With A/E/C firms starting to increase their adoption of new technology, a whole new set of questions and paradoxes emerge, and how the firms react to this new knowledge and information and how it is shared becomes much more important.

That was basically the theme of the third annual KA Connect: Building Knowledge two-day conference in San Francisco earlier this month. Representatives from major design firms, such as SOM, Rutherford & Chekene, Psomas, HOK, and T.Y. Lin, came to share tales of interoperability successes and pitfalls.

Organized and operated by Knowledge Architecture, San Francisco, a “knowledge management and information systems consultancy,” the event is in its third year. Heading the company is Christopher Parsons, formerly a chief information officer for Steinberg Architects and information technology director for SMWM (now Perkins + Will).

Sessions ranged from “Converting Knowledge into Products” to “Social Media,” with “18-Minute Talks” covering “Brand Strategy in the Social Sphere,” “Marrying Research and Intuition” and “Using a Bad Recession to Make Good Changes.”

In his talk, “The Connected Practice,” Parsons says that the key challenge is “How do architects and engineers create, market and scale knowledge for long-term, sustainable, competitive advantage?” What tools does an outwardly social company need? he asks.

And as many of the firms have discovered, social tools are more effective when interactive, Parsons says.

For example, Arup’s Thoughts blog and tweet platform, which was introduced by Carmen Whitelock, head of online strategy, in the “Thought Leadership 2.0” session, goes beyond the traditional homepage, which is basically an online brochure. The platform features more than 50 Arup contributors from around the world and interaction, between employees and visitors, is the focus.

Blog subject matter includes “PPP hospitals must give value for money,” “The importance of transaction advice,” “We need agile cities” and “Building for a low-carbon economy.”

“We select editorial based on ideas and not the corporate view, which is why we’re getting good feedback from staff,” says Whitelock. “And it has to pass the ‘so what?’ test. We’re really trying to build engagement.”

Another interactive success story presented in the Thought Leadership session was “The Third Teacher: Analog, Digital, Practice.” Melanie Kahl, learning and design strategist for Cannon Design, discussed the evolution of a book, “The Third Teacher,” written by Cannon’s education design leader Trung Le and Bruce Mau and published in 2010, which led to online discussion groups and is currently being incorporated into the firm as an education design consultancy practice. The book contains 79 ideas about how design can transform teaching and learning. (FYI: The “third teacher” of the book is the environment, following parents and teachers, and peers.)

Another highlight of the conference, from the “Converting Knowledge Into Products” session, was the story about the evolution of the Mosaic modular hospitality concept. Originally conceived as a temporary emergency relief shelter, Mosaic is an online working concept that blends building and product, according to Larry Rocha, COO of Mosaic designer WATG. The first stage involved designing working prototypes. Choosing fabricators over manufacturers to produce the product, Rocha says WATG teamed with Kreysler & Associates, Napa.

The team decided on a pop-up resort concept with WATG covering the budget, logistics and lifespan issues with Kreysler supplying the plastics, wood, metals, concrete, ceramics and glass.

“WATG recognized composites would be the way to go with Mosaic,” says Bill Kreysler, CEO.

Check Knowledge Architecture’s website for more details and videos on the KA Connect 2012 event.