Ockham’s Laser (iiii): Dear RFP, I Love You


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In the interest of brevity, of which Request for Proposals (RFP’s) most certainly are NOT synonymous, we at ToPa would like to offer a few words on our experience of this necessary evil that, when executed with focus and loving care, can result in tomorrow’s dinner for you and your 200158756-001colleagues. This of course assumes you have the constitution to fast for the few months between the award announcement and the net 30 or 60 or 90 or ‘whenever the prime feels like paying you and ensuring they have all their payroll needs met on your interest-free loan you have so lovingly provided to them while you wait for your few hundred dollars from your hard work…’

Digression aside, while we at ToPa believe the path of least resistance is paved with direct networking and obtaining relationship-based client contacts whenever possible, RFP’s are the language of fairness. In the construction world especially, RFP’s act as a magnetic force to subcontractors abroad. Somewhat akin to the Monarch Butterfly’s sojourn from Canada to Mexico, all the subcontractors of the region flock with genetically-infused hope to the opportunity, offering the universe a little prayer and a few sacrificial, paper-producing trees, that their time-consuming RFP writing journey will be worth the often extensive effort, graphic design, and at times, fluff, to win the job.

ToPa 3D has played the role of prime for historical preservation projects and more often, the subcontractor for construction projects, requiring as-built verification utilizing our 3D laser scanning and feature-extraction/modeling services from the point cloud data we provide. Make no mistake, we only do what we do because we love what we do. 3D imaging is not only here to stay in the AEC and preservation industries – it is engraved on the hearts of our ToPa Team. We get it, we love it, we want more of it. And, while we continue to live out our purpose for this lifetime (we actually have families too, whom we love just a little more than our job. Scanning them is really the best of both worlds…), we also have learned that RFP writing is part of the job.

Recently, we attended an RFP workshop to learn some tips on how to tackle these squirrely rascals (not our families, but the RFP’s). We thought this might look like tearing apart a sample RFP in the workshop and digging into some real pencil sharpening work. What we learned however was a little different, but no less helpful. If this seminar could be said to have a theme, it would be along the lines of how to create opportunities through the bidding process. Here are some tips to take with you on your next project hunt…

Tip 1 – Get the RFP rules (which are often unfair, cruel and sadistic).

Each RFP has certain guidelines for how the procurement agency/person would like bidder’s to submit their interest. As a general rule, the information you – the bidder – should be looking for would include:

  • The deadline for the final bid submission.
  • Mandatory pre-bid meetings are often a criteria of RFP’s – especially construction projects. This can entail getting to a meeting in a town you’ve never heard of, in a region you’ve never visited, with traffic like you’ve never experienced, at a time that can only be referred to as ‘unholy’ (i.e., before farm animals wake up and Starbucks opens). If you want a shot at winning the RFP, don’t have ANY excuses for missing this meeting. Oh, and ensure you arrive with that confident, “I always get up this early ‘cause I used to be a Navy Seal and my shirt’s on backward ‘cause the collar keeps my face warm, and yes, my lipstick is supposed to be on my eyelids thanks for noticing” kinda look.
  • The deadline for any questions you may have. Some RFP’s require that you get all of your questions answered before the final bid submission. Sometimes the time between this and the posting of the RFP can be quite short (a few days after the initial posting of the RFP in some cases) so it’s important that bidder’s be extremely proactive as soon as the RFP is posted by reading through the RFP and formulating any questions or clarification’s as needed. For many RFP’s having this somewhat sadistic, cruel, and often non-negotiable “rule”, this is the gut-check of any would be bidder. Government agencies love this rule for reasons ToPa can only speculate…
  • Mind the Contact Person’s rule on how to contact them. If they provide a phone number, but say in the RFP that they prefer emails, then definitely call them… as late as possible, on a Friday, Saturday or early on a Sunday (preferably before 5am). Or, alternatively, if the RFP is close to a holiday, call on that day such as Christmas morning, Thanksgiving during dinner time, or right at overtime during the Superbowl (being mindful of time zones). They will be so excited to hear from you, it will be palpable. Naturally, they will see you as a hard-charging, hungry contractor that really wants the job. (We are mostly kidding of course).
  • Ensure that you extract all of the requirements to bid from the RFP. If they require specific insurance for example, you may need some time to put that into place. If it is an insurance that you normally wouldn’t need to carry for your standard operations, bidders may need only implement this upon award of the contract. This could save you time and money to know the answer to that sort of question ahead of time. Again with the pro-activity. Some RFP’s require specific standards that the bidder may only partially meet. We don’t suggest giving up at this point. Subcontracting out areas that the bidder cannot fully realize is a standard practice which leads to the next point…
  • Subcontracting is a necessity much of the time, especially for complex projects. To do this, it may be required to have certain licensure, depending on the scope of the RFP you are bidding on. Bidder’s will need to find out how their State laws handle this which is usually as simple as a phone call to the State office of business registration or other such entity. As a prime contractor in this context, bidder’s will need to find the rules for using subcontractors, who will cover the liability/aggregate insurance (which may be a conversation to have with your subs), and of course prime’s get to perform their due diligence on each sub because, well, there is a reputation at stake here for the work performed which, if not done well (or at all), could cost the prime severely. This too should be spelled out in the rules of the RFP.

Tip 2 – Search for Historical, Similar RFP’s.

If an RFP is posted from an agency that has been around for a while, it may be possible that this sort of proposal/project has been done before. Further, many government agencies are required by State laws to keep records of previously posted documents and in many cases, must share them upon request since they are public record. Prospectors may be required to pay a fee for such documents, and that too can vary from State to State. This fee may be as small as just the cost to print on the paper, so no need to have financial aversion right away. Regardless of cost, this is a highly recommended practice because these historical RFP’s can potentially tell bidders:

  • How tricky or vague questions were answered on a winning bid.
  • What the pricing looked like at the time the winning bid was submitted.
  • Who won the previous RFP with a similar scope as the current one that is posted?
  • Who was the original person that posted this flavor of RFP and can inform the bidder on that person’s length of time in this area of work?
  • What competing companies/persons were involved in the past for similar RFP’s as well as their sub-contractors? This could serve the current bidder as a pool to draw from for the current RFP.

So how does one find these historical RFP’s? Many agencies that post RFP’s draw from a massive database with a built in search engine. Keywords matching the current RFP may bring up historical RFP’s as well. Our experience is that while the RFP may still be on file, access to the original supporting documents may be missing or inaccessible. If however, there is still a name associated with the historical RFP, we highly recommend contacting them directly to trace the original documents. If they cannot or don’t have time for that, a polite ask of where you might find them could be a good start. Ensure you are very specific on what you are requesting. Some RFP’s can be very large with many addendums and other such business, and asking someone to drop everything to search perhaps multiple sources is likely a rather tall order – even if they are obligated on some level to help you (note that you may need to work with this person in the future, therefore, 1 part ‘ask’ with 2 parts sugar is not a bad approach).

Finally, on this particular tip, it is recommended that after the bidder obtains the historical RFP documents, they bid “blind” on the current RFP, THEN compare to the winning, historical RFP documents, in that order. This is instructive for a couple of reasons: 1. The bidder will learn whether their understanding of the current RFP (and subsequently their reading comprehension level) is on par. The emotional disappointment/shock of missing an important piece of information will, we believe, psychologically shift the would-be bidder into a shame-cycle that can only lead to greater attention to detail in the future, or a long bout with escapism. Either one may lead to personal growth, eventually. (Again, mostly just kidding… Although, if you are following all of these rules and suggestions, you may have a touch of OCD. Just sayin’.)  2. The bidder will learn whether their estimating/pricing is in the ballpark for the way they typically interpret these sort of RFP’s.

