This summer we had the honor and privilege of being hosted as speakers in some of the most beautiful venue and by some of the most amazing people in our industry. We went from BILTna in St Louis to the Computational Design User Group in San Francisco, to the Revit User Group in Los Angeles.
So, without further ado, here’s what we did, what we saw, what we learned.
The wonderful North America edition of The Event Formerly Known as RTC (T.E.F.K.A.RTC for short) was hosted in St Louis and constituted my first chance to see a USA city that wasn’t Vegas. As afficionados of the Singaporean one, we were told to expect something grand and the event fully lived up to our expectations. It was a pleasure to see again the committee, those guys are doing an amazing job, and regardless of the fatigue and stress of organizing something like that they always manage to make us feel at home and among friends. You are wonderful.
This year there were strong trends regarding training, computational design and machine learning.
We fell in those trends with our two classes: a lecture on the usage of game design techniques in training (The BIM Challenge, for those of you who were familiar with the similar talk we gave at AU2017 in Vegas) and a double lab on adaptive components and Dynamo (Adapt or Die, for those of you who are familiar with the shorter version of the lab we held at BILTasia 2018).
Among the classes that we attended, we harvested very stimulating insights and we can’t wait to put into practice what we learned and saw. Here’s my personal top 10 things. No particular order.
- Machine Learning: it’s not just for data scientists. Nick Kovach managed to cover a very difficult topic with a wonderfully-paced lab that was easy to follow even for people like me (I’ve got a rusty C# and my Python sucks). I even got a Raspberry out of it! Now let’s put it to good use.
- The City Museum. I can’t believe such a place can exist: a museum where you can climb, slide down, build, crawl under stuff, explore, swing, roll and drink. Oh, and there’s also a few exhibits too. Thanks to Enscape, Read | Thomas and BIM box for organizing and sponsoring the function there: it was a beautiful chance to loosen up and network in a less stiff environment.
- God is in the Data [Room Data Sheet and Equipment Books: fast, free (mostly) and easy]. Aaron Maller is a wonderful guy and does wonderful stuff. And now, with the addition of John Pierson in the Parallax Team, their contribution to the industry is becoming one of the most significant on the market. This class was about the creation of a Room Datasheet through a clever usage of Excel formulas and Pivot tables. The project did strike a chord close to my heart also because it’s a road I’ve personally been down a couple of times. I’m sure he won’t mind that I changed the parenthesis in his title.
- Automated Enterprise Model Health using Dynamo Sandbox and Revit to inform training needs. Too often we see model checking performed by sour people who only want to point fingers but have very little interest in actually solving the issues behind those mistakes. Same goes for clash detection. Micah Gray showcased a beautiful workflow that connects a model checker script to interactive learning tips and tricks.
- The future of organizational Change Management. A nice neat class by Susan Brattberg, including the ADKAR model and the innovation curve.
- Taking Control: Verifying as-built conditions with reality capture. Kelly Cone waltzed us through the usage of Verity to perform a comparison between a point cloud and a Navisworks model. It’s an incredible tool, a game changer under lots of points of view, and I can’t wait to bring it into our practice in Italy.
- Opening Keynote: the Future of High Speed Transportation. Dr Anita Sengupta was more than inspirational: a literal rocket scientist who went from engineering work on Mars Missions to the Hyperloop project, with great insights on the significance of the project, the process behind the test track in Arizona, the general impact of these kind of projects on our poor poor planet Earth. All sparkled with wit, science fiction and a mind that travels at the speed of light.
