Context is Everything

Sep 14, 2017


As the leader at Assemble Systems I have to be knowledgeable about all aspects of our business.  One of the interesting topics that came my way was from some friendly advice from my friend Brian Halligan at Hubspot as well as an A16Z podcast on Engineering Intent.  One of the perplexing things for everyone who understands the power of 3D Building Information Models is why everyone isn’t using them today.  During the course of customer discussions we hear:

  • “I don’t get models from our design partners, just 2D drawings.”
  • “Our estimating team uses 2D takeoff and they are happy with that.”
  • “Our legal contract documents are the 2D drawings, not the model so why would I use a model?”
  • We have been building with 2D drawings for years and it has worked fine for us!”

And there are many more of these types of reasons.  These are perfectly valid from a General Contractor’s point of view but still this is a really bad idea.

The A16Z podcast’s URL is:

And it is described as:

VP of Engineering at Airbnb Mike Curtis and head of engineering at Pinterest Li Fan discuss all this and more (in conversation with Sonal Chokshi) in this episode of the a16z Podcast. The hallway-style conversation covers everything from taking an individual vs. company-wide view and the myth/reality of the “10x engineer”, to the subtle nuances of how computers learn people’s styles, intent, aspirations, and outcomes. And how all of this plays out as consumer tech increasingly connects the online to the offline world.

Why You Need VDC.jpg

There were several points that make the case for using models instead of drawings for more workflows.  The first is when talking about how to deduce human intent both Pinterest and Airbnb use images to help discover intent.  When a construction worker needs to understand where and how to put some object properly into place what do you think would help more?  A 2D document or a 3D model?  

Next they dive into the fact that when working with images humans get answers to questions they didn’t even know they had.  A simple example was how Pinterest watches the colors of the Pins you click on the most and when recommending something to you they tend to show you those same colors.  Maybe you thought you were looking at running shoes but because of the images you have looked at over the past 10,000 clicks you were probably looking for silver running shoes.

Brian from Hubspot had shared with me several months ago that images and videos are now more important than any other form of information on the internet.  This is both from a business point of view as well as a consumer point of view.  After all, a video is just a 3D model changing over time, or 4D if you are a BIMster!  

I ask you, is anyone saying, “don’t send me a picture, write me a paragraph describing what you are trying to show me?”  We sometimes struggle to help people understand what they are missing by not utilizing more 3D and often find myself using the word “context.”  If you have a drawing you have information.  If you have a Building Information Model you have context.  This reminds me of the expression that, “a picture is worth a million words.”  If that is true and we equate a drawing to a picture then what is a 3 dimensional Building Information Model worth?  Tens of millions? 

 About the Author:

don hDon Henrich is an accomplished technology veteran in both the MCAD and the AEC industries.  As President and CEO of Assemble he brings an distinguished track record of innovation, winning strategies, team building, and the ability to quickly grow revenue and market share.  Don and his wife Noel have three children, reside in Marblehead, MA and spend as much time as possible sailing on Massachusetts Bay.


Try Assemble!

If you enjoyed this post, please help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Subscribe today to be notified when a new blog is published