Tip 3 – Gaining access to opportunities.

Our final tip we would like to pass on from this seminar is: seek opportunities absolutely everywhere.  RFP’s are a pretty straight-forward way to find projects, yet they are quite competitive and sometimes come pre-loaded with shoe-in companies that have already networked with the procurement folks, worked on similar projects and are in line for a contract renewal, or simply are more qualified that you, the current bidder. Don’t be discouraged though!

RFP’s are only one way to find work for your company. There is no replacement for boots-to-the-ground networking. We at ToPa have been presented with, and been awarded opportunities simply by knowing someone personally that is connected to a project, sometimes for a relatively brief time. We attend at least 1 networking event a week or more (many are free), trade conferences (again, many are free), and regularly schedule visits and luncheon’s with all manner of entrepreneur, business owners, bakers, landscapers, financial advisors, insurance persons, marketers, artists, consultants, and once in a while, even people related to our market. To some, this may seem like a colossal waste of time. Experience tells us quite a different story. While marketing emails, working all manner of social media strategies, and reading through RFP lists are valid and important for today’s business market, they are simply tools. Nothing builds trust like a relationship and in our experience, the baker tends to know a business owner (or they are married to one) that has a fishing buddy who just happens to run perhaps the largest project management company in the region. One introduction in the context of trust can mean the difference between getting into a project the hard way, or… well, we hope you see where we’re going here.

Additionally, and as an aside, because at ToPa we have a preference for people and relationships, we are completely confident in our subcontractors because we have spent one-on-one time with all of them, shared at least one meal with them, and know on a personal level why they do what they do for a vocation. Those that have a heart-felt love for what they do are alright in our book. The vetting for results they’ve produced in previous projects usually comes a bit later after the relationship is established. We would suggest that on some level, we are being cross-examined as well. This relationship-centered approach has provided ToPa staff with opportunities that few firms get to experience. We have been invited to speak at conferences (and done so), serve on panels and committees responsible for important policy implementation, and even have been invited to extra-curricular activities and outing’s that are akin to a family vacation (without family drama – we love you Mom, Dad, Rebel Siblings and Estranged Cousins!)

Joining organizations related to your industry serves as a great mechanism for bringing in the work. Here too we have been offered to be guest speakers (5-15 minutes of uninterrupted marketing time to a captive audience of potentially hundreds of clients), technology trainers, and all manner of inclusion simply because we show up and participate. People notice that stuff and for us, being a part of something bigger than us becomes a perk to what we already love to do.

Epilogue, yet another option, and warm, fuzzy, endearing sentiments.

So dear bidder, it is our hope that you too find great success with that next opportunity, however it may appear. Bringing in the work is a job in itself, aside from the craft you are required to perform. RFP’s are a necessary part of many vocations and require time, expense, and certainly energy. There are people that have created entire businesses around just coaching on or writing RFP’s for contractors that don’t have the education, time or resources to put one together in the often short time-frames allotted. And yet, this may be exactly the solution a bidder needs in a crunch. Some of these firms may offer to be paid when the project pays after they are awarded, so keep an open mind and step into a little negotiation if cash-flow is tight and you really want a shot at a project.

We at ToPa love implementing the idea of exploring the market from multiple vantage points, especially from the view of relationship. If you the bidder are not really about relationships, or people for that matter (we have met a few like this – no judgment), then we suggest finding at least one person that is a relationship sorta person to expand your quest for further opportunities. And most certainly, you could always give ToPa a call. We have absolutely no problem expressing our opinions…

Love & Butterflies,

~ ToPa 3D


Ockham’s Laser (iii): TEDxPortland – Exploring Perfection


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Perfect TEDxPortland



TED has been around for 30 years now, yet I only just learned about it about 2 years ago… After much reflection and spatial recognition, it was deduced that I do indeed live under a rock. This is not to say that I am alone – at least I would like to imagine that I’m not. Am I? Anyone?? Upon my first viewing of a TED Talk, I believe I immediately created another item on my bucket list. I recall watching Jill Bolte Taylor talk about her personal research (on herself) as a brain scientist while simultaneously having a stroke – observing, based on her knowledge of the brain – as her own body was shutting down.

There is heart put into each TED Talk. Speakers not only spread ideas, they reveal themselves at a deep level which is part of TED’s charm. TED speakers are coached by professional speakers for quite some time before going on the magical red, circular TED carpet and, they do not achieve perfection. Rather, what is delivered is a heart-felt speech on something that is profoundly personal, innovative and sometimes, raw. Their nerves were visibly present, yet quelled by extensive rehearsal.

This weekend, I hG Cody QJ Goldbergas the opportunity to view TEDx Portland live at the Keller Auditorium in downtown Portland. The event did not disappoint. The theme for this event was “Perfect” which offered a colorful variety of discussions and shares on what that means. To G Cody QJ Goldberg, it means creating Harper’s Playground – a playground system for disabled kids, the inspiration of which came from his own daughter. It was inspiring and not just a little tear-duct invoking to hear him speak about the perfection of her. He showed a slide on her DNA and explained all the of her genes were perfect with just “one little gene that was different”… somewhere around the 22nd chromosome. His “Big Idea” as TED likes to emphasize, was that current playgrounds meet ADA standards yet are completely ridiculous in the accessibility for truly handicapped children to move around pointing out barkdust on the ground, monkey bars, and other contraptions that only children with all their faculties could hope to traverse.

Perfection to Zalika Gardner was in the art of listening. She pointed out that the Zalika Gardnerprimary blocks to communication revolved around our inability to 1. Put away our assumptions about what someone else has to say, 2. Keep our arrogance in check that we somehow already know the answer, and 3. That we are really driven by the fear that we are somehow not showing our intelligence or will appear…imperfect.

What this author finds inspiring is when someone says what we already know deep down yet may be afraid to admit. When someone points out a system that simply doesn’t work yet marketing would tell us differently, or when someone stands behind a cause that is extremely controversial and is willing to take the punches for the bFrank Mooreetterment of the rest of us… that’s inspiring. It’s that bold, unapologetic-ness that brings about change. For some, better. For others, worse. But change none-the-less.

I found my love for the human experience invigorated by the Talk of Frank Moore. This 93 year old man walked somewhat precariously onto the TED Carpet in his WWII uniform, decorated with medals. His presence was love and his story of the holocaust, his life and his love for his wife (who later joined him on stage) was a testament to what it takes to live 93 years with a soft heart. His solution was to receive and give love. The end. His passion is fly fishing and his life journey was accompanied by a partner that helped and loved him through all that he experienced… Some would say that marriage is for the dependent. Some would say that “people change” and staying married to one person for life is not realistic. Frank’s story says something quite different about that. Based on results, I think he’s on to something –


Eric Giler

While all speakers spoke of insights they’ve had, bold moves they’ve taken to create change, a good TED is not complete without a technological innovation. Eric Giler was THAT man at TED for we at ToPa 3D. His innovation? WiTricity. Yes. Wireless Electricity. An unassuming and modest man offstage, Eric Giler demonstrated that through harmless inductance, (he used his own head to pass this technology through) we can have an electrical “hot spot” that can power several devices in a range from this technological magic. Innovations with this technology include WiTricity batteries that will recharge by simply being in range from one of these ‘hot spots’ (projected release within 2 years), road “implants” of WiTricity to power electric cars as they drive down the freeway, and with the ability to extend these WiTricity magnetic inductance signals through another tech they have, similar to a cell tower repeater, we conceivably could have a truly wireless world in the near future.

