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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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Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

  • 1.  Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 11-05-2021 09:15 AM
    We have a relatively small, but quite excellent team of Design Technology professionals at HOK. I'm always impressed with the dedication and innovative thinking within our group. However, when we need to fill a vacancy I'm finding it increasingly difficult to locate anyone interested or available for the role. For the most part, we have one dedicated Design Technology Manager per region and when we lose one, it takes many months to find another. From what I've observed, many have migrated to the Contractor side, but what could be the root cause?

    In my opinion based on my time on this side of the industry, Architecture and Engineering firms mostly see Design Technology as a 'part time' job. Even at the best firms, we are always asked to make ourselves chargeable to projects. There are ways to do this effectively - by not actually doing production tasks, but providing targeted training and so on. That said, the overall feeling is that the company can't even afford to pay ONE 'full-time' person to support all the technology that actually supports the work that keeps it alive. It seems totally acceptable to have 2 or 3 full time IT personnel, but the more complex design technology seems to be the thing that most feel can support itself.

    Average IT/Staff support ratio: 1:50
    Average DT/Staff support ratio: 1:200

    I'd like to hear this community's thoughts on where Design Technology stands as a career path heading into the future.

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------
    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 2.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 29 days ago
    Management has to appreciate and reward the effort it takes to surmount the ever increasing frequency of learning curves.


    ------------------------------
    Rudolph Beuc AIA, NCARB, CBO
    Architect
    R. Beuc Architects
    Saint Louis MO
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 3.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 29 days ago
    I think one of the aspects managers may not understand is what is the actual "Job Description" for a Design Technologist? I'm not sure if I know either?
    I have a small firm and do all the Design, Management, and  Research in regards to how best to produce my projects - I use Revit, some may use something else, I don't know that it matters all that much which program you use... I believe it all comes down being consistent in the manner that projects are done, because if one person is working on a project and then someone else comes along and does things completely different - well, you'll have problems!
    I guess what I'm getting at here is that there SHOULD BE at least one full time person that is doing training so that everyone in the office understands the procedures that need to be done. Including Management, who needs to attend (at least) monthly meetings on topics that pertain to technology. You're not going to get "buy-in" on what matters if managers don't even get what you are doing?
    As far as finding "People" to do the work of a Design Technologist... Well, I've found it hard to find anyone these days. Also, I don't understand why the AIA is not standing up against "Contractors" producing drawings. I've been against, other than design professionals, producing construction documents.
    I would assume that the ratios should be reversed - 1:50 for DT and 1:200 for IT... IT guys deal with the big picture in my opinion whereas DT deal with the business project by project basis... I don't know, but seems like DT takes much longer to deal with issue by issue???

    ------------------------------
    Randy Sawn
    Principal
    R.L. Sawn Design Studio
    Perris CA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 4.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 28 days ago
    Good point, Randy. I know standards and training are a HUGE part of what my DT team does and perhaps that is often misunderstood in our job descriptions - thus, also the value proposition to the firm. DT staff are usually only seen as the 'firefighters' - "Help! My BIM model is broken!..." rather than a strategic asset who can help teams plan and execute the work more efficiently.

    As to contractors doing construction drawings...that sounds like a completely different thread topic!! Yikes.

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 5.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 29 days ago
    This is a complex question and I'm not sure if anything I share will respond to it, is there a Design Technology career path for the future.  As a profession, we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology.  I feel that there is a misperception that design technology, or even all technology, can co-exist out of the box.  For simplicity, "Technologist" ends up becoming the help desk to do what in theory is not needed, since it all should be working anyway.  I sense there is a misperception of value from non-technologist to technologists.  This likely causes an individual to flee a firm that is not placing value on their individual contribution to a consulting firm that is hired for that value being provided.

    Can service level agreements be established as to what a non-technologist team member is expected to do Vs. the technologist?  This will at least focus the technologist's contribution to value-added tasks.  I've seen technologists be incredibly helpful, and it is also because the person who is asking for the help is not willing, or curious, to figure out the solution needed by themselves.  We all take pride in the work we do, we need to give the technologist the opportunity to own a part of the project development and or delivery if that makes sense and not simply be a helper.

    I do not see this tension going away, and we need to appreciate those talented technologists' contributions to have a "Career Path", otherwise, the end result will become mediocre architecture with inside-the-box thinking.  As you correctly pointed out, there will be more consultants needed to support design firms when a design firm can really support themselves when they can value the contribution of the individual providing to the team effort.
    Hope this helps.

    ------------------------------
    Zigmund Rubel FAIA
    CEO
    A Design+Consulting
    Greenbrae CA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 6.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 28 days ago
    Thanks Zigmund. You make some excellent points here.

