The effect of technology has also been dramatic within offices as well, with programs like SketchUp and Revit replacing pencil and paper, and even leaving AutoCAD, once a workhorse of the industry, in the dust. “What we've been doing with SketchUp has changed the way we work. We do very few presentation drawings by hand anymore,” said Stephen Purdy, Architect at BKDI Architects.
One way that these programs have helped in the design process is ensuring that building drawings are consistent. “A stair element that has been modeled in Revit, will automatically have coordinated plan and elevation views of this stair, whereas in conventional plan and elevation drawing views, there is a coordination process that has to occur between drawings,” said Stephen.
It also requires everyone in the project to be more engaged in the design, where in the past, specialists could be working on a project that they may not have a complete understanding of. “Now what technology is doing is bringing us together, we can cross pollinate with design and technologists,” said Dale Thwaites, Architectural Technologist/CAD-BIM Development & Support at BKDI Architects.
Bill Mitchell, Director with BKDI Architects, agrees that this is a positive development, saying that these programs need to be viewed as a means to an end. “My concern is that we become too concerned with the computer maintenance and the technology – it’s important that we continue to understand how to construct the buildings. The thing that's happened with Revit, is that it's getting back to having to understand how to construct a building rather than just put a bunch of lines on paper, which I think is extremely positive,” he said.
As models continue to become more detailed, other opportunities may open up for firms. The information about a building that they produce will be included within the documents. “The owner doesn't know what they have, they have the name of the building and how much it cost but unless someone reads the drawing and puts it aside and starts calculating what reality is, they don't know,” said Svetozar Garnenkov, Architect with BKDI Architects, envisioning possibilities for firms to create an electronic owner's manual that could open doors to facilities management. “The ultimate power will be when the owners start understanding the embedded intelligence and valuing this information. When they know that every change will be incorporated in the model and they will get, instead of a manual, a fully manageable 3D (BIM) model, every piece,” he said.
It's clear that staying on the leading edge of technological development in architecture will continue to be a challenge for firms as that change is rapid and dramatic. What's also clear, however, are the net benefits from these changes, which have more than offset the learning curves associated with the new technology.
For part one of this series: The Transformation of Architecture Through Technology – Part I
To learn more about Building Information Modeling (BIM) refer to our previous post BKDI Architects is Making a Switch: AutoCAD to Building Information Modeling (BIM)!