What are the implications of this? Certainly a more aesthetic environment, removing power lines and dangerous exposure to electricity. And what will interior design look like without the need for outlets? Combining something like quantum locking of superconductors in cars with WiTricity and we’ve achieved hovering Star Wars speeder bikes and landspeeders.

Quantum Locking

Quantum Locking

So what is Perfection? In this context, this author believes it is taking what we already know or imagine is possible and moving forward to create it, say it, live it; even if that means we stumble along the way. Changers are brave, perhaps not just a little rebellious, and always curious.






Now we think that’s a Big Idea.

ToPa 3D~

Ockham’s Laser (ii): Historical Preservation


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From: LiDAR News X
Historical Preservation II: Scanning the Castle of Olympia

Growing up, I was enamored with knights, chivalry, swords and castles. I can’t tell you how many times I watched movies about Merlin or how many hours I’ve logged on books relating to medieval history, dragons, and the like. That being said, it has been very exciting to work on projects involving historical preservation. This particular project certainly is no exception. What this project also demonstrates is the versatility of laser scan data for documenting historical infrastructure. While this is a snapshot of a project, it also may be viewed as a real-world augmentation to a pre-existing workflow.

In a collaboration with Peter Meijer Architect, PC (PMA) and ToPa 3D, we set out to leverage scanning technology to evaluate the overall condition of the Old Capitol Building, also known as “The Castle” in Olympia, Washington.

Laser Scan - West Facade

Laser Scan – West Facade

A Legacy of Service and Perseverance

This extraordinary architecture has seen at least 2 earthquakes, and served as a public service building since its design by Willis Ritchie and construction in the years 1890-1892. Appropriately named, the “Castle” is a multi-story, massive work of art. The immensity of this structure exudes a feeling weight and solidity paralleled to few structures in the Western United States. It is both majestic and pragmatic in design, especially with the remodeled natural wood interiors of exposed lumber serving as a beautiful space for State employees.

The building is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Historical Photo Pre-dating 1949 Earthquake

Historical Photo Pre-dating 1949 Earthquake

[At one time], the building featured a 150-foot-high octagonal clock tower with clocks on each of its eight sides. The earthquake of 1949 resulted in the loss of 10 of the 12 towers and eliminated the rotunda at the East Wing center, the House chamber and related galleries at the south end of the East Wing.(1)

Laser Scan - Glass Seal

Laser Scan – Glass Seal

The dominant design is the Seal of the State of Washington, etched on flash green and clear glass [on the western facade]. The panel is constructed of both European and domestic sheet glass, and lead and zinc strips, with an outer perimeter of beveled glass, all held in an oak frame. The outer borders blend into the architectural embellishments of the structure, and compliment the interior and exterior of the building. (1)

Multi-Purpose 3D Imaging

ToPa 3D was contracted to provide 3D imaging to assist in several objectives for PMA’s historical analysis including;  provision of laser scan data for adjustment of a Revit model to as-built conditions, WebShare data generated by FARO Scene software to provide the ability to precisely mark-up the facades with notes, in a 3D virtual space and, to provide simple measurement capabilities for the overall structure. ToPa 3D also provided scan-generated orthophotos of the site that were scaled to the Revit model for rapid accuracy checks – without burdening the software with dozens of scans.

Methods, Means and Moisture

ToPa 3D over a 2-day period laser scanned the Old Capitol Building using the FARO Focus3D scanner ensuring to capture at least 90% of the structure accounting for occlusions caused by surrounding vegetation. Spherical targeting was used on the park lawns to ensure there would be no obstructions to the exterior facades. One of the obstacles encountered with scanning was the Northwest weather we Natives have grown accustomed to: Rain, and lots of it. This proved a problem for the scanner as the water on the metal roofing refracted laser returns thereby leaving large occlusions in certain areas. Some of this was overcome simply by rescanning the following day during a weather break – although, this is not always possible. Fortunately, the majority of the area of interest was the facade walls, fenestrations and stonework. Overall the scan data achieved 1/4″ accuracy and was registered to local control.

'Project Point Cloud' - East Facade

‘Project Point Cloud’ – East Facade

Processing scans through the new FARO Scene 5.2 platform was quite efficient and
produced excellent registration, noise reduction and overall processing without issue. With the use of ‘Scan Point Cloud’ and ‘Project Point Cloud’ tools, visualizing the overall structure in context was painless and useful for creating the orthophotos with the new clip-box features.

Orthophoto Generated from Point Clouds: Detail

Orthophoto Generated from Point Clouds: Detail

Clip boxes in FARO Scene were a great resource since we were able to use multiple boxes to mask out vegetation that had grown up against the side of the building. Scanning from multiple vantage points in combination with clipping in this way produced very workable results.

Scans were also delivered through FARO’s ‘WebShare2Go’ format, allowing PMA to perform extensive, precision mark-ups for the facades; which is proving to be a rather useful alternative to a clipboard and 2D drawings for field walk-throughs. Simply loading WebShare2Go on a laptop or remoting into an office PC with an iPad can provide a clear, interactive medium to view and analyze the building – often with greater accuracy than original drawings since the imagery from scans is photorealistic.

WebShare Visualization

WebShare Visualization

Scan data is proving its ongoing viability in the workflow of facade analysis and it is my ongoing privilege to be a part of this process. In the words of Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi:

 Architecture is inhabited sculpture.

For “The Castle” project, we couldn’t agree more…

The Castle

The Castle

ToPa 3D~


1.         “The Old Capitol Building continues to serve.” n.d., Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), State of Washington. http://www.k12.wa.us/. OSPI, n.d., Internet Publication. 31 Jan. 2014. (Incl. c.1903 image of clock tower.) <http://www.k12.wa.us/aboutus/oldcapitolbldg.aspx>

2.         Peter Meijer Architect, PC (PMA) integrates design, science, and preservation. PMA is committed to the reuse and adaptability of existing architectural resources and the preservation of historic environments. To learn more about PMA and their work with historical preservation please visit their website at: http://www.pmapdx.com/

Ockham’s Laser (i): The View at 905nm – A Dialog


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Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

-Aldous Huxley

Through our intention to create dialog around the subject of 3D technologies, some interesting feedback has come our way. One of the ongoing themes we’ve encountered is, “Where are we going with this technology and please, if you’d be so kind, demonstrate its relevance to our collective human direction.” In this series entitled, “Ockham’s (L)aser” we will have the opportunity to explore the latest movements in our 3D tech world and the buzz around those developments. As a homage to Ockham, this exploration will be an attempt to understand clearly and concisely the need that this technology attempts to solve in our world. Toward the end of this series, we’ll look to the future and consider other uses these developments may bring to our “technological toolshed.”