    At least at our firm, we see the DT team more as teachers (overhead) rather than doers (billable). We have always expected our staff to be well-versed in the technology at hand in any given year. So, that is a good clarification for my position on the genesis of this thread.

    I can also totally appreciate your observation that it's equally important for the project staff to be willing and curious to seek better ways to do their work. We're not here to tell our staff how to be better designers or project architects - we want to help them perform their work at a higher level and perhaps eliminate any tedious tasks that would afford them more time to focus on their value-added work.

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 7.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 26 days ago
    I am not sure that DT staff needs to be totally overhead.  Even if they are teachers, the teaching can be tied to specific projects and their time becomes billable.

    In the early and mid-'90s when the large firm I worked in was just jumping into use of computers, we had two staffers, one an architect, the other an IT type who were responsible for getting the staff up to speed on the use of the computer. To make matters tougher (may be not as tough) we were not using AutoCad. The firm used the same software McDonnell-Douglas uses to design aircraft. At the time, three known architecture firms (all large ones) were using this software. The training was project based. Only a few were trained at a time, and the trainers were billing their time to the project.

    I don't see why, if the teachers are developing skills that are being used on specific projects that their time should not be billed to the project. It does encumber the bottom line of the fee, but should be built into the fee at the Proposal stage. It comes down to principals understanding the capabilities of their staff and knowing how the complexity of the project will effect their execution of the workflow.

    ------------------------------
    Greg Burke, FAIA
    President
    Gregory John Burke | ARCHITECT, PA
    St Augustine, Florida
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 8.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 28 days ago
    James et al,  I completely agree with your points, especially the level of excellence your group shows regularly.  The design business requires passion to succeed and enjoy it. design technology the same.  My thoughts on some of your points:  There remains in architecture an idea, sadly,  that the best, highest use of design talent is not in the use digital tools.  However we have been able to grow a culture at our firm that celebrates this aspect as an extension of those talents.  Not to say we've solved it, but the people who appreciate the value of design tech outnumbers those who feel it is a necessary evil.  Which enables you to make the case for a low level of billable for design technologists.  I focus on that case often, and show it with the cost center numbers along with profit numbers and typically investment in design tech is profitable. And perhaps more persuasive is the fact to compete you have to be good at it.

    Now, back to finding the design tech talent,  I have been able to hire from within twice, and there remains interest with staff who are more engaged with the tools to move to design tech.  I believe that forms that openly value being tech forward can attract the talent.  I also look at the idea of training willing people and casting a wider, more diverse hiring net that has been typical helps as well.  But, now that we are back to a hiring cycle, it's hard to compete salary wise, which brings us back to the "pay for it" discussion.  I feel that the bottom line is that the majority of our, and our competitors, revenues comes from the use of the suite of digital design tools, not email.  So, doesn't that infer significant investment?

    ------------------------------
    Guy Messick AIA
    Director of Design Intelligence
    IA Interior Architects
    San Francisco CA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 9.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 28 days ago
    Thanks for the great feedback. I'm also getting several private replies which I'll try to share here via anonymous paraphrasing.

    A former colleague of mine suggested changing the title of this topic to "Has the INTERNET killed the Design Technology profession?" Their stance is that so much information and guidance is available online - there is no longer a need to have a dedicated on-staff technology 'generalist.' They wanted to clarify the difference between someone focused on general training and support (which could be supplanted by Google + YouTube) and the need for billable specialties such as parametric analysis, performance analysis, etc. In other words, if you can't be billable, you just become a cost liability to the firm.

    Another message was from a design industry professional who was allowed to spend only 10% of their time and expertise to better their design firm, with the rest of their time doing project production. They just started a new career as a VDC specialist with a construction management company with a significant pay raise and the recognition of how their skillset is appreciated.

    Very interesting hearing both sides of this debate. Keep those thoughts coming!

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 10.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 28 days ago
    I will give you my 1.5 cents worth based upon my 50 years of work in the profession.  Years ago an architectural draftsperson was highly skilled and highly respected, then along came the computer and with it AutoCAD etc.

    That's when the change began.  With the computers came the cad-techs because the senior architects and designers at first didn't want to take the time to learn about "cad" and how to use it.

    Fast forward some years and what was being taught in technical schools was how to use a computer program - not anything about architectural technology per se, and so those coming out of these technical schools really didn't know much about the architectural practice in terms of detailed documents.  Therefore, assuming other offices like mine experienced what we did: it was taking more time marking up the work of these cad-techs than it would have taken if we had done the work ourselves.

    So - we quit hiring cad-techs 10 years ago and only hire intern architects. WE simply couldn't find any cad-techs that had a clue about what they were doing.

