Autodesk University 2024: my proposals

Yeah, you heard me right: this year I’m putting myself out there to try and get back in the game of international conferencing. I’ve been out of the scene for quite some time, so there’s a high chance they won’t select me, but making the proposals is always a good way to focus on what […]

Yeah, you heard me right: this year I’m putting myself out there to try and get back in the game of international conferencing. I’ve been out of the scene for quite some time, so there’s a high chance they won’t select me, but making the proposals is always a good way to focus on what you’re doing and how you can contribute to the community as a whole, and that’s a work that’s bound not to go to waste.

The deadline for submitting classes expired yesterday — so it’s either you got around to it, or you didn’t — and I managed to wrap my head around a couple of concepts that span from Quality Management, from Agile to Dev-Ops, touching topics such as BIM, Artificial Intelligence and inclusivity.
From tomorrow onwards, we can assume you’ll be able to get a sense of how many proposals the community submitted and, if you like some of them, you might be able to weigh in and vote for your favourites.
I’ll be chiming in with a selection of topics to guide you through your choices but before that the least I can do is give you an overview of what I proposed. Of course you’re not obliged to vote for them. Of course I’ll be grateful if you do.

1. Artificial Intelligence

I’ve got two classes on the topic, one has to do with authorship and the other revolves around the implementation of AI.

1.1. Artificial Authors: How to encode your own voice into generative tools

One of the things that baffles me is how quickly and carelessly some breed of creatives seem to be willing to delegate a portion of their authorship to Artificial Intelligence, especially in the architectural field. I’m deeply critical of this approach, and I’m not some nostalgic for hand-drawn sketches and oil-painted renderings (though they sure as heck looked nice): as one who’s been vocally advocating technological innovation in the construction industry, you might be interested in my perspective on this.

I’ll discuss the concept of authorship, the ethical and aesthetical implications of using Artificial Intelligence in matters of intellectual property and the uncanny levels of engagement a wholly artificial product might generate in its end-user, and the class will eventually dive into the design and engineering of prompts, to see some tips and tricks to avoid pitfalls and make sure your own authorial voice stays encoded into your products.

There will be a deep focus on ethics: “AI bros” might want to steer clear of this.

«Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind… But what [they] should’ve said is: Thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human mind.»
– F. Herbert, Dune


1.2. A Business Case for AI in Architectural Practices

On a slightly more practical and less philosophical tone, this class will navigate the strategic integration of Artificial Intelligence into an architectural design practice. Do you want it to create products or do you want it to analyse specifications? Do you wish it to give you feedback on user personas, or do you wish it to perform calculations? And beware of a little thing called the jagged frontier of capabilities, as different AIs might not be equally skilled in performing tasks you might consider easy for them.

Participants will be accompanied through a showcase of different kinds of tools powered by AI and their possible areas of application, and they will learn the essential steps to formulate a robust Business Case for AI adoption, tackling tasks that are most suitable for the emergent technology, aligning technology investments with organizational objectives, and incorporating the ethical issues of job replacement and job displacement.
The concept of Business Case is hereby intended in the PRINCE2 and MSP frameworks by Axelos.

Through practical examples and case studies, attendees will gain insights into assessing AI’s potential benefits, overcoming implementation hurdles, and articulating a persuasive business rationale for AI integration. They wll go home with a Business Case Template, and a robust understanding of its evaluation framework.

Let’s peel back the skin together, shall we?

2. Agile

I’m not abandoning Agile as my main focus for dealing with projects, processes and complex issues. That’s why I proposed a few classes revolving around different methods of management and here’s what I’m proposing to talk about.

2.1. Somewhere I belong: leveraging cloud tools to keep a project team together

I’ve been wanting to talk about this ever since hearing Professor Lee Waller at the 2021 International LEGO Serious Play Conference: working from home is amazing, diffused teams can work marvels, but there’s the risk of people feeling alone and disconnected from their fellow co-workers, ultimately impacting on their wellbeing, on the quality of their work and on workplaces retention. Going back to the office isn’t the solution, of course, and it isn’t happening either. A 2023 survey performed by True North Research for Sandag shows that over 90% of architects and engineers have been given the option to work remotely, and most professionals are seeing huge benefits, especially when it comes to work-life balance.

This class will show you how you could leverage cloud-based tools, such as the ones within the Autodesk Construction Cloud Suite, to highlight the relevant connections between people, teams and parts of the project, how to make sure the team will have access to information, and how to foster spontaneous connections within a supervised improvisation framework.
All it takes to keep a team together is the right tools and a manager with a keen eye.