AnnMarie Lambert wrote:
…Why does this (historical preservation) passion exists within the way it does? I know this. When I look into a hundred plus old mirror I think, ‘how many others have gone before me. Who were they? What were they like and what was their passion…their life?’ I think, its a matter of my own sense of self and validation. That if I exist today, the past; all those who are gone; they mattered, as I do right at this moment…
Nice to hear from you and I appreciate your passion for historical preservation and the union of new technology in that effort. It is a fascinating field, to be sure. I sort of think about it as “Indiana Jones meet Star Wars”. While I look nothing like Harrison Ford, I sure do enjoy the process of heading out to the field into some remote area using extremely expensive and precision tech equipment to capture a moment in time of some forgotten place. I makes life an adventure:)

I learned these past few years in the industry that opportunities are broad and one can really create the life they want with the right combination of skills and enthusiasm.
ToPa 3D~

Jim Fitzgerald wrote:
I am intrigued by your work. I am a conservator of natural stone. I can see a great benefit from your work particularly in large building restoration projects…

I completely agree, this sort of data is excellent for large buildings. It is also very useful for historical petroglyph preservation as well. Typically, preservationists would do some version of a rubbing transfer. With scan data, we can create a photo-realistic 3D model of such monuments, which can be quite compelling for research.
ToPa 3D~

Aliza Leventhal wrote:
“I am particularly interested in the long term preservation practices and plans for 3d design technology.”
Hello Aliza,
Thank you for your question, and a good one at that. I have been having this very same conversation with preservationists over the past couple of years and with the robust movement of international organizations such as CyArk, World Monuments Fund, Scottish Ten and others, the use of laser scanning, aerial LiDAR and ground penetrating radar (GPR) on heritage sites is becoming more readily accepted as a means in which to evaluate a site. I have also had conversations with persons in State Historic Preservation Offices as well as archive folks at the National Register in DC. 3D technology has not been fully adopted in these government agencies in full force yet due to the data size primarily. They have not allocated funds for storage and the personnel to manage that data’s legacy over time (file formats will change and data will need to be updated).

The good news is that these entities are well aware of the technology, its benefits and challenges, and are adopting it one project at a time. These projects usually have a great deal of publicity because of the effort involved as well as the learning curve.

Our ToPa 3D team has been documenting historical sites in both Oregon and Arizona with laser scanning and panoramic photography. We have created a growing archive of this data that will be eventually shared with the public as open source.

As a parting thought and to your point, (by no means an end to this dialog), the long-term preservation practices and plans for 3D technology can be found through standardization of the data. Documenting history in 3D is absolutely here to stay. Now, it is a logistics issue. The new E57 laser scan file format created under ASTM standards is quite promising. RAW and other such formats for imaging, while quite large as a data type, are very comprehensive and will allow future generations to glean as much information as possible from our present day documentation methods. The current work we are involved with deals with the decisions on exactly what data to keep and what data will not serve our collective future. That is another conversation – so in the mean time, we simply capture all of it, purchase terabyte hard drives and will parse it out as decisions are made for our historic legacy.

ToPa 3D~

-Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House, Silverton, Oregon
Photographs by ToPa 3D, Inc., historical information courtesy: The Gordon House Conservancy, PO Box 1207, Silverton, Oregon 97381. Frank Lloyd Wright® Gordon House 2012. Used by permission.

Designing Contribution (Fourteen): Free-Them Walk


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We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.

― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We at ToPa 3D thought it fitting to round off this series of ‘Designing Contribution’ with a cause that is very close to some peoples hearts. It is a difficult thing to lose someone – which can look a lot of ways. In this charitable event called the “Free-Them Walk taking place in Toronto, Canada this year, awareness to human trafficking is brought through women marching for the rights of dignity and compassion of females worldwide. It is an important message and one that many will hear with both a somber and hopeful spirit.

As this author considers the implications of this movement, it becomes clear that the majority of people in our culture chase life for its riches, fame, power, and self-interest at some point in their lives and on some level. The spirit of this 14-part series was an attempt to highlight aspects of our particular 3D industry that also has a vested interest in giving back.

In the Christian holy lands, there are 2 seas – the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea that have very different characteristics. They are perfect metaphors for living a life of contribution. The Dead sea has but on source and nothing leaves – hence there is no life within these waters. The Sea of Galilee has an entry and exit for its water supply; abundance flows in and out regularly, never holding on to anything for too long. So it is with contribution; as we give, we receive in some way. It’s a relevant principle with business, relationships and honoring human life.

To close this blog, I’ll allow among the most passionate of advocates of this cause to leave you with her words… Until next time –

ToPa 3D~

Free Them Walk

I’m reaching out to ask my friends and family for a HUGE FAVOR because this is so important to me. Think about the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson. I want you to imagine for a moment if it were YOUR daughter that was taken and sold on the black market to be addicted to drugs and forced into prostitution. THIS STUFF DOES HAPPEN, A LOT.

Did you know that Human Trafficking is the fastest growing crime on the planet? It is a $32 BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY, greater than the profits of NIKE, STARBUCKS & GOOGLE COMBINED. 80% of those trafficked are women and children and 70% of those trafficked are for the purpose of SEXUAL EXPLOITATION. Human beings are the most sought after commodity on the planet today.

A beautiful young women who is very close to me was a victim of this crime back in 2006. Because of it, she has suffered unimagineably. She was too scared to go to authorities as these traffickers were extremely dangerous and involved with the mafia, which only caused more suffering as she was now an untreated victim of this crime. She is only deciding to speak out now and on her behalf I would like to ask all my facebook friends to kindly promote and/or pledge me for this freedom March I am taking part in on September 14th in Toronto. As I mentioned earlier it is very important to me and would mean a lot to us both. Any contribution, whether that be a pledge on the site or by sharing this status and your prayers would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!!! Just remember, if it were your daughter, wouldn’t you want someone to make a stand??? I leave an invitation and challenge with you today. I invite you to join the freedom movement. There is a momentum that is taking place in our world like never before in history because of the access to information via technology. History is already writing about us, the way that our time and our generation will respond to the slavery and human trafficking that is happening today. I challenge you to contribute and make a difference. This is a major injustice, and requires a major amount of people to join the voice for freedom. Each of us have all the potential to shake up the world with positive change. I invite you to join us to do just that. I thank you all in advanced for your love and support.

Designing Contribution (Thirteen): Marketing with Empathy


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From: LiDAR News VIII
“Scan Speak – Approaches to Marketing Laser Scanning Services”

Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.

― Gautama Buddha

Client: “Tell me about scanning and how this can be valuable for our project?”

Me: “Well,” I begin with a few choice features in my mind, “One can measure pretty much anything you could see from a particular vantage point within a couple millimeters of accuracy for starters…and you could accomplish this within a couple of seconds.”

That usually gets a client’s attention. Is that really enough though? In my experience, it actually can be, yet bringing the added value of what this technology can really accomplish can increase the service scope for future projects.

Finding a variety of applications for this technology and combining them is proving to be not only a great learning experience – it has broadened our customer base. Examples include leveraging the RGB values of intensity backscatter once values are normalized based on the distance from the subject and material types, using scans to provide a topology map for building surfaces to read leaning facades or bulges from water damage, and comparing scan data from one date to another to measure movement (landslides, beam sag, etc.) are all becoming commonly accepted methods of analysis.