    ------------------------------
    Bayard Spencer AIA
    Principal
    Spencer-Pierce Architecture+Interiors, Inc.
    Round Rock TX
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 11.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 27 days ago
    @Bayard M. Spencer III AIA - When you say "cad-techs" it sounds like you were hiring those people as draftspersons, correct? As opposed to hiring them to support CAD and/or training CAD for your staff of architects and designers?

    That's another caveat I should clarify...our Design Tech professionals are all originally trained as architects or engineers. I think that's important to consider if any firm is hiring dedicated DT support personnel.​

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 12.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 26 days ago
    To continue on the discussion of the role of "CAD-tech", I find that training interns from architectural schools to use the software isn't much different from teaching a CAD-tech on how we specifically use the software at our firm.  The missing part of this discussion is how much architectural training you give an intern vs. a CAD-tech while they are at your firm.  As a BIM Manager, I shouldn't be filling in the missing piece of this puzzle simply because I'm a registered architect and know how to put together a set of drawings.  This training is still a requirement if you would like to have competent professionals at your firm (knowledge of architecture and technology).

    ------------------------------
    Nick Kovach
    BOKA Powell, LLC
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 13.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 27 days ago
    Hi James, and viewers,

    Your title question makes me ask, Has AEC done itself a disservice this past decade with how DT is perceived in the profession?
    ~Asking for a friend

    Cheers,
    ryan

    ------------------------------
    Ryan Cameron AIA
    CMBA Architects
    West Des Moines IA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 14.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 26 days ago
    "Design Technology" (defined here, as associated with digital technology and not construction technology) is a specialty within the profession. I'd propose that this career path might be similar to the path specification writers follow.

    No one, but no one, finishes Architecture school and enters their first office intending to become a spec writer. For those of us who practice that honored specialty, it took some time, exploration and exposure to the range of opportunity within the profession to realize that specifications are an area of practice that we enjoy and that we can contribute to our firms and the profession by working within that specialized space.

    Similarly, I think recent graduates may enter the profession armed with an impressive array of digital tools at their disposal, but their motivation to enter the profession in the first place comes from a desire to build buildings. They need opportunity to explore our profession from the inside and some will come to understand that the greatest impact they can have on building things is to assist and enable others to effectively use the digital tools available and likely expand the limits of what those constantly-evolving tools can do.

    The current era of design intelligence is a relatively new phenomenon, and it may simply take a bit more time for those individuals who are destined to be design technologists to get to that place.

    ------------------------------
    John Hunter AIA
    Studio Blitz
    San Francisco, CA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 15.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 25 days ago
    I received this feedback via private message and I got permission to share it anonymously:

    I don't think the is an issue specific to technologists. I think this is an issue with the architecture industry as a whole, but technologists are in a unique position.

    I think part of the issue is that the type of people who become BIM managers are often really interested in technology.  From what I've seen anecdotally from other technologists I've worked with they are often interested in learning programming.  The skills that technologists learn are really valuable, especially knowing how to code.  Because their skills are so valuable they often find that they can get receive better compensation, and honestly, better working conditions by switching to another field.  Many architects work in really high stress environments, work long hours, and can't afford to pay their employees very well.  A lot of these technologists can get jobs in the tech sector which have significantly less stress, they can work fewer hours, and get higher compensation.  Many of them really enjoy architecture, but the conditions are so much better elsewhere it's understandable that they want to leave.

    When I was working as a technologist it was a pretty stressful job.  The work was somewhat similar to IT support work like you mentioned. This means that I spent a lot of my time running around from desk to desk answering questions.  Often times these questions were pretty easy, and that part of the job wasn't really challenging.  I like helping people, but I also want to be challenged at work.  I was also required to stay late whenever my projects had a deadline.  Since I worked 5 projects that meant that I had to stay late more often then most employees, and this is in an industry where long hours are already common.  It wasn't uncommon for me to have a deadline every Friday for weeks in a row.  In fact, there were a few times where I had multiple projects with deadlines on the same day.  I think the most I ever had at once was 3 on the same day.  That's just crazy for 1 person to handle.  

    I moved into a job in tech as a software engineer.  I've rarely ever had to work overtime.  I don't have to deal with all the stress of architecture.  The job is more challenging, and interesting.  I don't have to spend my time dealing with consultants.  It's just so much more satisfying as a career.  There are things I miss about architecture, and I still like the field.  It's just not worth it to stay there, and I don't see myself ever going back.

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 16.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 25 days ago
    And here I was, thinking that the "Technology" in the title of this group was about the technology needed to BUILD our projects...I posit that the dearth of people capable of skillfully applying THAT technology to our work is oodles of times more important to the future of our profession than the technology with which we produce our renderings...




