it is possible for the US to be 20th on the list of visiting countries. If true, then things are worse than I imagined."
> A bit of clarification may be in order: the readership distribution by country domains excluded .COM and .NET sites, which together comprise slightly more than 50% of all identifiable traffic at Laiserin.COM. Assuming that most .COM and many .NET addresses are based in the USA, and adding the USA-only .EDU, .GOV and .MIL domains, implies that half of the LaiserinLetter's readership is USA-based (subscriber-supplied country names are generally consistent with the website statistics). Our Profiles in Readership was intended to indicate geographic distribution among the other, non-USA half of our audience. In that half, the relatively little used .US domain did rank twentieth, primarily representing readers in USA state and municipal government agencies.
One final note, in the weeks since the last reader profile, we've picked up subscriptions in our 83rd and 84th countries, Tanzania and the Dominican Republic.TZ and .DO, respectively. Welcome! If any readers know folks in the 100+ countries we're missing who might be interested in the issues we cover in the LaiserinLetter, feel free to forward them a copy and a suggestion to subscribe. We have a chance to build here a truly global village.