Estimating Scan Project in Hydroplant

Estimating Scan Project in Hydroplant

What’s your personality?
For firms that have little exposure to this technology, translating value is best accomplished through visualizations and actual examples; therefore, a big part of our marketing includes presentations and educating clients whenever they need assistance. For the role of the service provider in the laser scanning industry, communicating both verbally and visually equally well, is a critical skill-set. Having technicians who are both analytical and promotional/relational in character are essential to moving scanning services forward.

With such rapidly evolving technology, the ability to stay current with hardware as well as software can be a full time job in itself. Always looking for a better solution to geometry extraction, registration, data acquisition for a variety of environments; is an ongoing schooling. And, for the moment imagine that you’ve found the perfect solution. How will you market that? How will you talk about it so that people really get what it is you have? Here’s an example conversation (and I am not making this up…entirely) –

Me: “Yeah Barb, I just invested in this surphaser scanner with an ambiguity range of 140 meters, a recommended work range of 1-70 meters, a Range Noise – actually it has, local (short term) range variation, 1 sigma, and 90% Lambertian surface at 0.5 @ 8 meters. Not only that, it has a Range Uncertainty of only < 1 @15 meters!!! Isn’t that friggen awesome!”

Barb: “?”



Me: “Hey, and it also includes ProcessC3D – a command line utility that allows unsupervised processing of multiple scans, using the settings exported from Interactive SurphExpress session!”

Barb: “SurphExpress?…Ok…”

Me: “So, when can I expect a commitment to purchase?”

Barb: Dialtone…

Clearly, this is not a conversation for a new client. (And special thanks to the creators of the Surphaser® 25HSX at http://www.surphaser.com – who are clearly geniuses in their own right.) There is truth in this dialog, believe it or not. For many reasons, these sort of dialogs happen frequently in the tech world, deliveries are not clearly spelled out for a client who doesn’t understand the lingo, and it may be surmised that the slower pace in which our industry has been adopted – especially in the architectural world – is a direct result of poor marketing. Whenever a tech company wishes to push a product, it is quite tempting to throw down the vocabulary of an engineer – indeed, the marketing materials are all too often created by the engineers that developed them. It is their baby, so of course they will want to declare the clever names they’ve given to their inventions and processes. I love the passion of that, however, the need to seek out an engineering dictionary to decipher a marketing brochure simply doesn’t work very well for a sample client who is working with this data for the first time.

A softer approach…

Me: “Yeah Barb, what are you looking to accomplish with this new design verification project you have in mind?”

Barb: “Well, we need to really determine the state of the structural steel since it’s been there since the turn of the 20th century and would like to reuse as much of it as possible. Can scanning help determine settling?”

Me: “Yes of course, I understand you want to verify how the steel has settled and I believe a laser scan is an excellent solution for that since we can verify in 3D the current condition of the beams, comparing them to what they may have looked like when first constructed. We would do this by creating a simple 3D model of the as-built conditions of the structure, utilizing original plans, sections and elevations, scan the existing structure and superimpose the two upon one another to visually see what has happened over time. Not only that, we can help you measure these differences with easy to use software that we will provide you and train you on – walking you through the process, step-by-step to obtain the information you are looking for. Further, we will determine the best tool for the job – in this case a particular scanner called a surphaser should do the trick because of its incredible accuracy for this application.”

Barb: “Ok, that sounds great, when can you start?”

The point to this conversation is that I gave her almost no technical details. That isn’t her job, it is mine. It is my job to evaluate the client needs, find the best methods and equipment, and create a sense of ease and confidence for the client that they will obtain the analysis they are looking for. If they would like to know more about the technical aspects, then it is best to define the terms as the explanation progresses. It is very easy to talk about scanning in a way that not only loses people, it also can create a sense that they aren’t as smart as you are and for some, which can in my experience, cause service providers to lose the sale. It must not be forgotten that we are human and can still feel threatened by the fear that we “should” know something – when in fact we don’t. There is a lot to be said in sales about “leaving the ego at the door…” I say that from being on both sides of that coin. Live and learn!

It is also the role of the service provider to become very familiar with the analytical process that clients use, which includes learning about the methods they’ve used in the past to accomplish the same results you are providing with new technology. Becoming familiar with what they feel comfortable with and complimenting it rather than completely overhauling it can go a long way with building a professional relationship.

Teaching builds trust the relationship factor
Knowing first-hand how frustrating it was to have, for the first time, scan data put in my lap for a critical project only to find that my computer couldn’t handle the file sizes or that the software would quite simply choke when attempting to do anything with the data, helps me to have not just a little empathy for new clients. Like anyone excited about 3D technology, laser scanning, and all the possibilities therein, I have a lot of ideas on how to analyze various applications with these tools. Sometimes, my ideas work great and sometimes they don’t.

I recall once meeting with an animation firm in the Portland area to discuss creating really dynamic visualizations with point cloud data using 3DS Max. That was 3 years ago and the technology just wasn’t there yet. We imported a point cloud into the software and…well…that little hourglass never stopped turning in the Windows OS until we pulled the plug on the computer. Never seen a computer lock up so completely. Quite impressive actually. After a bit of head scratching and a shrug of the shoulders, we collectively decided that this business venture wasn’t quite ready for deployment. However, what we did gain from that experience was a working knowledge of what was actually possible. For me, that is part of the fun of the process. I later revisited clients whom I had similar experiments with and who were genuinely curious about the progress of the technology. Many of them eventually became our clients because they knew we were committed to creating a great service with the latest tools to help them do their jobs more efficiently. They also knew that we were honest regarding our limitations.

We are looking for a few good men and women…
Moving the scanning industry forward, in the opinion of this author, is really about relationships. Moving “forward” really equates to demonstrating value and rather than selling a product or service, we may consider thinking about it as enrolling people into a cause – the cause of creating a better life for designers – simplifying cumbersome processes, creating more revenue which equates to more free time, vacations, time geeking out on new tech toys, and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. When you, the technician/marketing person/consultant/visionary speak with new clients, you can rest assured that all of these factors are motivators for your next client enrollment into this amazing technology.

ToPa 3D~

Designing Contribution (Twelve): The Valley of the Biz Plan


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Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.
Shifu: Illusion?
Oogway: Yes.
[points at peach tree]
Oogway: Look at this tree, Shifu: I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.
Shifu: But there are things we *can* control: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion, Master!
Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.
Shifu: But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!
Oogway: Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide, to nurture it, to believe in it.
Shifu: But how? How? I need your help, master.
Oogway: No, you just need to believe. Promise me, Shifu, promise me you will believe.
The Power of Belief

Sometimes, we get to take risks in our lives. Relationships can be a big one… ‘What will come of this?’ ‘What if it doesn’t work out?’ ‘Holy crap, what have I gotten myself into?!’ (good or not so good.)

Abundant Wisdom: (This must be a download from the universe)

The same thing occurs in the decision to move into a new career path. It starts out exciting, then there is a dilemma – sort of like any good Hollywood movie: “Boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy finds out girl is a secret agent with (you name the country) mafia trying to kill her and, as it turns out, everyone she knows (dilemma), girl gets honest with boy, boy discovers he is an alien with super powers, boy launches secret can of whoop*#% on agents, boy=hero, girl highly turned on by boy…etc.. sunset ensues, music swells, mothership appears…” We’ve seen it a million times.

In career moves, such as our decision to create a brand new company called…

ToPa 3D

…we find the same sort of formula. Exactly the same.

