I am reaching out to members of the Technology in Architectural Practice 'Kn' for advice on how to build my next-generation practice. I left traditional practice and formed a technology company based in Seattle, Washington with the goal of solving some of the problems we have in conceptual design of projects leading to BIM.
We need a discussion on this forum about how our industry is filling the technological gaps in contemporary 'project-level' practice for bridging project start-up, concept design, design development, construction phase, and project life cycle.
As principal in an E-A firm, my teammates' difficulties starting projects that were headed to BIM was - and remains - a real problem.
Many of us in the profession agree that 'good' and effective architecture and design begins in context, and that all projects are contextual regardless of whether the designer tends to respect the context in the design. This of course is the designer's prerogative. Our municipal design firm was fundamentally successful in large part, in my opinion, because we always began our projects within context - immediate surroundings, sometimes extending to the region. My teams usually 'get creative' and gather high resolution imagery from Google Earth Pro.
But however, this bothers me greatly! I began the architectural journey working in a land title office, where I worked with surveyors and drew plat maps. Photogrammetry was the bane of our existence! And now 25 years later- my skilled architect teammates are 'pulling' images across assumed points, lacking spatial accountability, at a whole new level of abstraction.
Context is a problem for architects and engineers because there is always insufficient information available. The information available free over the Internet has been captured with really cool technology, but is not of professional grade. Our modelers begin every project with 'stretchy' image data, and they use rudimentary photogrammetry techniques they have derived themselves, and fill in gaps with unsubstantiated data in order to build the information they need to begin a conceptual design and project. (If you've not seen this in action, ask one of the modeling pros in your office to apply a photo texture in SketchUp.)
That 'data' is not data at all but rather relativistic approximations. Google is working on a major implementation to the technology behind Google Earth, which promises to provide much needed 'granularity' to the worldwide dataset. Google recently sold SketchUp to Trimble as a result of this huge improvement around the corner. But, architects will only get a third of the way to 'concept-design-nirvana' with the improved technology. I say this because the technology is ill-suited to look inside and beneath structures, and thus unable to connect inside-to-outside, which of course is fundamental to architecture.
My dilemma is this - I've bought the best available technology, and ported it to architectural applications. I want to measure and collect data on projects for as many architects as possible, as fast as possible, to make the best use of my investment while the opportunity (problem) remains a part of our daily experience in architecture.
My goal is to help architects and engineers to continuously improve their contextual modeling capabilities. My product is custom 3D spatial datasets. My information is professional-grade. Unlike information available free on the Internet, I am capable of reaching into and beneath structures. Unlike 3D scanning, my service is rapid and a fraction of the cost with higher potential accuracy and much faster work in the office. My data collection for each project is backed up with full 1080p video, for easy reference on the desktop.
There are no project-type limitations. Costs are quite low as my application is fully robotic, requiring only one person, me- to take measurements, collect data, transmit to customer, and return to base.
I'm interested in your experience and your firm, how you gather contextual data (digital camera, tape measure, electronic distance, wait for professional land survey); what digital and imaging sources you use (Google Earth, Google Earth Pro, aerial photographs); your problems in workflow (developing a concept design in format usable in subsequent phases, assuring accuracy of spatial data, going 'backward' from a design development phase to a concept level development); and your thoughts on how these areas of practice are or should be aided by technology.
Owner & Manager
Glapin Milphrey, LLC