- Open Door Tour. As I mentioned, I had never been to St Louis and I really appreciated the chance to be chaperoned around by an exceptional guide such as Mark Schmieding. The Union Station Hotel is an amazing venue, an incredible place, and it was a privilege to be escorted by a lady who’s passionate enough to do this as a side job. The structure for the roof is incredible, the railroad steel used there is unreal for one such as me who’s used to see those kind of structures being built in wood (Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, anyone?). The main hall is something to behold, the light shows are amazing (wait for the aquarium one), there’s fire in the swimming pool, and the old offices on Level 2 really take you back in time. Thanks also for escorting across town, us to see the low first high rise ever built, and it was charming to visit both Cannon Design and HoK. Thanks for letting us into your homes and taking the time to showcase the amazing work and technology research being done there. You can clearly see that Mixed Reality and Laser Scanning and being taken to the next level into the industry.
- Strategic Disruption: Using Extended Intelligence to go from design process to design product. Sometimes you pick classes just based on the fact that you know the speaker of you work within that topic, but you also have to remember to be open to new stuff. I didn’t know Satya Basu, but I’m really glad I enrolled in his class: it was a very interesting talk about the concept of how Human and Artificial Intelligence really back up one another and can be complementary in the development of a process that’s more and more oriented towards design as a service.
- Advance your Digital Agenda through persuasion and influence. I booked this class expecting the BIM troublemaker and got the chance to meet another wonderful guy instead. Scott Jones pulled through the uneasy task of giving someone else’s lecture with grace and commitment. Lots of valuable content and references were provided and, although I don’t embrace the PNL side of the talk, the 4 framings for organizations (see Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal) is a really neat framework of thought.
It’s really difficult to pick classes in such an amazing program and I’m sad I had to give up going to classes of amazing speakers such as Carl Storms, John Pierson and Marcello Sgambelluri, I’m sad I could not attend Cesar Escalante and Alberto Tono’s class (I was supposed to be in mine, at the same time) but I am grateful I had a chance to see you guys and chat a bit. I also got to finally meet in person the amazing Brian Myers, the beautiful and witty Melissa Thiessens and a whole lot of new people. A special mention goes to Brian Mackey, whose class I did not attend: Claudio won’t stop speaking marvels of an entire hour of demo on the significance and importance of reference planes in families. How do they behave? What’s their connection with tag placement, alignment and point of insertion? You need to be brave and wise to propose a class on such a narrow topic, because the topic is of the highest importance when creating families that behave correctly.
I also want to spend a couple of words on the exhibitors. I heard a lot about BIM Box and I was glad to finally see those machines in person, stress test them, chat with the super-cool guy who makes them. They are incredible and I have this feeling I know what Claudio wants for Christmas. We were also glad to chat with Revizto (our review is here), Enscape (one of my first reviews, here) and BIMtrack (which review is in the pipeline after the summer break). You have to stay alert and keep an eye out for new products: ours is a fast changing environment, at least from that point of view, and it’s a quite hectic time for new solutions to both old and new problems. These conferences are also an incredible opportunity to do that.
Being invited to speak at the San Francisco Dynamo User Group is an honor in itself. Being invited to speak on their anniversary, inside HoK, alongside John Pierson and Ryan Cameron, on the day they evolve into the San Francisco Computational Design User Group is a privilege beyond words and we hope we were witty enough to make sure you had a good time. The videos of our little chat will be online soon on the YouTube channel of the group.
I personally wish to thank again Alberto Tono and Cesar Escalante for their kindness and their wonderful company: I indeed feel we could speak for hours and we can’t wait to return the favour once you’ll come to Italy in October for our little event. But more on that later on.
When Jay Zallan invites you to do something, you don’t think twice about it: you jump on a plane and do it. We were responsible for the User Group breaking their sacred rule “always on Thursday” and we don’t regret it a bit.
The group is a vivacious and hectic enclave of brilliant people and we thank them for staying with us and participating throughout the evening.
I wish to personally thank Jay for the invitation and the refreshing tour through the design, art and history of his beautiful city.
To me is always a pleasure coming to the U.S.: for both personal and professional reasons, this tour has left a mark on me and I would like to take the chance to encourage everyone to get out of their box and reach out, connect, exchange. It’s only when we leave a mark on each other that our stay on this planet really becomes significant.