At this point you are probably agreeing, “Yes, this ToPa 3D gang is really,really deep.” I would humbly agree.

Actually, in our abundant wisdom, we have discovered that things have started out exciting. And, we get to face the dilemma that most start-ups probably face – defining what we are actually doing other than having coffee and overpriced, addictive, sugar substances at hand-selected cafes’ talking about the millions we will be bringing in anytime now. That is where the biz plan comes into play. It starts out quaint, much like our alien hero in the story above. Then, without warning (the unveiling of denial and magical thinking), we discover the amount of specificity that is truly needed to make things make sense.

The Point: (if you’ve read this far, I really admire your tenacity)

The good news in this is there will be a fantastic ending simply because we are committed and believe in what we have here. Having a roadmap to the direction one wishes to take a start-up is essential to success. Ask anyone who has done it. It helps to get everyone on the same page within the company, it helps to come up with the 30-second elevator conversation, and it helps everyone to be unified in singular purpose and have an understanding as to their part in the machine that is your start-up.

More Experiential Stuff:

For many years, this author has been working for companies that enjoy perfection in data. These companies are often quite adept at delivering services to client specifications which can require people like myself staying long hours at the office mulling over the same things multiple times to ensure nothing was missed. What can start out as a fun and interesting project can quickly become a slave master in the shackles of quality control. I am speaking to you promoter types out there that love to be on the move. Perhaps you can relate to this version of hell. To you analysts, I encourage you to have empathy for those busy-bodies that can’t sit in their chair for more than 5 minutes without striking up a conversation about anything, quickly lose interest in mundane tasks, and yet have a certain magic with people and create social circles that are so large, and present in front of people with such ease, that they not only baffle and frustrate you, they simultaneously create a small seed of envy within your soul. However, I digress…

So, I’ve learned a thing or two about delivering good data, and acting on the vocation I enjoy. In this process of self-induced vocation therapy, I decided it was time to chase some dreams of my own. At the end of the day, we get to choose what we do with the years we have left, and as depressing as that may sound to some, it is a fundamental truth. A perceived sense of security does have a way of keeping things safe, and boring.

Therefore, we have decided to create fun in our lives while delivering a great service on a consultation level.

Yes, we agree. This is amazing. However, as jaw-dropping as that sounds, I believe you, the reader, will enjoy the fact that we have integrated many of the practices and principles I have blogged about in previous posts as well as those that are to arrive in the near future. The question we have been answering in our business plan has been: “How can we love getting up each day, feel like we are contributing to the 3D industry and our community in a fresh and innovative way, and enjoy each evening as satisfied, self-employed, self-scheduling entrepreneurs?” The answer has manifested through our planning and we just can’t wait to tell you about it…


ToPa 3D~

Designing Contribution (Eleven): Our Life, On Our Terms


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Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work


Tony Stark HologramTony Stark does what he loves, why can’t we?!

In an interesting turn of events, we at ToPa 3D have decided to custom build the machine of our lives. This looks like creating a business that is tailored to the lifestyle we want with a strong emphasis on encouraging happiness in humans. It turns out…

…this is entirely possible.

ToPa 3D~

To be continued.

Designing Contribution (Ten): Reclaiming Human Habitat (III)


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In my interview with Phil Allsopp, co-founder of Transpolis Global, Inc., I asked him to provide a vision for the future of the Gila River Indian Community as well as similar communities he has been working with, touching on the role technology might play in the design of human habitat. The following is his response in this final segment of this article series.

Tice: Perhaps you could offer a vision for, we might say a 7-10 year old child who has been living in this environment and who doesn’t know how to dream. They don’t know what it looks like to be somewhere else. Could you paint a picture of what that environment might look like in the future as this child grows, and what this child could have in their life as a leader and a community involved person?

Allsopp: Well, I think that the vision I have is that we shift our educational focus to liberate the creative genius that resides in most children. Yes, it’s important that they understand math, writing, reading…as all are absolutely critical. But how many children are actually told or encouraged to think of themselves as future leaders, as future inventors, as the people that could colonize Mars, for example, as opposed to perhaps what they see around them each day. The ability to interact with children in a way that enables them to dream is important. Technology can do that.

The laser scanning that you were doing this morning with 2 local Native American citizens, the younger one is a remarkable student of physics. I said to his mother that, if his class is interested, why don’t we give a little show and tell/science lesson about what we did [with scanning] out here. Simple. The kids are surrounded with the technology all the time. They probably know more about their mobile/smart devices [than the average adult], so let’s put that to work to see how they might use their skills in arts and sciences to restore and reshape the world that they are surrounded by.

My vision of a future for your hypothetical 7 year old – who was a Jesuit, I think you said (laughs), goes something like, “Show me the boy at 7, and I’ll show you the man.” (Famous reference of movie series called ‘Seven Up!’ [Produced by Granada Television – 1964].) These children had dreams then. Some of these children have actually achieved those dreams. Some haven’t. To me, the environment that is going to get a child to dream, does involve technology. However, it also involves a different way of interacting with them in terms of what teaching is about. Teaching the basics such as how to read, write, perform mathematics…is all very important, no doubt about it. And, what about the other things that are…about life. Perhaps children could start seeing their time in school as a time to start laying the groundwork for other things. I think if they see excitement in that, they may end up learning more about the basics that they are required to learn about in the first place.

Tice: Tell me what brought you to the point where you decided to have a career in architecture and public health. What was your inspiration as a child?

Allsopp: My inspiration was a character from a comic strip in England called “The Eagle.” His name was “Dan Dare – Pilot of the Future.” The artist who [illustrated] the first issue inspired me because of the images of a future that was so ‘together’, so technological, and so exciting; much more so than the world I lived in. I lived in what one might call ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’ I never knew my parents weren’t wealthy as I had a very abundant childhood.

So reading the Eagle, absorbing its artwork and thinking about the future as a real place that could be designed, just sort of pervaded my being as a kid. I did well academically and was the first person in my family to go to University. Really at the heart of it was Dan Dare. I remember being interviewed for admission at Kingston University in London School of Architecture – there were 7 kids including me assembled for a group interview by some faculty. The head of the school asked one young lady in our circle what got her interested in architecture? She said, “Well, my father’s an architect and I’m really interested in following those footsteps.”  Another student said that their father was a banker and used to work for architects and builders…I was thinking, “Hmm, my father is a bus driver and my mum’s a seamstress, what the heck am I going to say?”

So when they got around to me I decided to say what was really in my heart which was that Dan Dare was my inspiration. I went on to describe the artwork of Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy, telling them my story and my interest in shaping a future world…and that’s how I got into architecture.

As for my path in the public health field, it came at the time I was working in Oxford at the Oxford regional Health authority as a senior research architect.  Our group was involved heavily in designing and building BIM systems with Applied Research of Cambridge (UK)…It was back in the Bronze Age (laughs), and I got interested in the [concept of] what kind of decisions precipitate the need for a complex building like a hospital. So my boss, Malcolm Jones – a great man who was the Regional Architect at the time – suggested I apply for one of two Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Fellowships that were being awarded that year. So I did it. I think it was Mark Twain that said, “With a combination of ignorance and enthusiasm, anything is possible…” And so, I took that to heart, wrote my application, which was accepted, and went on to Columbia to study health services planning and design. On graduation I was offered a US Public Health Service Fellowship working in Washington D.C. for the office of the Surgeon General and the then Health Care Financing Administration.

