Digital Tools to Help Automate an Architectural Process (Updated)
The new cool is being an architect.
When you see these images of historic structures below, you’d realize why.
Believe it or not, this structure was built 1058 years ago.
And you ask, “Who was the mind behind this great structure?”
Another one is this famous majestic tower: a symbol of love.
Aha! I know you got it right!
And take a look at this one below.
Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t they perfect?
Wait, have I mentioned that these structures are still functional today? They’ve witnessed centuries upon centuries of the world’s history!
Now, let’s see some modern architectural designs created in recent years.
What’s inside this large spherical building will not only satisfy your childhood dreams but will also bring you to an extraordinary world with different stories to behold!
And you say to yourself, “What an awesome world to live in!”.
Look, that’s not all. Here’s another one.
Lastly, here’s one more masterpiece below.
A huge thanks to the great minds behind this terrific architecture! And thanks to all the people who have supported the construction of these marvelous concepts that empower today’s generation to be the greatest artists they are.
Indeed, being an architect is cool.
But will your mind be changed once you know the #ExpectationvsReality of the architect’s life?
Reality is, being an architect is more than crazily overwhelming!
Behind every eyegasmic architectural design is an architect shedding blood, sweat, and tears!
Paul Keskeys, Managing Editor @Architizer, listed 10 challenges faced by every architect below:
– Finding new work and sustaining income
– Arguing for good design over cheap construction
– Battling the stereotypes
– Making time for hand sketching
– Finding great materials to match great designs
– Bridging the generation gap
– Keeping up with ever-changing hardware
– Keeping up with the evolution of software
– Grappling with politics
– Making time for rest and relaxation
I can personally attest that all listed above are true-to-life stories after hanging out with Archi friends, freelancers, and anyone working in an architecture firm.
To get a glimpse of what an architect’s life is like, let’s start by understanding the architectural process.
The Architectural Process
Step 1: Selection of Architects or Architectural Firm and Initial Discussion
In this step, the property owner conducts an initial interview and chooses an architect or a firm to handle the project. An initial discussion follows where both parties get to know each other professionally.
Step 2: Collaboration With the Owner
Discussion on needs, requirements, and goals are discussed further with the property owner. After which the architect conducts a site visit; coordinate with a surveyor; and gather information from the state and city for legal requirements, pre-submittal and pre-permit procedures.
Step 3: Schematic Design and Feasibility
All information gathered from the previous step are then incorporated on this step. The architect presents 2-3 preliminary graphical designs—not yet the architectural design—representing the building’s general locations. He also hands over some design concepts as a source of inspiration for the owners. Another goal in this step is to finalize the budget for the project.
Step 4: Design Development + Permit Documents
In this phase, the architect creates the actual detailed architectural design. Then he acts as a middleman and collaborates with project consultants: structural engineer, plumbing specialist, electrical engineer, mechanical engineers, electronics engineer, suppliers, and manufacturers. All information gathered is then presented as building permit documents.
Step 5: Construction Documents + Permit Acquisition
Permit acquisition is a prerequisite to building construction. The permit documents created in the previous step—meeting the state, city, and local codes—are then submitted and coordinated with the city or the country’s building authorities.
Step 6: Selection of a General Contractor
Once the building permit is available, the architect then chooses the general contractor who will handle the construction of the project.
Step 7: Construction Phase
After choosing the General Contractor, the Architect or the architecture firm acts as a middleman/coordinator between the contractor and the owner, doing revisions and clarifying details as needed at the same time making sure that everything goes as planned.
The whole architectural process goes for a span of months or years, depending on many many factors such as design limitations, permit acquisition challenges, the complexity of the design, budget, availability of materials, construction delays, and weather challenges. Let me add to that: possible political and or internal family conflicts.
Still think being an architect is cool, eh?
Now imagine going to and fro the city council offices for permit acquisition. Or, imagine negotiating with the property owner and with all the building consultants.
Imagine changing the architectural design when the owner decides to relocate the elevator shaft, or change the theme of the house instead. Conclusively, one major change and all allied trades will be affected.
How about a major overhaul? Ugh.
It should come as almost no surprise to hear that being an architect can be “uncool”.
But I believe otherwise.
You see, that’s what makes an architect really cool: amidst great tribulations, an eye-popping structure arises.
“One of the great beauties of architecture is that each time, it is like life starting all over again.” – Renzo Piano
“When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. But when I’ve finished, if the solution is not beautiful I know it’s wrong.” – Buckminster Fuller
Fortunately today, great solutions have been created to lift and automate the architectural process—amazingly jaw-dropping solutions.
Tools to Automate Architectural Design
An architect is never without its architecture toolbox.
In terms of digital drafting tools, the following are commonly used to automate the architectural process:
Autodesk Inc. is an American multinational software corporation that makes software for the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media, and entertainment industries. (source)
Here’s a list of Autodesk products fit for Architectural Design.
