Architects use of technology

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    • #704586

      As someone who is getting involved in the provision of new web-based services to the Construction sector I am wondering about the level of technology awarenesss/uptake amongst the average Architectural practice.
      The new service will allow designers/ specifiers to interact with building product vendors through downloading of specs, details etc aswell as online tendering/procurement. For example Architect (A) will be able to post details of his curtain wall design to 5 glazing manufacturers for a price and delivery date. Vendors will be able to publish their catalogues on the site so their is a central searchable repository for building products information in Ireland. The site will also contain discussion forums, live seminars etc.
      Are the architects and construction vendors of Ireland ready for this? Any feedback would be appreciated.

    • #711658
      Paul Clerkin

      Architects have always seemed a bit luddite to me. At one stage I was involved in computer illustration and animation – specifically buildings and we just found that:

      a) most architects wouldnt be interested
      b) when they were, their drawings were being hand drawn which meant that we have to redraw everything in CAD prior to modelling which left it prohibitively expensive for all but the largest projects.

    • #711659

      The explosion in the use of CAD over the last 4 years would lead me to believe that once the benefits of a technology are clearly demonstrated Architects are not slow in running with it. The web is such an under-utilised resource from an Architects point of view that it seems inevitable that it will be used when specifying materials or for project collaboration(intranets). Is this viewpoint overly optimistic?Having not been in practice for over 2 years am I overestimating the progress that has taken place?

    • #711660

      There is no question that the net is about to cause significant changes in the way we do business:

      Construction procurement is fraught with “transaction costs” and disinformation, which is where the web can (provided the right forum exists!,lead to much more efficient transactions (bidding & tendering etc.) and transfer of information.

      General Electric introduced a concept called “Trading Process Network” about two years ago which has revolutionised inductrial and manafacturing procurement. GE (electrical manafacturing) itself cut its procurement bill by 20% or $1bn dollars in year 1.

      Supply chain management, or lack of it, leads to significant inventory costs and cosy cartels that mark up prices. This is about to be restructured based on web technology by what is termed “disintermederisation”. In other words getting rid of all the middlemen!.

      Just wait for it your (working)life will not be the same in five years time!

      As Ronan noted above a radical new concept is about to be launched, which will start for the first time to offer the “web advantage” to the construction industry.

      Check out

    • #711661

      Being involved with selling technology to AEC firms in the U.S., I have found Architects to be ready and moderately early adopters of electronic methods. It has been my experience that the rest of the construction industry is considerably less so.

      I believe that your idea of providing a central repository for web-based details and specs is very economically viable. Vendors have been shown to be ready to pay to make their products available online to customers. I think the biggest success of the web has been to create a vibrant new advertising medium and anybody who exploits it well (and has the resources to be unprofitable for a few years) will succeed.

      Over here, a factor that has contributed enormously to the success of web-based business services is the wider availability of inexpensive bandwidth. I don’t know what the situation in Ireland is, but affordable, high-speed “always-on” internet access has made a big difference to the use of the web as a tool amongst small businesses – such as your typical Architectural firm. I think the construction industry is ready for the electronic library part of the service you are launching but it will take some time to sell the other concepts such as online procurement and tendering. Hopefully, you can use one to finance the propagation of the other.

      As a sometimes middleman, I don’t believe web based technology will get rid of all the middlemen in the supply chain. It is certainly a great opportunity for middlemen!

      Good luck with your venture.

    • #711662

      I beleive the lack of technology vision in the architectural field has been more a question of economics rather than a luddite mentality. Traditionally slim profit margins and a scarcity of commissions does not lend itself to huge technology investments.
      That said however, Architects who ignore the Web will miss out on an enormous opportunity. It its the ideal forum for AEC projects. Colloborative online applications such as Bluelineonline ( and Frameworks ( are hugely popular on large scale projects. But the concept can be easily applied to small projects. It is relatively simple to create a project or production web site for yor client where all correspondece schedules and drawings are posted. It is a tool that I use as a web site designer and information architect . The client response has been positive and it was obvious that it could be equally well applied to architectural projects.
      BuildOnline is a excellent concept. There are many great sites out there for spec. information but none allow for tendering or bidding for products. This is the aspect I would choose to develop. The difficulty facing the developers will be in getting manufacturers on board and enticing them to provide the necessary electronic information without feeeling they are giving it away.
      I am currently working on the interface for a software startup company who are devolping a desktop/online application that will attach intelligence to 3D object oriented CAD models. These intelligent objects will be provided by manufacturers and inserted into the model. Team members will interface with the model online and extract or upload information. It is a progressive concept but then so was CAD. The mechanics of delivering and managing construction projects is destined to be Web based.

