07th of May, 2020 marked the 20th successful session of the popular architect’s ወርሃዊ event where we discussed the exciting topic of architects and digital working platforms. As many architects are now transitioning to remote work, it is a relevant and timely discussion. Our guest for this month was Amanuel Tesfaye, a licensed architect practicing in the state of California and he is also chairing the AEA specialized committee for Ethiopian Architects in the Diaspora. We would like to thank Amanuel Tesfaye and Brook Tefera for the wonderful discussion. The last two sessions of architects ወርሃዊ showed that we can connect better with our members on all parts of the globe on the virtual platforms.
Amanuel shared his experience of working with digital platforms as an architect with DLR group. DLR Group is an integrated design firm located in several parts of the globe. A very interesting fact about the DLR Group is that it is 100 percent employee-owned and aspires to be the most creative enterprise on the planet. He mentioned that the setup and platform to work from home was already in place as an option with cloud support for projects, but because of the current situation it is being utilized fully. He discussed the tools and processes they use to work virtually in great depth and the need for us to begin familiarizing ourselves with the virtual work space.
He discussed how at DLR they are able to manage projects virtually on different stages using different tools. He first walked us through how in the schematic design stages they can work by using a collaborative sketching platform where colleagues can discuss and sketch together virtually, to the stage where they process building permit while communicating with the division of the state architect, and finally to the platforms where they provide contract administration services. He also mentioned the use of immersive collaboration tools such as Iris VR where you can walk through your 3D files with colleagues in Virtual reality.
The tools that he demonstrated included Bluebeam; a markup tool that allows project teams to collaborate on the same documents in real time. Microsoft Teams; a communication and collaboration platform that combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and collaboration on files and Newforma; a Project Information Management Solution to Streamline all Project Communications, Project Data, Construction Administration, Field Management and Collaboration. He further discussed the ‘DLR square one’ Online platform that teams use to connect with their colleagues in different locations and projects. They share details and other information regarding their projects on that platform, you may call it the Facebook or LinkedIn of the DLR group.
Additionally, Brook shared his experience in using Aconex, an oracle-based Project management platform his firm has been using for over a year. He explained adjusting from paper medium to an Online medium was a challenge in the beginning. He further discussed his experience with the new Online building permit platform where there was an upload size limitation of 10 MB and the office was eventually forced to submit hard copy drawings to make the documents complete.
How about you? What is your experience using virtual platforms? Share with us what are you doing to maintain your practice during this uncertainty. (cont. next page)
(Cont) Architecture is a collaborative practice, and using Building Information Models is bringing teamwork and collaboration to the forefront. However, to do this successfully, we must have access to the right tools. In our context, Technology is an obvious setback. But beyond the technological gap, I believe this approach will only work when we develop a collaborative professional culture instead of a competitive one.
Even though there is a general lack of readiness and willingness around virtual working among many things, it is the inevitable future that should be embraced positively and quickly. As the consequence will not only be being left behind, but also being irrelevant in a very short time.
But If we are to take to the virtual skies, what should be the next step?