Tice: Thank you Phil – What does Transpolis mean?

Allsopp: It means ‘Trans-disciplinary’ and ‘polis’ is the idea of ownership in the place of city. We tend to look at things from a multi-disciplinary perspective because if one looks at today’s problems, there is a tendency to look at these problems and throw lots of resources at them from funding sources tailored to the perceived specialty that that problem “belongs to.”

I tend to think about these problems in this way; imagine a large billiard table representing the scope or extent of the problems we have to deal with today.  Our society today tends to view problems by staring at them down tubes whose range of vision is constrained by the perceived boundaries of that specialty. If I were to stare down the tube of psychiatry, I would see the world through that viewpoint. If I look at it as an architect, I see it as another problem; a behavioral health worker another, and economist yet another. But in fact, the nature of the problems that we are now dealing with as a society have in fact “leaked out” of all those specialty areas covering a large area of that billiard table like some gradually-spreading amoeba. So unless we give ourselves the capacity to view the entire table, we are never going to understand a) the extent of the problem we have and their underlying drivers and b) how the problems might be solved by different, possibly more effective means with better systemic results.

The Obesity epidemic, for example, isn’t only about the food we eat and the quantities we ingest.  It’s about a way of life that is more active.  Suppose we planted more shade trees and built properly protected bike paths.  How many more people might bike to work or to school thus attacking obesity from a different direction than medication or diet?  In this little example, the deliberate design of human habitat can have a positive and systemic effect on a problem once thought to be more nutritional and medical rather than anything else. It’s for these reasons that we refer to ourselves – when pressed – as a multi-disciplinary group of system-thinking designers and planners.

**I want to thank Phil Allsopp and the staff of Transpolis Global, Inc. for this in-depth interview. I especially wish to acknowledge the community Members, Elders and tribal leaders of the Gila River Indian Community for their continued efforts to improve the quality of life and community for the people and to provide new opportunities for rewarding and fulfilling lives. Perhaps this is the story of our collective human condition – to create positive, places  – Human Habitats – that nurture our spirit and help us to shape and sustain a better world for future generations.

The question is…whether we shall, by whatever means, succeed in reconstituting the natural world as the true terrain of politics, rehabilitating the personal experience of human beings as the initial measure of things, placing morality above politics and responsibility above our desires, in making human community meaningful, in returning content to human speech, in reconstituting, as the focus of all social action, the autonomous, integral, and dignified human “I,”…  

-Vaclav Havel

ToPa 3D~

Designing Contribution (Nine): Reclaiming Human Habitat (II)


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From: LiDAR News VII
“Reclaiming Human Habitat in the Gila River Reservation, Arizona” (Part 2 of 3)

In my last article, I spoke with Phil Allsopp of Transpolis Global, Inc. about their efforts to bring sustainable design and economic opportunity to the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. This is a continuance of that interview. Please note that some of this material outlines very tough and somewhat graphic issues the communities of the Gila River Reservation face. Our collaborative purpose for bringing these issues to light is to educate the general public on the importance of design, human habitat, and how technology is a critical tool in the implementation thereof.

Tice: Systemic issues. What do you see arising from your relationships with this community after gleaning a better understanding of how they function day-to-day; how this organism of their culture is manifesting? What do you see as their housing and infrastructure grows – what is their mood, their culture, their education, and how is ‘habitat’ affecting them in real time?

Allsopp: If you think about looking vertically down on a flower with several petals, you could say that one petal could be health and well-being. Another could be economy. Another community, education, energy, water, habitat, housing… If you focus only on ‘habitat’, you are going to influence many of those other areas. If you look at health; if you don’t take into account at least 4-5 other things, you’re not really going to solve the problem. Habitat – its design, location efficiency and so on, can positively impact a large number of problems we and communities around the world are trying to tackle.

Over the course of the last 2 1/2 years, we have been viewing the situation within the Gila River as a system made up of these larger components. What we’ve seen is that things like diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, child and family strife even, is significant and is a cause of great concern and worry by many members of the Community, especially the Elders. So Community members’ desire to have open discussions about these problems is understandably pretty limited. I [once] showed up to a behavioral health meeting and saw a flyer on the table for an alcoholic’s anonymous program. I picked it up to look at it and realized that it included children. This was very upsetting as you can imagine – and even more so to the Community care givers.

I think what captured much of the concerns was when in 2010 we were presenting to the tribal counsel with colleagues, friends, and some members of the Gila River Business Association. One Community member who happened to be at the lectern [that day] and was speaking about the project we were trying to get underway to help reshape housing. The general advice being given was that more casinos should be built and that pop stands along route 10 would be the way to go to get people employed. It was a dreadful response, quite frankly. The Community member was very polite and said, “Thank you, I really appreciate your counsel, but perhaps you could tell everybody in this room (which was possibly 100 persons), how spending another $165 million on yet another casino is going to stop 5 year old children from committing suicide? Because that’s a problem we’ve got” She was able to speak a little more about the importance of thinking differently about housing and habitat. She was great.

The systemic problems are significant and in many ways can be found in many other communities (native AND non-native) as well. Elders say that so much of the community has been lost and needs to be recovered in some way. The Gila River Indian Community is the descendant of people who built townships and pueblo-like settlements from which they farmed the great river valleys. There are even ball parks that go back hundreds of years spread around the desert southwest and northern Mexico. Those societies were sophisticated, agricultural civilizations. It was the gradual settlement of the region by the Spanish and later on Americans, that the indigenous native communities began to lose their hold on their heritage and, of course, their land…

The Gila River Indian community gave great assistance to pioneers coming through this region on their way west. They fed the US Army as it came through. They helped enormously in the days of Kit Carson in the Mexican War. And it was in fact Gila River Indian Community scouts that helped the US Army track down Geronimo and Cochise. Service to the nation – in this case the United States runs deeply through the Gila River Indian Community. The last man on the famous Iwo Jima Flag raising statue is Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Ira Hayes who was born in Sacaton and has a memorial park dedicated to him.

Listening to the Elders, the community used to pursue a very active way of life especially their young runners who were like a latter day mail service taking messages all across this valley. They had the youth – the young boys from 13-22 or so would be running all day. They were the postal service. They were a very fit, tall, healthy, athletic community. But things have changed a great deal since then and sadly the combination of diet and activity levels means than many people find themselves suffering from the effects of diabetes early on in life.

Tice: Why is that?

Allsopp: I think it’s probably because their way of life went from an active outdoor life: farming, hunting…has disappeared. Their diet has changed tremendously as a result of the commissary type of food they are able to purchase such as corn, flour, sugars or what have you…And these are the industrially-produced commodities, not the naturally grown and ground varieties that are beginning to come on line. Their diet has changed. There are many more people who are much more accomplished in public health and epidemiology than me refer to this region as the epicenter of “diabetes”..

So the need to do something to get the community reengaged with itself to reshape itself to the 21st century and beyond, is real. We have been very fortunate to be included in those kinds of deliberations by friends and colleagues who are Community members. Our commitment is and has been to help in whatever way we can, or by introducing other people that can do things we can’t. That’s really what we’re doing.

Tice: So you’re building teams?

