Speaker Spotlight: Aaron Maller and John Pierson

With BILT ANZ fast upcoming, we interviewed a couple of our favourite speakers, John Pierson and Aaron Maller from Parallax, who will be joining us all the way from the USA for their collection of sessions, which we’re sure are going to be a big hit!

Is this your first trip to Australia? (Aaron, I know it’s not yours – how many times have you been over and why do you keep coming back?)
John: This will be my first time and the furthest that I have traveled from home. Excited to be pretty much on the other side of the world and to see all of the sites.

Aaron: This will be my 6th BILTANZ event, but one of the previous five was the Auckland event.  So I have been to the Australian events four times. I think it’s important to share experiences with folks doing the same jobs, but in other countries and cultures. We always look at problems and solutions through the lens of our own requirements and rules, and it’s educating to see what issues and solutions are happening in other countries. I’m reminded of BILT ANZ 2014, when I was giving a lecture on modeling Classical Masonry Architecture in Revit, and I spent a few minutes talking about the issues of dimensioning American Brick: Those few minutes fell flat, because it isn’t a problem over there, given the units are different. Ha!

All that said, Australia is also one of my favorite countries. If I ever leave the United States, its where I would want to go. 😊

What are the classes you are teaching this year?

John: I have 2 classes at BILT ANZ this year, “Flex Your Families” and “Dynamo, Why So Serious?”. The first class is a repeat of a lab I gave at BILTNA 2018 and is a blast. We cover various tricks in the Revit family editor to enable smoother interaction for grip handles and the like. The second class is a brand new class that aims to introduce very complex Dynamo topics in fun ways. All too often people are too strict with how they should be using Dynamo when having fun with it can be a valuable way to learn. This class will be full of surprises.

Aaron: I have 2 classes at BILT ANZ this year as well: “Model Auditing: Behind the Data Hype: What to Audit in Design, and Construction,” and “Revit Schedules: Running Calculations ON TOTALS (without Dynamo or the API).”  The last time I was in ANZ (2017, missed last year while we were having a baby!) I gave a lecture about an Arena where I was modeling off the Contract Documents, on behalf of the Contractor. That job is finished now, but what started that entire process was an analysis: How do we know what we can and can’t trust, in a model? And when we review models, it’s different if we are reviewing them as Quality Control from WITHIN the design team, or for Constructability and Accuracy on behalf of the Contractor. It’s two entirely different review processes. But, unless we can be HONEST about our level of quality (or lack of) in a model, we are never getting to the “build it from the model” thing people ask about.

The second class started out as a simple need, for doing Code Calculations in a Revit Template. A user on Revit Forum schooled me (and all of us) on how you can actually perform Calculated Values on the TOTALS in schedules, which opens up a number of possibilities. In the US, a lot of Code Requirements are based on Totals, and it makes those possible without needing the API or Dynamo. If you want to embed cost, and costs drop as quantities rise, we can do that. If you are looking at Construction Logistics, and Teams/Equipment/Resources needs to flex based on totals of materials, we can evaluate that now, as well. What started out as a simple method in Revit I had never known existed, has brought up a wealth of possibilities.

What classes are you looking forward to attending?

John: Anything Dynamo or design computation related. As a Dynamo package developer, I like to attend as many Dynamo-related classes as I can to see how folks are using the nodes. It provides a great perspective into what is being created with tools that you may have had a hand in building and really makes it all “worth it”.

Aaron: There are a couple of classes that Kristian Bursell is teaching on Component Creation in ArchiCAD (most people in our community don’t know that I was an ARCHICAD user (though not as experienced as I am in Revit) and a Digital Project user before a Revit User), and I would love to see what he’s doing in his content creation methods (something I’m passionate about, obviously). Paul Wintour and Tim Phillips are doing a class on Digital Fabrication, and Parallax Team is involved in a Prefabricated Modular project right now, being fabbed from the models. So I am always happy to see how others are doing it. There is a Lab on MEP content that works, from Dan Morrison, too.

Definitely some great classes. More, I’m looking forward to the conversations with the delegates at the event.

What do you think are the biggest trends and/or challenges for our industry right now and moving further into the future?

John: Trend = Generative Design. Challenge = People knowing exactly what that means. I think as topics such as generative design are discussed more, we are seeing more interest from the general public. Along with this, I think software vendors are doing a disservice to the industry by not truly explaining or demonstrating all of the nuances involved. Further adding to this challenge is the fact that a lot of people tend to recreate tools that already exist. I believe Nate Miller said this best at another event, “Protectionism is holding us back as an industry”.

Aaron: Oh boy. So, there is a lot of “trendy talk” in our industry, and I feel a little bad about the fact that I automatically have disdain for folks when I hear them using trendy buzz words, or talking about all the “new hype cycle” stuff that’s out there. Because:

The biggest challenge *I* see (and I know it’s a simple challenge to solve, on paper) is that the majority of AE+C firms that I work with in the US, still aren’t getting the BASICS right. I hear people wax poetic about “the ‘I’ in BIM” all the while the geometry in the model is trash, or the dimensions are fudged, or there are CYA notes all over drawings conflicting with the model. The Data is important (and Gold) AFTER you’ve passed the basic validity test of: This model actually matches the contract documents.

I also see a bizarre issue, where (in the US) for some reason Architectural mentorship (teaching up and coming staff what things MEAN) is happening less and less, as people focus on tools and software. It might just be my experiences, of course.

What have been your biggest challenges starting up Parallax?

John: I’ll let Aaron do this one. 😊  My biggest challenge at the moment is working with Model Groups in the Revit API. Lol

Aaron: I’ve never been happier in my career, since starting Parallax, and we have been able to help clients do things I could never manage to push forward, when I was embedded within firms. But the biggest challenges?  All the NON-practice stuff. The accounting (yuck). The business paperwork (ewww). The IT stuff (you take it for granted when you have a great IT group at a company. When you have to be the IT person, it stinks!). Thankfully, I was prepared. When I announced I was starting Parallax Team in 2015, I got a bunch of great nuggets of advice from people who were/are running their own shows, so to speak: Steve Stafford, Paul Aubin, Harry Mattison, Jim Balding, and a few others.

What differences do you see in the industry (or BILT) between NA and ANZ?
John: Since this is my first international BILT event, check back with me afterwards. 😉

Aaron: Well, I think each events’ presentations lean towards the issues that are most prevalent in their regions, which isn’t a bad thing. The ANZ event always has more people with those fancy accents, so there is that, too!

Are you taking some vacation time whilst you are here? What are you looking forward to doing?

John: Definitely! My wife is coming along for the event and we are very much looking forward to seeing all of the sites and seeing a whole different part of the world neither of us has ever been to.

Aaron: It’s undecided, at the moment. I ALWAYS love to stay and see Australia. After the Blue Mountain event, we stayed an extra week, in Sydney. After the last Melbourne event, I road tripped to Canberra and Sydney, with Mr. Benn (what a trip!). The deciding factor will be if Alison and Adelyn decide to come, I think. Originally, we planned to all make the trip, but we are hedging on whether or not we want to take an 18 hour flight with a 13 month old. If I am on my own, I will probably head back right after the event. I would miss my girls too much to stay. 😊

Join us at this year’s BILT ANZ for these amazing speakers!

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