Guess where I learned how to model connections effectively?


2.2. Revit Library Development: Principles of Dev-Ops

I’ve talked about DevOps many times (if you don’t believe me, take a look here) and yet I think there’s still room for more contamination between our industry and these principles of development. DevOps provides us with solid guidelines for production and deployment, with an unparalleled way of collecting feedback and with a fluid integration between continuous delivery and day-to-day operations. One of the best fields in which to apply this, as far as I’m concerned, is to integrate the development of an in-house BIM library with the objects’ utilization in the company’s projects.

That’s why I decided to propose a class on library management. And also because I strongly believe, though many suppliers provide BIM objects of their products, that a solid design practice works much better when it has its own, in-house library of Revit families suited for the different stages of its most typical projects.

This class will showcase a comprehensive approach to developing a Revit objects library using the principles of DevOps and will tackle the topics of incremental planning, continuous improvement and integration between the objects development (Dev) and their progressive incorporations into the practice of everyday design (Ops), in order to shorten the production cycle, streamline the deployment of new objects, effectively manage version updates, provide continuous delivery to ongoing projects and incorporate into the library development a process of continuous feedback so that library developers can build, test, and release objects faster and more reliably.

Do you remember this ribbon, don’t you?

2.3. Design Sprint: How to Plan your Revit Content in a Week

Back in 2020 I did a small series of posts on the Design Sprint and its possible employment in BIM (you can find them starting from here). The idea of Design Sprint, pioneered by Jane Knapp, suggests that under the right circumstances and with the right team, it’s possible to develop a solution from initial concept to functional testing within just five days.
This class explores how this method can be applied during the early stages of introducing Revit into an architectural practice to plan, sketch, decide, build a prototype and test the Revit content you will use in your projects so yeah, it’s another class on library management.
We’ll see how to set the space and select the right team, which resources are needed for the inception of graphical standards and parameters, how to run a discussion with every different point of view involved, how to balance the discussion between flexibility and standardization, and how to ensure that target users, your designers, will get their say on the developed content even when they’re not at the table.
While the focus is on Revit, the principles are applicable to any creative industry involving asset creation, such as the gaming industry. Because, let’s face it, many of the principles come from there.

Do you want to build a snowman? (or you could download it from here)


2.4. We’re in a Jam: How to Facilitate Quick Decision-Making in a BIM Project

BIM is about decisions, from setting up the general structure of a model to picking the right parameters to better suit the end goals and model uses. And Revit, with its way of providing different routes to reach the same destination, might complicate things for team management when everyone wants to go a different direction and none of them is technically wrong.
Time to hit the road and change career? Maybe not.
This class will provide participants with a tool to run decision-making sessions in under 40 minutes with the aid of a kanban board, rapid prototyping, an impact-effort matrix and a light-touched facilitator. Together, we’ll run through one possible scenario: the introduction of a new, unexpected model use and output into a well-developed project.
We’ll see how Design Thinking seamlessly integrates into the management of a BIM project and assemble a framework participants will be able to immediately use upon their return to their different practices.


3. Quality

Another one of my friends of expertise is ISO 9001 and particularly its integration with working in BIM. You won’t believe how easily, almost spontaneously, the two frameworks come together. I have two classes in this field as well, a general one and one specifically focused on Continuous Improvement.

3.1. BIM Quality Management

This class offers a comprehensive approach to Quality Management in Building Information Modeling projects, aligning closely with ISO 9001:2015 standards. Participants will gain insights into the fundamental principles and practices of quality management, focusing on ensuring client satisfaction, effective leadership, active participation, and evidence-based decision-making.
Through the process-based approach, attendees will learn to plan, execute, monitor, and improve quality throughout the lifecycle of a BIM project, and to implement Quality Management strategies, evaluate project goals, establish clear quality criteria, and organize roles and responsibilities.
Emphasis will be placed on communication with clients, on setting model requirements, and on thorough planning for the auditing processes. By the end of the class, participants will have a solid understanding of how to implement Quality Management effectively, enhancing overall project success and stakeholder satisfaction.

I’m not making this up, you know?


3.2. Higher, Further, Faster: a Continuous Improvement Plan for BIM

Continuous improvement is an ongoing process of enhancing products, services, or processes incrementally over time. It involves identifying opportunities for improvement, making changes, and evaluating the outcomes to drive further advancements, and its key principles involve an iterative approach, a framework to identify and appraise both risks and opportunities, data-driven decision-making, and a strong emphasis on collaboration, feedback collection and proactive questioning.
By implementing a continuous improvement plan, BIM projects can enhance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness, drive innovation, and deliver greater value to stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.

