Design Computation @ NBBJ

// nfo

NBBJ Digital Practice

2011-2013, 2015-present (5+ years)

// role

NBBJ digital futures team leader

senior design computation team leader

innovation program creator

// tech

code, creativity, powerpoint, listening skills, IoT, paper, markers, cloud collaboration tools, diplomacy, EQ, persuasion 

// key activities

design computation

R&D initiatives

product prototyping

innovation program design


team building

collaboration tech

process design

marketing + communications

metrics + reporting

strategic partnerships


// description

As the senior design computation leader of the firm, I work directly with the CIO, COO, and Managing Partners to craft the high-level strategy of our group and develop strategic partnerships where appropriate. I work with my team to refine strategy, identify new opportunities, and define the details of implementation. Our primary mission is to deliver high-value tools and narratives that have a positive impact on our firm's ability to win and deliver projects. 


Design computation in architecture has traditionally been an ad-hoc affair -- most computation specialists in architecture are self taught coders, and therefore have never been exposed to the proven, effective work processes of the software industry. After returning from a sabbatical as an Application Engineer at, I recognized the need to modernize our industry and set to work implementing agile methodologies in the context of architecture, with a focus on how to build scalable design computation tools within a large organization.


Within our team of 21 specialists, I successfully drove the adoption of live communication tools, cloud document collaboration, source control for our code bases, and Google's Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) process for tracking quarterly progress. I worked with our talented team of creative coders to develop key pieces of internal infrastructure with a goal of scalable deployment -- including building our own custom User Interface platform (HumanUI), a custom analytics platform (Clever Hans), and custom one-click installers for easy firm-wide deployment.


We used this infrastructure to successfully deploy our first internal suite of Computational Products which, for the first time in any architecture firm, allowed any designer, regardless of computational experience, to use a custom design computation tools with great UX, easy onboarding, documentation, and consistent visual output. Another major Computational Product is currently under development.


At one of our quarterly innovation hackathons, I led a team to develop a sensor and mobile app prototype, which created significant excitement amongst the firm leadership on demo day.  After a detailed feasibility study, the project was funded and eventually become the Goldilocks project, the first major technology R&D initiative at the firm. I have since standardized the process I developed to pitch, validate, and implement that project, thereby creating an innovation program that is currently being used by multiple teams on a variety of funded innovation initiatives.


The design computation initiative has been a key differentiator for NBBJ, which is now a key player in the technology sector of the Corporate/Commercial market, with large-scale projects with clients such as Google, Amazon, Tencent, Alibaba, and Samsung, to name just a few. Our computation practice also provides considerable support to all markets, including Civic, Urban Environments, and Healthcare.


I have personally communicated our approach to design computation in a variety of publications, including Architect Magazine, Metropolis Magazine, Curbed Magazine, and the New Yorker (not yet published), and I will be appearing at SXSW2018 as part of a panel discussion on technology and the built environment.