Charlie Williams, AIA, is associate principal and project delivery director with the California-based integrated design firm LPA and 2019 chair of AIA’s Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) Knowledge Community. Williams is also responsible for Inspire Design, the LPA technology team dedicated to “inspiring the design process through technology.” He is passionate about helping LPA leverage its informed process through data-driven design.
I’ve come to learn that successful technology implementation has a lot to do with change management. When I first stepped into this role, I thought it would be mostly about getting the right tools installed and explaining why they’re valuable. But I realized that’s only 10 percent of the job; the other 90 percent is understanding people and how they respond to change. As a result, I try to incorporate any excitement around new technologies while focusing most of my energy on the “people” side of things.
As an integrated design firm, LPA aims to incorporate input from each discipline at the earliest stages of a project, and then refine our insights to arrive at a solution that is highly informed by research and data. This new process is moving us away from the idea of intuition leading our design efforts. This doesn’t mean you change gears entirely; architects and engineers have been operating on intuition and professional experience for quite a while. But it’s time to meld intuition, experience, and data-driven design thinking.
Data, in conjunction with new technologies, will change how we design our buildings and how we interact with our clients. The greatest advancements in this area can come from anywhere; they won’t be constrained to academia or larger firms. TAP’s Building Connections Congress, which I am chairing in 2019, will also focus on this idea by bringing speakers together to discuss how the evolution of “data to information to knowledge” will advance practice.
If you look at the people who’ve worked passionately with data and found success in transforming sports or business, many were not initially industry leaders. Consider Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball. The Oakland A’s were the least likely team to transform baseball—or all of sports for that matter—at the turn of the century, but they did just that in 2002 through data-driven decision-making. I don’t think the next big thing necessarily comes from a large firm with copious resources; it’ll come from people who have passion, see a need, and marry those two together to make something special. —As told to Steve Cimino