    • #711663

      Kevin Roche shipped a 40ft container full of planning dwgs from the states to Dublin Corporations offices when applying for permission for the Docklands sheme. If this is the easiest way to do things in the days of intranet and web technology then Im Christopher Wren! If you are a developer forking out millions on a project you would expect all of your consultants, regardless of location, to be looking at the latest set of documents. What better way to ensure this (and save a packet in terms of cost and time)than through use of the web? CAD is continually migrating toward the web and will likely be the spur for full web based project collaboration. Presently the construction industry would be lost without CAD and its only really been on the scene in a viable fashion since the early years of this decade. In three years time contractors engineers architects etc will be wondering how they survived before the days of collaborative web and intranet sites. If you want a benchmark watch out for Dublin corporations impending switch to asking for applications on disk(the logical extension being e-mail and on to uploading to corpo ftp site!) If you want an idea of how sophisticated the Irish CAD market is then check out Irelands first live online seminar exclusively devoted to CAD and its future. The seminar will be on Wednesday 26th May at 11am and will be hosted by Paradigms’ John Curry, one of irelands leading CAD consultants. The seminar will be accessible only on

    • #711664

      Another possible use of information and technology?

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

    • #711665

      Genetics, data and privacy run a lot deeper than what IBM has agreed. Most companies – including insurers – are afraid of what they could discover in this type of programme and the downside of legal action outweighs any knowledge benefit from the information. Consider the ethics of this, an actual case – a doctor in a small French village noticed a pattern in his patients – brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins – for a predisposition to glaucoma. This disease is carried through the female line , early diagnosis and treatment prevents blindness. Given the French penchant for bureaucracy, it was easy for him to trace ancestors to the woman who introduced that gene into the family – from memory she died c 1820 – and with that detail it was easy for him to identify her female line living descendants, most of whom lived outside his practice area and many outside France. Now, what right – if any – did he have to call and tell them that their sight was at risk? If he did not, what liability was he exposed to? Transfer that to the US and think of the lawsuits!

      The build-online site mentioned by Ronan above is – from what I, a non-architect, can see- just a data management site, it does not do much else. Many eCommerce business aspects were grossly over-hyped in the dotcom boom (when he wrote this); most were only “first generation” sites that put buyers/sellers in contact. Second generation sites did that but also enabled them to complete a transaction. However, most buyers/sellers completed the transaction off-line – that is why most e-tailers folded. Today’s third generation sites – the very few that have survived -do all the foregoing but bring considerable added value, such as logistics, insurance, finance, etc., often at a better cost. That is why they have succeeded. But, worldwide, they number less than one hundred or so.

      Architects have to decide what business they are in and design both sites and ecommunities accordingly – a supplier centric site e.g. like Dell, selling to many; a buyer centric site like Carrefour or Ford, a horizontal site – procurement, or a vertical site selling specific services or products.
      Paul Clerkin’s comment from 1999 is in my view still accurate, as most architect’s websites are basically billboards, “see what nice buildings we do” and a bit of “see what nice awards we’ve won” ; architects will use email, will use CAD because it saves time, will browse the web, but will be slow to use IT beyond that. I recently built a house, got nothing high-tech from my architect but my local tile store was quite happy to run up 3D CAD images as part of their service. Building design is seen as “arty” , so the black polonecks will rule for a while, but they will succumb, or they will not survive. Think of voicemail when it was introduced; first fear, then acceptance, and now manipulation (come on, how many just push calls to it to complete a project/get some peace?) Ecommerce will go the same way, and architects will not escape.

    • #711666

      Hmmm,… lets expand slightly on a certain point – namely information transfer,… recent thinking, which doesn’t make Kevin Roche’s use of a container seem so silly at all.

      The point about data transfers though is an interesting one nowadays, because the nature of ‘data’ has changed. It has gone from something very scarse, to something very abundant. Where once the emphasis was one protection of data from others – nowadays it seems, with the vast quantities of raw data being produced by computers and other devices, the idea is to get the information publically available as quick as possible and subject it to a larger scale public review process. For instance, when Rover landed on Mars, the pictures were available to the public at exactly the same time as they were available to the experts at NASA. In fact, when they compared results of analysis done using the public review process, to that of paying scientists to analyse the data, it was found the public came up with just as good results – and sometimes even better results than the paid experts did. Unfortunately for a lot of researchers nowadays, they have a way more data collected than their computers could ever process in a lifetime, which makes it tricky when going for research grants approval – because you are basically telling the funding committee, that I already have away more data than I know what to do with, but heh, I am asking you to give me more money, so that I can go away and collect even more!

      Brian O’ Hanlon.

      An interesting interview with a legend in computing, Jim Gray, now working with Microsoft Corporation.

      It’s cheaper to send the machine. The phone bill, at the rate Microsoft pays, is about $1 per gigabyte sent and about $1 per gigabyte received—about $2,000 per terabyte. It’s the same hassle for me whether I send it via the Internet or an overnight package with a computer. I have to copy the files to a server in any case. The extra step is putting the SneakerNet in a cardboard box and slapping a UPS label on it. I have gotten fairly good at that.

    • #711667

      Okay, can’t resist,


      Brian O’ Hanlon.

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