I recently had the pleasure of answering some questions on the field of Architecture from a student of a local high school. As part of his senior research project, he had several questions on Technology in Architecture, and how it has changed. Below is our response:
Muhlenberg Greene Architects has been in practice since 1920, and we have gone through many transitions over the years. From our early beginnings under the direction of Frederick Muhlenberg and other partners, through our current organization under two principals, Dennis Rex and John Hill. Of course, back in 1920, our firm was hand drafting all of our buildings, and these beautiful drawings are stored in our archives and dusted off periodically for reference and inspiration. Today we are proud to utilize some of the most advanced drafting software in the industry, and we harness the power of Building Information Modeling (BIM) to take our projects from inception through construction.
Personally, I have been in the field for 9 years, beginning with a degree in Architecture and following my career in drafting, administration and marketing for several architecture firms in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. My diverse experience in the field, and my knowledge of the history of architecture allows me to respond your questions below. We have written several articles on the history of our firm here at Muhlenberg Greene Architects on our blog. On to your specific questions:
How has architecture changed over your years in the field?
I can speak for our Principals, whom have been with our firm for 33 years. Obviously, technology has advanced at a tremendous rate in this field, but I will expound on that later. In addition, the building codes and approval process have become much more rigorous. The building code is revised every few years, although here in Pennsylvania we have not yet adopted the most recent 2012 International Building Code, but instead still comply with the 2009 version. The building code continues to become more and more restrictive and complex, and Architects and Engineers are required to design buildings in compliance with local and state codes. One way we stay current with these changes is through presentations and research called Continuing Education Credits, which is required in order to maintain our license and credentials.
How have the practices of architects changed?
The business of architecture has been changing forever, but during our history the responsibilities and role of the Architect has changed from an all-inclusive design, engineering and construction field (a one-stop shop) to a more narrow definition of the field in conjunction with other consultants specializing in their fields of engineering, design and project administration. While architects historically would design every aspect of the building, and even oversee the construction process, today that practice has changed as the field becomes more and more complex and specialized. On a recent project proposal, we teamed with 8 other consultants, including interior designers, geotechnical engineers, and cost estimators. This is only for the design of the building; during the construction process we will utilize many specialized contractors, including Roofers, Plumbers, Construction Managers, and many more.
How much more is technology being used at your firm than in the past?
Technology has been one of the most significant changes in recent years. While only 10 years ago, many aspects of architectural design still included hand drafted sketches, details and renderings, today we begin and end the design on the computer, and all correspondence, construction submissions, renderings, and 3D building modeling is done on the computer. A great article on our modeling software can be found on our blog at http://mgarchitects-ltd.com/2014/08/15/bim-visuals-in-the-design-process/. One of our newest modeling features, called BIMx, is iPad manipulation of a building model. Scott Graham, one of our architects, has also written a blog post on the transition from digital documentation to digital design.
What technology do you utilize at your firm?
Our technology is continuously changing and advancing. We are always working to collaborate more with our consultants, contractors, owners, and product manufacturers directly through our BIM software. Our current software can detect technical engineering problems in the building model before the design is complete. We can produce renderings and models in the very early schematic stages of a design, which help our Clients to better visualize their ideas instead of waiting until the building is completely designed and detailed. While many architecture and engineering firms still use AutoCAD software, we adopted ArchiCAD years ago, and have been able to advance further and faster through our ever-changing field.
Where do you see architecture going in the future?
We are integrating our technology and design more and more with our Consultants, Contractors, Product Manufacturers and Owners. Within our office, we can have multiple people working within the same building model, changing structure, details, and products in real-time. I imagine in the future we will be able to work on computer models simultaneously with our Engineers and Contractors, and our Clients will be able to see their building model evolve while it is being designed.
If you have any questions on the technology we utilize, we would be happy to hear from you!