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The AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community (TAP) serves as a resource for AIA members, the profession, and the public in the deployment of computer technology in the practice of architecture. TAP leaders monitor the development of computer technology and its impact on architecture practice and the entire building life cycle, including design, construction, facility management, and retirement or reuse.


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Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

  • 1.  Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 03-31-2020 07:24 PM
    Dear Fellow Architects.

    I'd like to have this blog post to be an open discussion about what everyone learned from the multi-week remote work experience. With many smaller and larger firms are currently struggling with technology, we anticipate a sudden spike in overhead expenses and reduced profits.

     What are some of the discovered free or affordable tools that can be used by small teams with no or minimal impact on the profitability of their firms? I hope this discussion can be beneficial for people seeking immediate solutions.

    Please keep in mind that we are not advertising or endorsing any products or services, we are sharing our practical experiences and struggles in the past few weeks.

    Below is my personal list that is able for immediate use.

    Video Conferencing 

    1. Pros:(Free 1 room), Cons: usually not suitable for discussing confidential projects.
    2. Zoom:  Pros: Free/ unlimited 1 to 1 meetings, Free 40min max group meetings.

    Remote Access

    1. Microsoft Remote Desktop for PC & MAC: Pros: Free. Cons: Requires VPN / Network Gateway.
    2. Chrome Remote Desktop: Pros Free, easy install, Cons: Requires Chrome Browser and Gmail or Gsuite Account.

    Remote- Software access Licensing 

    1. Set up a Windows computer on the cloud with necessary design software, suitable for a multi-user account.
    2.  Rhino Zoo: A cloud license management for Rhino, Free of charge if you own at least 1 rhino license

    Cloud Storage & Sharing

    1. Owners of Office 365, get around 1TB of data storage.
    2. Owners of Gmail business accounts have multi-tiered google drive storage plans.

    Office Phone Products (Voice Ove IP)

    1. Ring Central Essentials (Up to 20 users / $20 per month per user)
    2.  Mitel Business phone essentials (unlimited users / $21 per month per user)

    Remote Team Collaborations tools
    1. Bluebeam Studio (Document coordination). free of charge for Bluebeam users.
    2. Slack vs. Basecamp vs. Microsoft teams.
    3. Zoho Connect, Social media for work.

    Benefits, Billing, Bookkeeping and Payroll

    1. Paylocity: Payroll, HR, Benefits, Talent Recognition
    2. Clear Company: Talent Development
    3. Quickbooks:  Financial Management, good for small businesses

    These are my lists, for now, I'd like to have everyone share their experience with some of the remote tools. trying to keep our list as affordable as possible.

    Tay Othman AIA
    Project Architect
    DES Architects & Engineers
    Concord CA

  • 2.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-01-2020 05:25 PM

    Thank you for this list.  We are a very small firm, 5 people.  We are using Google drive to share some folders and are mostly sending revit files with dropbox.  I saw BIM360 design is free for 3 months, but we aren't using that.

    Mary Jo Kestner, AIA
    CK Architects
    Guilford, CT

    Mary Jo Kestner AIA
    Campaigne Kestner Architects
    Guilford CT

  • 3.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-02-2020 06:35 PM
    Hello Mary,

    This is great that small teams can quickly adapt to new tools, and I totally agree that BIM360 is not always an Ideal solution for temporary usage for your current Revit files, do you still maintain Central / Local File structures?

    Thank you for your insights.

    Tay Othman AIA
    Project Architect
    DES Architects & Engineers
    Concord CA

  • 4.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-02-2020 07:09 PM
    Yes - local server, which we backup.

    Mary Jo Kestner AIA
    Campaigne Kestner Architects
    Guilford CT

  • 5.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-02-2020 06:33 PM
    Thank you for taking the time to share, very helpful.

    Robert Lopez AIA
    Lopez Salas Architects, Inc
    San Antonio TX

  • 6.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-02-2020 07:16 PM


    Thanks for the list.

    We just started using Zoom for Video Conferencing and had our first office test meeting on Wednesday.

    We were already set up with Microsoft Remote Desktop so other than a few kinks with people's personal computers, we were all up and running remotely on Day 1. It definitely is an investment to have an office based server and an IT consultant on retainer but at this time of uncertainty, they have more than paid for themselves. It is also nice that everyone can access their office computer software and we don't have to purchase additional licenses or make changes to how we use our software or deal with outdated equipment. 

    When the order came for us to close the public portion of our office, we sent an email to all of our clients to inform them that we were still there to serve them during this time and that the best way to reach us was by email or our personal cell phones (most of our clients do that anyways). We placed that information on our website as well.  

    Timothy Dearborn AIA
    Principal Architect | Managing Partner
    Stockton CA

  • 7.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-02-2020 09:22 PM
    Thank you Timothy, I totally agree setting up remote access saves a lot by avoiding duplicate license purchases. It is always interesting how smaller firms can quickly adapt to the situation and continue working.

