Future University – Edge Zones
February 5, 2013 – 6:47 pm | No Comment

I’ve been thinking a bit about the future of the university, and it seems to me that a new model may be emerging, one that has something of the traditional sanctuary of a place of learning, but that innovatively engages communities, both local and international. There will, of course, have to be those preserves where students and teachers can contemplate their experience and learn together, but there must also be what, for the moment, one might think of as an edge zone where interactions of many kinds might take place.

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Home » Design-Inquiry, Lean-Design

Design Excellence: Lean response to challenges of practice

Submitted by on October 22, 2010 – 9:47 pmNo Comment

In a rapidly changing architecture/engineering/construction world, we are concerned with the diminishing value of design and the continued erosion of the design professional’s leadership role. We have all been witness to increasingly complex and challenging conditions for excellence in design: building sizes and programs are rapidly increasing, sites are constrained by environmental and regulatory issues, professional fees and time schedules are aggressively slashed, and building systems with specialized consultants create diverse and often geographically distributed teams, contractual relationships prioritize lowest cost over highest value, and a structured separation of design from the building trades diminishes constructability. These challenges have been accompanied by increased uncertainty, diminished control, and a strong aversion to risk and increased liability.

In many instances these compounded situations have diminished the perceived relevance of design.  Complexity has challenged a broader and richer application of design thinking and and professional aspirations for greater relevance and responsibility. In direct parallel, the dividing line between design and construction has often devolved into finger pointing, creating a pervasive culture of inefficiency and waste incongruent with new expectations for sustainability and improved building performance.   Overall, traditional project design and implementation methods based on command and control have been ineffective in reducing the significant percentage of waste of materials, energy and human resources evident in the majority of building projects.

Excellent buildings have become the exception not the norm and although this may be due to a litany of external factors; it is also due in large part to our professional fixation with the purely formal qualities of buildings and spaces often to the exclusion of their dynamic situations over time, the spectrum of activities they enable, the overall goals of the client, the resources they require to build and maintain, and their ability to adapt, change and improve over time. These shortcomings present a clear and immediate challenge to re-evaluate traditional practices and find innovative methods to measurably improve design quality. Now more than ever we need to reinvigorate design thinking and effectiveness.  In order to give design a more central position, we need to readdress the challenges for building, new approaches and design methods formulated along with new metrics and standards for evaluating and maintaining quality.

In response we engage in and promote Lean Design. We take Lean Design to be an evolving systematic approach to continuous improvement, the elimination of waste, and the creation of value.  Abstracted from the Toyota Manufacturing Process (TMP), these principles have been widely implemented in the manufacturing world and have gained adherents in the business world partly due to Motorola corporation’s Lean Six Sigma approach business operations and quality management.  Lean has gained credibility in the construction world with large-scale health care construction projects ;  with the advances of Integrated Project Delivery contracts developed to support Lean approaches, and with the rapid growth of the Lean Construction Institute.  Lean Design is not a magic bullet, but it does offer a broader approach to realizing design excellence in the face of challenging conditions of practice.