This class will illustrate the principles of Continuous Improvement and propose a comprehensive Continuous Improvement Plan tailored for BIM projects, encompassing audits, health checks, non-conformity management and lessons learned. Through systematic evaluation, proactive intervention, and knowledge sharing, this plan aims to enhance quality, efficiency and effectiveness of BIM, fostering innovation and driving project success.
For each stage, we’ll see how to assign tasks and responsibilities, how to develop a strategy that tackles the relevant issues, how to maximize the benefits of BIM and ensure processes aren’t implemented for the sake of them, how to foster a culture of Continuous Improvement, and how to centre your quality-control plan around teams and people.

If you think you got the reference, you probably did.

4. LEGO® Serious Play

I know, it’s a long shot to try and bring LEGO Serious Play into a technology conference, but I think it’s worth a try. I carefully selected two topics: one has to do with inclusion, again, and the other one is strictly focused on the urgent topic of planning resilient infrastructure. Both come from experience.

4.1. Bricks for change: A LEGO Serious Play framework to foster equity and inclusion

Since its conception in 1996 and its public release in 2010, the solid framework of LEGO Serious Play and the colourful bricks have been used for multiple purposes, from strategy planning to wargaming, from problem-solving to creating a framework for improvisation. But the method’s superpower, at least in my opinion, stands in its ability to level the playing field, to bring equality into the discussion table and, with the aid of a skilled facilitator, to help every voice be heard, every idea be expressed, every point of view be evaluated.

In this class, without the ambition of making a facilitator out of you, I’ll showcase some of the method’s principles so that you can incorporate them into your own style when conducting a meeting, and you can be aware of how discussions can be tipped off balance with the simplest of things.

Balance is everything.

4.2. The three-horizons problem: using LEGO Serious Play for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Design

It’s possibly the most ambitious of the classes I’ve proposed and, of course, it’s the one I’m rooting for.

Its conception also dates back to the 2021 International LEGO Serious Play Conference, where I got the chance to be certified as a facilitator in the new framework for Real-Time Change. Since then, I got the chance to apply the method a couple of times in public discourses around land development and I think it should be mandatory to learn for everyone in the field.

What am I blabbering about? Here’s the description of the class I proposed.

In the face of climate change, designing infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events and rising sea levels is paramount. Traditional approaches to infrastructure design often lack the tools to fully evaluate an ever-growing array of parameters. On top of that, planning on a twenty or even a ten-year horizon is getting increasingly difficult and it might not make sense altogether, for exponential change escapes our ability to foresee it.
Exits planning, enters improvisation.

This lecture explores the concept of organizational improvisation and LEGO Serious Play (LSP) as a powerful tool for designing climate-resilient infrastructure. By providing real-life examples and constructing scenarios with the class, we will focus on how agility, creativity and collaboration can enhance an organization’s ability to respond to evolving environmental challenges. Join us to learn how LSP enables stakeholders to explore complex problems, co-create solutions and envision resilient futures.

Is this resilient? I’m not so sure.


5. Learning

I know it’s a bit “meta”, but I really miss those days when Autodesk would actually bother to teach you how to teach and I think we need to have more of that. I have two contributions on the subject.

5.1. Tailoring Learning: Designing Successful Training Programs for learning Software

From initial assessment to curriculum development and delivery, this class will explore key strategies and best practices for creating tailored learning experiences that maximize user engagement and proficiency when teaching software in a working environment.
The suggested approach will be that of “design backwards”, a design thinking principle through which designers start with the desired outcome in mind and works backward to determine the steps needed to achieve it, from the project to the skills, from the practice to the theory.
Specifically, the class will start from how to define the end goal, getting into detail on how to outline S.M.A.R.T. learning goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) and how to set up a system that will allow to measure success even and especially for non-measurable skills.
Requirements and format of the learning activities will be designed from there.

5.2. The InnovACTION Award Model

Yeah, you heard me right. I teamed up with Forma Mentis and we proposed a class in which we’d like to showcase the InnovACTION Award initiative and distill its model for everyone’s future use. This deserves a separate post. If you don’t know what the InnovACTION Award is, you can look here and here.

I’ll write up more about this in the following days.

The Forma Mentis InnovACTION Award 2020 banner: we were designing for a historical town destroyed by an earthquake.

6. BIM

If you thought I was done with BIM… well, maybe you were right but there are still a few things I can do to contribute to a discourse that’s getting more and more stale. Let’s see what they are.

