3 Trends to Ponder in 2013

The start of a new year is always a good time for some reflection and contemplation. Material cost fluctuations and slow economic recovery continue to impact our industry, but this year, we’re also keeping an eye on some other consumer and business trends.

01 Prototyping

FXFOWLE Lounge for the inaugural Miami Project Fair

3D printing isn’t new, but 2012 marked a shift in public awareness of its uses. Although 3D printing crayon drawings isn’t going to profoundly affect the AECO industry, a growing consumer market segment will make the technology more feasible for the our industry/maker economy.

Although we don’t predict 3D printing an entire house, as envisioned by Behrokh Khoshnevis, we certainly can see beyond architectural massing models. For starters, digital prototyping of details and design options offers us the opportunity to physically sequence and re-sequence  assemblies. And that’s just for starters.

02 Big Data

Big Data was one of the most used buzzwords of 2012, and its alignment with the AECO industry isn’t lost on us. Big Data refers to the unprecedented amount of data available and the opportunity for analytic to inform decision making. Sound like the “I” in BIM”?

It can be valuable, but it isn’t perfect, as Steve Lohr points out in his recent New York Times article, “Sure, Big Data is Great. But So Is Intuition“. Lohr mentions several Big Data considerations, which can be applied to BIM adoption:

McKinsey Global Institute…projected that the United States needed 140,000 to 190,000 more workers with “deep analytical” expertise and 1.5 million more data-literate managers, whether retrained or hired.

Our industry faces a similar workforce challenge, related to both skilled labor and technical capabilities. Training is key. What does your workforce development program look like?

“A major part of managing Big Data projects is asking the right questions: How do you define the problem? What data do you need? Where does it come from? What are the assumptions…? How is the model different from reality?”
— Harvard Business School professor Thomas H. Davenport

These are the questions of BIM Execution Planning, of defining expectations and desired outcomes, inputs and outputs. Do you spend enough time planning?

Listening to the data is important, they [expert data scientists] say, but so is experience and intuition.

BIM can provide information, but doesn’t make decisions for us. For example, we extract hyper-accurate quantities from a model, but it is the expertise of our cost engineering team that utilizes the quantities to budget and procure projects. Are you balancing BIM with experience?

03 Mobile applications

FM BIM Scanner

Mobile applications aren’t the most surprising trend, but not everything needs to be original! Mobile applications enable us to access a plethora of information from the job. What are we thinking about? How to maintain centralized information with so many access points through disconnected applications. How secure are various cloud solutions. Whether or not to develop applications.

What do you think of, when you think mobile applications?

What trends are you following? And how are they impacting your plans for the year?


  1. BIG Data, BIM models being used onsite via Tablet presentation and augmented reality to both visualize finished conditions and as a ssles tool for design presentations.

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