    ------------------------------
    Gustavo Lima AIA, RAIC, CCCA, DBIA, LEED AP
    President
    Gustavo A. Lima Architecture, PC
    Williamsville NY
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 17.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 25 days ago
    Gustavo - "Technology in Architectural Practice" should cover everything from CAD to visualization to realization of the built work. I surely didn't mean to imply that "Design Technology" just had to do with renderings. At our firm, the positions used to be "CAD Manager/Specialist/..." then they became "BIM Manager/Specialist/..." - we briefly changed to "buildingSMART Manager/Specialist/..." - but we then renamed to "Design Technology Manager/Specialist/..." because it seemed to be broad enough to capture all the different kinds of things my team supports, trains, implements, etc.

    I'd love to do more "VDC" things (the term that most Contractors/CMs use) - but the regulations/contracts that prevent the architects and engineers from getting involved with "means and methods" of construction have yet to be changed.

    ------------------------------
    James Vandezande AIA
    Chief Technology Officer
    HOK, Inc.
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 18.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 24 days ago

    James:

     

    Thanks for your response.  Still, the term technology in the group title seems to refer to the computer-based technology used to imagine and eventually produce the instruments of service.  In other words how to visualize (render), generate the forms (parametric design?) and document (BIM) the design.   All of these are valuable tools of our trade.  And in that respect, they are akin to the pencils, compasses, triangles and parallel rulers of the past.  

     

    On the other hand, I was referring to the technology of the building itself, i.e. its details, the integration of its components into a waterproof, energy efficient, cost-effective, attractive shelter for human activities.

     

    So, for example, when we see Disney Hall, you are thinking of the tools that Gehry  used to generate those sweeping forms (and document them), while I am interested in how those stainless steel scales conform to a double curvature and come together at the roof parapet, at the openings and at the intersections, in order to deliver the aforementioned goals of energy efficiency, waterproofing, etc.  I am not complaining, I realize the technology behind our tools is important.  I am, simply,  most likely in the wrong group!  ��

     

    This group seems to be interested in how we represent and document (and yes, sometimes also generate) the forms of architecture, and I am interested in the technological details that make those forms ultimately possible in real life.

     

    If you think that finding a technologist that can help your firm document your projects is difficult, try finding a project architect with sufficient technical knowledge to know WHAT to draw (or model)!

     

    One final comment:  The architects who are going to work for contractors doing VDC do not stop being architects.  They are just engaged in an aspect of the profession more closely connected to the act of building.  An aspect of the profession that our colleagues sitting at the rarified heights of academia and the architectural intelligentsia seem too eager to ignore and belittle.  The more we separate ourselves from that side of the building environment, the more we'll decry that people are "leaving".  They are not leaving, we are expelling them.

     

    Paraphrasing Von Clausewitz:  Construction is the continuation of Design by other means.

     

     

    Gustavo A. Lima, AIA, MRAIC, CCCA, DBIA, LEED AP

    President

    Gustavo A. Lima Architecture, PC

    M +1 716 909 1709

     

    www.LimaArchitecture.com

     




    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 19.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 18 days ago
    Another aspect is that it is very expensive to develop internal tools. One piece of software (that is usable by more than specialists, i.e. not Grasshopper/Dynamo) can cost upwards of $1 million to build and maintain per year. Venture capital has recognized the lack of productivity technologies in architecture and is funding a wide range of startups with hundreds of millions of dollars. Design technologists see lots of high paying jobs with reasonable 40 hour work weeks building tech for AEC full time. Having support of a team of software engineers building one's ideas is a much faster way to work than part time in between projects. This is where the "good people" have gone and why hiring timelines are likely longer for technologist roles. 

    ------------------------------
    Patrick Chopson AIA
    Co-Founder
    Cove Tool Inc
    Atlanta GA
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data


  • 20.  RE: Has Architecture killed the Design Technology profession?

    Posted 13 days ago
    Where do I start? I think this issue exists because everyone's definition of "technology" is different. Speak to leadership at most AE firms and they equate "technology to "BIM," because that was one of the first buzz words as part of the shifting landscape. BIM was then labelled as new "CAD." That same leadership has a very distinct view of what "CAD" people should do, which we know is quite different to design technology.

    Design technology addresses multiple aspects of project delivery, and our project delivery process is constantly evolving as a result of technology. Before we delivered hard copy paper drawings; now we deliver PDFs and in some cases models. There are contractual and risk implications with this change, and someone familiar with design technology needs to address these with in-house legal counsel.

    When framed in this context, and this is just one example, I have seen leadership have the "aha" moment about why having dedicated design technology personnel is important. Until our industry realizes this, as you have stated, there will be hesitancy to pursue this as a career path.

    ------------------------------
    Joel Martineau Assoc. AIA
    Senior Business Solutions Analyst
    Stantec
    Washington DC
    ------------------------------

    TAP on-demand courses: includes AI empowering the architect; GANs in a design practice; and The importance of quality data