AutoCAD Architecture is a CAD software by Autodesk that suits an architecture’s specific needs. It allows the creation of architectural designs represented both in 2D and 3D. This tool supports design creation and quick renovations; design with detail components and keynoting tools; has Roombook feature allowing application of multiple finishes to a surface, and allows creating documents and drawings using elements with real-world behavior and construction.
Another software product from Autodesk suited for architectural design needs is Revit. Revit allows usage of intelligent model-based process in designing and planning the building’s details. It is available as a stand-alone software or as part of a collection which means that you can get it together with AutoCAD and other Autodesk products.
Autodesk Revit is building information modeling software for architects, landscape architects, structural engineers, MEP engineers, designers and contractors developed by Autodesk. It allows users to design a building and structure and its components in 3D, annotate the model with 2D drafting elements, and access building information from the building model’s database.
Autodesk 3ds MAX is a perfect supplement for Revit. Revit is an excellent tool for the whole architectural design and 3ds MAX lifts 3D modeling, produces high-end rendering, animation, and walk-through of projects to a higher level. This software from Autodesk offers amazing features such as easy and powerful modeling capabilities, high-end rendering, realistic 3D animation and dynamics, flexible interoperability, and more.
Site surveying is time-consuming and tedious, that’s why Autodesk created a tool that would make the job a lot easier. ReCap Pro is a powerful tool that make surveying and site mapping extraordinarily easy and handy. It allows reality capture of the site and makes site scanning way way faster. It’s a process that captures, measures, and maps millions of surface points to build a textured, high-resolution, and precise 3D model of the site.
Autodesk FormIT is an app that allows modifying BIM models on mobile devices, iPad, and any Android tablet. It makes the designing way easier and handy, anytime and anywhere. It’s one of the top 10 apps for architects as presented by James Taylor-Foster. FormIT is a BIM-powered modeling software that enables architects to sketch, collaborate, analyze, and share early-stage design concepts.
Outside Autodesk, we have other architectural aids such as:
CADdetails is the leading provider of manufacture-specific building product information, delivering high quality CAD drawings, 3D models, BIM files, specifications, images, and related planning documents to architects, engineers, contractors, and other design industry professionals throughout North America.
What’s amazing about CADdetails is that they offer downloadable digital contents in multiple formats such as AutoCAD DWG, DWF, Vectorworks, Adobe PDF, AutoCAD Revit, etc. for architects and other design industry professionals to use, all free of charge.
Tools to Administer the Architectural Process
An architectural structure is not a sole job of Architects. It’s a team effort of:
- Structural Engineers for the detailed structural analysis ensuring the building’s integrity and stability;
- Electrical Engineers for the building’s electrical power supply;
- Mechanical Engineers usually for high-rise buildings that use mechanical equipment;
- and Plumbing Engineers for design and installation of anything related to plumbing.
Architects also face various people to make the architectural plan successful. And this means going through volumes of files in coordinating with each project consultant.
These architectural files are critical for permit acquisition and thus needs efficient and secure document management tool.
Dead Drop is one example of a digital tool that meets every Architect’s needs in document management, time management, business-to-business collaboration, email tracking, and various other digital tasks.
This tool is specifically useful in administering the architectural process. The main task of an architect or architecture firm is to coordinate and collaborate with people who are part of the whole architectural process.
Dead Drop Software is an online collaboration tool that allows for safe communication, secure file-sharing, and easy project collaboration.
Every word, file, and email shared in the process are important and confidential. After all, you wouldn’t want prying eyes on your data, right?
Use this tool as a messaging system and email tracking to send and receive messages from business partners and consultants like manufacturers, engineers, and all those whom you frequently collaborate with to make your building project a success.
Business and team collaboration are made possible using the software’s powerful calendar for an easy time management, allowing the administrators to note events, add milestones and track the progress of each project.
Templafy is 1st in Nicholas Fearn’s list of top 5 best document management software. Templafy integrates with the office suites used by companies to automate brand compliance and streamline how users create or edit files.
DocuSign is another document management software allowing its users to send and receive documents, electronically sign contracts and agreements on any device, anytime, anywhere, as listed in Justin Croxton’s 18 document management software tools.
For invoicing, FreshBooks makes email invoicing possible. This tool makes an architect’s life easier by automating invoices, expenses and client follow-ups.
“A couple years back, I moved our accounting software for Fivecat Studio from Quickbooks to FreshBooks. In addition to how simple this cloud-based software is to use, my favorite feature is the email invoice.”
And the most important tool among all is… Your knowledge, courage, and confidence!
As an Architect, you design for the Present with an awareness of the Past for a Future which is essentially Unknown.
Well indeed, being an Architect is the new cool!