Allsopp: We’re trying but yes we are working closely with colleagues and friends in the Gila River Indian Community to teams. If you think and act about habitat differently, you can impact education and training as well as new enterprise opportunities for Community members. You can impact health by encouraging a more outdoor, active way of life as opposed to 100% indoors [activity] watching TV – something that is a pervasive problems across the US – native and non-native communities. You can do things to configure houses so that the young men and women who may have had it with living in the bedroom down the hall from mom and dad, could have a place of their own nearby or adjacent but separate. A similar arrangement could apply to elders living with their families. I heard that young people – especially if they are employed and “earning too much” – are often relocated to multi-unit housing where they don’t know anyone and thus social problems can erupt.

Tice: Where is the money – What if we followed that trail, where would it lead? Looking at these impoverished people with these regulations… who are the decision makers in this environment – the engine driving these issues?

Allsopp: My sense is that one of the problems – again not limited to Native American communities – is ‘government bureaucracy’ (which is easy to say); the scaffolding of regulations, policies and procedures that have become the “way things are done.” And yet, little does seem to get done. Fortunately new tribal leaders and a growing number of Community members are taking action to cut through the red tape and encourage those in positions to say “yes” or “no” to see that projects that have been held up sometimes for months and years in some cases, are hurting the Community. The level of employment seems pretty minimal and places like Casinos don’t really offer long-term career opportunities for Community members, from what little I know. It’s vitally important for people everywhere to feel as if they are making a tangible difference in their lives as well as for the Community of which they are a part. Most of the jobs in Casinos seem to be fairly menial. So, what we have been trying to do with our colleagues in the Gila River Indian Community and the Business Owners Association for example, is to shift the conversation from jobs to careers. ‘What kind of career/pathway toward an abundant, contributing life, can be crafted for the youth of the community, as well as for adults that are already in play. Gila River Employment and Training are doing a fantastic job with their Career Pathways program. That program is closely aligned with the approach we’ve been taking all along. The answer to the problem of creating career opportunities is in some ways removing the stifling bureaucratic barriers without creating a regulatory free-for-all. But holding up needed projects – be they buildings or new programs just because of the “process we use,” is leading to situations that don’t help the community. Sometimes buildings are not able to be occupied because one government department decided to change a code requirement thus rendering a new building out of compliance and thus a certificate of occupancy cannot be given. It’s insane of course and the Community members on the receiving end know this very well. But, as I said, the community is acting to make changes to this and similar situations.

And again, it’s not a question of pointing fingers at all, in some ways, far from it. We in many ways have a privileged viewpoint because of the experience we bring to the table, as would a lot of other firms that have a lot of experience like us. You begin to see where there are some choke points where there are some of the same problems coming up all the time.

Tice: Tell me about the technology you’re using to work with this new ‘designing of habitat.’

Allsopp: The traditional way in which the provision of habitat occurs is to split it into 3 phases – design it, send the drawings out to bid – and then build it using the lowest bidding contractor. The results speak for themselves. In this “traditional” way of building there is no relationship at all between design intent and what ends up being built. So it’s the same old thing that happens. When buildings don’t address the needs of those occupying, but instead meet bureaucratic, financial and ‘sales” needs first, the results are not good. The buildings themselves don’t tend to be looked after, they perform very poorly for the most part and in the end contribute to a kind of insidious blight that impoverishes the soul and creates a level of ugliness we could do without.

What we are doing is changing this process by bringing technology to bear; to integrate the process so that we spend as much time as possible designing and going through iterations of the design with actual or potential occupants. The productions of things such as plans, elevations, site plans, schedules, and other factors that go with a typical submission for building approval – all that should be automated. So we’ve been using ArchiCAD 16, a state of the art BIM system that pioneered this approach over 30 years ago. We chose ArchiCAD because it operates on both Windows and Apple’s OS X (Unix) platforms as well as it enables one to build a real model of a functioning building in virtual space. It also enables us to conduct a very detailed energy analysis. And these all meet ASHRAE as well as other standards for reliability and robustness of the calculations. Given the fact that we have seen over the last 2 1/2 years how dreadful many buildings are regarding their building envelope; the walls, the doors, the windows…are at combating this extreme climate that we have here in the desert, we have the ability with this technology to select methods of construction and test them in electronic space before actually committing to build them. We are doing for buildings what aircraft designers and manufacturers have been doing for decades. One doesn’t have a person responsible for putting hydraulic lines in a plane, crawl through the rib structure of the wing, sawing holes in the main ribs. Yet, we have that in building construction all the time.

The process of integrating design and construction and evaluation/performance is a way of eliminating those kinds of problems. But it also enables us to engage directly with the client. We can actually sit at the desk or table with a client, bring in our 27″ iMac and with the client, perform a BIM version of a Roger’s and Hammerstein duet – we’re playing the piano while the client is giving us the lyrics telling us about the things in their head about what they would like to see. We can make these changes on the fly in multiple dimensions and instantaneously give them a picture of how their place is going to perform as a result of the little duet that we just played.

The other important thing is the integration of high-resolution scanned information about sites. Sites and landscapes are incredibly important to everybody. They have particular significance for a lot of Native American communities. It is only in recent years that they have come to grips with the idea of owning land. It would be like us for example, being asked if we would like to sell our oxygen. It’s there. It’s just part of who we are. And so landscapes, even though a lot of dynamics have changed for Native American communities, the importance of buttes, mesas, and mountain ranges in relation to the land they occupy, is very important. And therefore the ability to capture natural landscapes in which human habitats are being designed or placed is amazingly important. The ability to manipulate and do those piano duets, so to speak, with those building designs (old or new) in that landscape, is incredibly important to them.

Tice: How long have you been with Transpolis?

Allsopp: Since late 2009. We formed Transpolis; myself, Brent Richards in London, Robert Voticky in Prague…they were kind of picking at me for a number of years saying, “We should do this.” After spending 4 years as CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, I thought this would be a good thing. I felt it was important to try to do something, even if it was a tiny thing, to help move things toward creating a better, more abundant world. Even though resources were constrained, we’ve got energy and water problems…if we can innovate and invent our way, thinking it through enough, my thought was that it is possible to actually have a more abundant way of life than we have. We felt there was literally an ocean of opportunity before us all if only we would go after some of these endeavors. Our particular focus was on human habitats and how they relate to environment, health, enterprise, a diverse economy, employment and careers…

Tice: So here you are now, working with the Gila River Reservation, bringing this gift from your organization to them. How does that make you feel?

Allsopp: It makes me feel as if we are making a positive difference. I want to do more in some of our other non-tribal areas. We are very good friends with people who live in some of Phoenix’s inner city Latino and Hispanic areas – which are in great need of similar kinds of initiatives where the people themselves perhaps may be given the opportunity to see a pathway of hope and where they can take far more control over their environment and living conditions without having to leave their friend and neighbors. They can perhaps be [afforded the opportunity] to envision better places in which to live, build a family, go to school, obtain new work, and what have you. So we feel pretty good about what we’re doing. We haven’t made ourselves rich, yet we don’t measure this work solely upon our material success in terms of gross profits – that is one measure. Certainly ‘no margin equals no mission.’ Our view is that if we stay focused on the things we think are important, the signs are beginning to tell me that I think our hunches will be proven right. And, The money side of things – we do have to keep the lights on, after all, like everyone else – will happen in some way.

To be continued…

ToPa 3D~