    Tay Othman AIA
    Project Architect
    DES Architects & Engineers
    Concord CA

  • 8.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-03-2020 07:14 PM
    We have just implemented Microsoft Teams. Took a while to get it up and running, we needed our system IT consultant to turn on guest in the Azure program. Once that was done we have held two video conferences with clients all over the country. It was a part of our Office 365 suite, so we didn't have to pay any extra. We can also show drawings to the meeting members, make changes fairly quickly and stay productive. 

    Our staff (total of 5) have been using logmein to gain access to our network server. They need to download the files to their local computer which is the fastest way to work. Once complete they upload back to the server. We have also provided each member with a thumb drive to backup on a daily basis.

    Joseph Booth AIA
    J. M. Booth & Associates
    New Bedford MA

  • 9.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-06-2020 05:51 PM
    Keep the input on MS Teams coming - our office is the beta test for implementation agency-wide.

  • 10.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-07-2020 06:14 PM
    A few other suggestions are:
    • Using remote desktops like the ones offered by Approach Technology
    • Google Hangouts is a great platform, as well as MS Teams, or GoToMeeting
    • Sharing documents in Office 365 allows multiple people to edit documents at the same time
    • A good headset like the Custom Game or GSP 370
    • Good team working software is always great for VDC/BIM Collaboration like Archicad/Scia/Solibri/Revizto

    Willard Williams AIA
    VDC Manager
    JTM Construction
    Seattle WA

  • 11.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-07-2020 06:51 PM
    We are also a small firm of 6 and have found MS Teams to be very efficient along with BIM360 Cloud Computing.  However, we seem to be having issues with inviting our outside consultants to join our daily call/online meeting.  I saw someone post something about turning on "guest" in the Azure program, but not sure I understand completely.  My only other problem is having to switch back and forth between "unshare" and "share your screen" each time you want to switch screen views. 

    Herschel Sikes
    SikesGroup, Inc.
    Houston, TX

    Herschel Sikes AIA
    Sikes Group, Inc.
    Houston TX

  • 12.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-07-2020 07:15 PM
    Edited by Benjamin Doty 04-07-2020 07:16 PM
    We use Teams extensively across 6 offices and +/-110 people.  The chat feature is great for one-off short conversation.  The file sharing ability across the Teams platform is super handy and with MS documents like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, all can be shared and worked on collaboratively live.

    In order to use Teams for conferencing with people who require a call in number, you need to add that functionality in your O365 portal.  I think it is about $4/line/month.  Only 1 person in your organization needs to have this ability, but it also requires that one person to set up all meetings with their account.  We have about half our employees with this ability, generally the PA's and PM's who set the most meetings.

    We currently only use Teams within our organization.  We have not switched on the 'guest' feature which would allow external users access specific Team channels, although we may do this in the near future as more and more people start using Teams.

    Benjamin Doty, AIA
    Design Technology
    Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
    Seattle WA

  • 13.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-08-2020 05:32 PM
    Edited by Angi Izzi 04-08-2020 05:33 PM
    I would like to highlight that Autodesk has outlined how to utilize products remotely. You can find those details here:

    Please know, It's important for us to support how you continue to do business during this time of uncertainty. We hope you and your families are staying well during this unprecedented time.


    Angi Izzi

    Angi Izzi
    Director - Autodesk Construction Solutions
    Autodesk, Inc.


  • 14.  RE: Beyond COVID-19, How to afford remote work.

    Posted 04-08-2020 06:28 PM
    Here are some of my thoughts for the analytical minds, 

    Hosting meetings: 
      Cisco WebX is a big player. GTM was originally Citrix before the spin-off. Microsoft Team, originally was Skype. Google Hangout (aka Meet). Apple FaceTime. Zoom. 
      GTM was great for making online presentations. It made audience setup easy and one click, less glitches, and easier to adapt for mute / dial in / controls. Giving audiences the ability to markup is a key. It showed web cams of others, but the presenter had the main screen.
      Zoom has a great thumbnail ability to see everyone in the chat room (like the Brady Brunch). This gives it a more playful and fun environment. 
     Google hangout was difficult to use because it was web based, and Safari would only play sound to the default speaker and not allow me to re-route to my AirPods. 
     I was not successful in inviting outside parties, although I saw in this forum there is a setting. 

    Sharing documents: 
    Google drive. One Drive. iCloud are all made to bias on your operating system.
    Dropbox I think has a great UI. Great functions to consider, 
    - version conflicts -> how to recover older versions before a colleague replaced your file or when the program crashed. 
    - share link -> how easy it is for them to download. 
    - share link control -> how long does the link work / can it be shared again / do you need a password / etc.

    Worse part of sharing documents via email is that your Outlook or Mail on the system will be boggled with size and slow its performance. 

    I like using my AirPods because it has good noise cancellation and easy to wear and take-off. 

    RDP remote desktop vs VPN: 
    I think RDP into your desktop at the office is a great backup. I've had experiences where a share drive was not showing on at home. RDP would be a good workaround. I've heard that RDP with AutoCAD work can be flawless, but maybe not so with SketchUp. 

    Hope this was helpful.

    Charles Ou-Yang
    Stephen L. Ball Architect, Inc.

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