By Erik Wedge, AIA, LEED AP
At DSGW, we’re committed to transforming communities through architecture. As professionals, we’re always looking for new methods or advancements to aid us in this commitment. When it comes to civic design — a field that encompasses things like fire halls and police stations as well as arenas and community colleges — advancements in technology have not only spurred innovation in our field, they have made our commitment to transforming communities easier to fulfill.
Here are six ways technology has changed civic design:
Resilient Communication: In the Era of COVID-19, two of the most important benefits of cloud video conference are the ability to join meetings from any device and the ease of collaborating on data-rich, multimedia files in real time. Now, more than ever, cross-team cooperation is critical to success of our projects using cloud-based tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Basecamp, Team, PlanGrid, and BIM360 keep our teams and clients connected and protected.
Visualization: Through the use of 3D modeling and virtual reality presentations, we’ve been able to help our clients truly understand and explore the project in the design stage. Not only does this help the client experience, it also reduces the number of changes in the field, which impacts timeline and total cost.
Data Capture: The availability of drones means we can now capture views of sites that would have been impossible in the past. Something as simple as Google Earth allows us access to sites all over the globe in 3D without ever leaving our desks. And, with our smartphones, we always have a high-quality camera and video camera tucked into our pockets, with new apps appearing all the time that allow us to capture, scan and store with ease.
Data Integration: While adding project information into the software and systems we use takes some time up-front, in the end it allows us more time to spend on visualization and design. New technology has helped us remove repetitive, mundane tasks so that we can focus more on the human experience.
Project Delivery: Technology has helped us deliver projects faster, yes. But, more importantly, it has allowed us to create a fully integrated process between the design team and our clients. Everyone is on the same page at all times and working together in real-time.
Data Storage: Gone are the days of stacks of boxes crammed with paper. Now, sleek servers store decades of digital files, all backed up in the cloud. Not only does this have a positive impact on the environment, it also means faster access to data, since we’re typing into a search box, rather than digging through piles of paper.
While technology has already had a major impact on our work, we’re on the cusp of a truly transformative digital revolution in our field. Soon we will have complete virtual and augmented reality designs for every aspect of every project. Blueprints will become a thing of the past, with smart devices the new normal on construction sites. 3D printing will transform the way projects are built in the future, with lighter, cheaper and stronger materials taking over. Drones will move beyond observation and begin to play a role in material delivery, actually assisting in the physical construction of a project.
The way we delivered projects twenty years ago is wildly different than the way we deliver projects today. Twenty years from now, things will have changed in exponential ways we can’t even yet grasp.
But one thing will never change: our commitment to transforming communities. As these technologies emerge and impact our field, they will only be useful to us if they help us spend more time honing our craft, developing the human experience in our spaces, and enriching people’s lives through architecture.