6.1. Outcome-Oriented BIM: Crafting Solutions for Challenging Projects

With a primary focus on the desired outcomes rather than just the features, outcome-oriented design is a focus of this year’s Autodesk University, so I thought I would chime in with my two cents.

Outcome-Based Design involves defining clear goals and objectives upfront, and then designing and iterating solutions to achieve those specific outcomes, which I think it’s perfect for BIM and actually the only way to approach it. This class will approach the definition and planning stages of a BIM process: we’ll see how to define model uses by shifting the focus to the impact or value we’ll deliver, how to define project outcomes by articulating the desired results that the design aims to achieve, and how to understand and address user needs and preferences when tailoring the Common Data Environment.

Stepping into the design stage, we’ll see how to get ready for an iterative process, how to set up a system that’s ready to be informed by data analysis, and how to establish metrics and indicators to measure the success of the design in achieving the desired outcomes.

We’ll see this from the pin to the elephant, as they used to say. Or, more appropriately, to the general framework of the Common Data Environment to designing a single Revit family.

It will be fun.

Picture courtesy of Federico Nigro.

6.2. Everybody Wants to be a Clash Detector: Best Practices to gracefully manage your process and everyone involved

One of the two highly technical classes I proposed is a technical instruction on Navisworks, with some additional focus on the interference detection tools available on the Autodesk Construction Cloud processes.
Featuring practical examples and real-life experiences, this class won’t teach you how to perform basic clash detection but we will discuss how to proceed after you push the button in Navisworks, because that’s when the fun starts: we’ll see how to create a timeline of clash meetings that makes sense; how to know which figures to involve in the different meetings; how to group the different clashes to facilitate the discussion; how to perform a real-time, risk-based assessment of what cannot and will not be solved; how to track issues and craft reports that will address the main concerns.
Because a clash-free model doesn’t usually exist, but a well-managed collaboration is just within your reach.

6.3. Projects on ICE: How to prepare your Information Models for Integrated Concurrent Engineering

Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE) is another topic that’s very close to my heart, and I feel it’s vastly underrated. It’s defined as “a social method helped by technology”, and it aims to create and evaluate multi-discipline, multi-stakeholder VDC models extremely rapidly. It has been used increasingly to bring engineering teams together and solve complex problems, brainstorm innovative solutions and kickstart collaborative projects, and its core component is the ICE session, an in-person workshop of Extreme Collaboration in which solutions are rapidly evaluated, expanded and dismantled.

I’ve been telling you for years how good and beneficial it is to solve complex engineering projects.
There’s one thing I haven’t been telling you, though: these kinds of sessions will wreak complete havoc on your models.

With a particular attention to Revit, this class will go through your shopping list for setting up the perfect ICE sessions, from the meeting agenda to the actual hardware in the room, from the specifics of mdoels and components to alternative brainstorming methods, we’ll cover all the ingredients for a recipe to success.

It’s not going to be this kind of ICE.


6.4. 10+1 Revit tricks to Design + Build with your models

I admit my original idea was to propose this class by splitting the tricks into their “sub-tricks” and call it “30+1 Revit tricks” but then again I’ve decided not to go with that kind of frenetic display of skills, for this edition at least. So what is this class about? For one, it’s about Design + Build.

As opposed to Design | Bid | Build, a method that’s traditionally more common for small projects here in Italy, Design + Build shortens the collaboration route between the designer and the construction site, and usually appoints one single entity (a large General Contractor) to both develop the design and implement it into construction. This can happen in any stage of the process, but theoretically the sooner the better. The focus of Design + Built is on collaboration, efficiency, and accountability, Design-Build is highly suited for BIM projects where speed, innovation, and cost control are priorities. And it’s perfect for BIM.

In this class we’ll see a comprehensive array of model management tricks, tailored to foresee and address beforehand the complexities of the design+build process when you might have models that come from different stages and objects that are being constructed alongside objects that are still being engineered for construction.
We’ll span from worksharing within the same Revit model to segregation through linking, from mapping phases across links to a clever use of object-oriented WBS parameters, from scheduling and filtering to copy/monitoring.

With these 10+1 model management tricks I will offer practical solutions to common challenges encountered in working with diverse Revit models but the ultimate trick, the last one, will always be a human-centered planning of the model management process.

Bilal’s chart on Design + Build vs Design | Bid | Build


Vote for me when they open

Or then again, don’t.
I’ll like you anyway.
Or then again, I won’t.

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