This article looks at the growing role of ‘tech’ in post-pandemic Architecture
A new survey conducted by Architizer focused on AEC professionals’ evolving relationship with technology during the post pandemic year, looked at topics ranging from design and communication to the psychological wellbeing of staff. The survey reveals that almost 80% of AEC professionals worked remotely during 2020. Both design processes and team communication were now being conducted digitally. However, 28% of architects working remotely said that they were doing this even before 2020. This indicates that a shift towards online collaboration and a fully digital workflow was already well underway before the pandemic closed down offices across the globe.
Positive challenges of architects working remotely
Although an oxymoron, it is true. The biggest advantage cited for the remote working phenomenon was the flexibility to select and customize personal work environment, as well as the commute time saved to and from office.
In addition to the above, benefits include an improved work-life balance, flexible working location and hours, proximity to family and an unprecedented sense of freedom. From the respondents, 44.1% appreciated the flexibility while 22.9% liked the ‘no commute’; 11.7% enjoyed being closer to family while another 11.7% valued their freedom. A fair 8.4 % even reported increased productivity.
On the flip side, a good 33.8% of respondents reported struggling to keep clear separation between work and home life. The second most common challenge pertained to communication with colleagues with 17.7% reporting missing the in-person collaboration.
The most significant finding of the survey is the preference of almost half of all respondents i.e., 46.3%, to continue working remotely, indefinitely even after the pandemic with only 13.9% wanting to return to the workplace.
The emerging importance of communication tools to aid design software
77.9% of architects working remotely cited a powerful computer or laptop as an essential tool to bolster performance. They described how displays are vital to their workflow with many respondents naming either large or dual monitors among hardware they regard as essential. This goes a long way in replicating the technological advantages of the office environment at home.
In terms of software, communication tools have risen hugely in significance. A huge 87% of respondents cited communication applications such as Zoom and Skype as being among the most essential software in 2020, placing them even above the most ubiquitous design applications such as Revit. As architects attempt to mitigate the loss of real face time with their colleagues, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Discord have also risen markedly in importance.
Another interesting insight emerging from the survey was just how common it is for architects to connect back to their office remotely. 57% of respondents stated that they utilize the cloud to connect back to company servers when working at home. If architects working remotely becomes a norm, the concept of a central server for all company work may need to be re-evaluated.
The computer of choice today is the laptop
AEC professionals are split almost exactly 50-50 between primarily using a laptop or a desktop. This is a big shift over the past five years. In Architizer’s previous survey on technology in the architectural profession, 80% of architects were primarily using desktop computers.
Furthermore, two-thirds of respondents that said their primary computer was a desktop also stated that they use a laptop or mobile workstation as a secondary device. This means a total of 76% of respondents utilized a portable computer in some form to get their work done in 2020.
- REDUCED NEED TO COMPROMISE: Mobile workstations now provide power-equivalent to a desktop, with all the advantages of mobility..
- MOBILITY AT HOME: Architects working remotely during the pandemic require greater flexibility to move between spaces while working (to provide space for family members or seek a quiet space for certain tasks).
- AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Some architects may be waiting to see whether they will be required to return to the office before purchasing a desktop computer for a more permanent home office.
Power is everything
When asked to describe their ideal computer, architects overwhelmingly described a powerful, portable computer able to handle their visualization needs. While AEC professionals now require their computers to render 3D models and process complex algorithms for generative design, they are less willing to tie themselves to a desk in an office, and technology must continue to be developed to meet their evolving needs.
Overwhelmingly, AEC professionals are using technology to facilitate visualization and rendering. A huge 91% of respondents cited architectural visualization and rendering as part of their workflow. This result indicates that architects are increasingly creating their own visualizations rather than hiring the services of a dedicated rendering studio. This may be down to practical or economic reasons but may also be because the architects’ own hardware and software is not capable of producing the high-end results they and their clients require.
Other technologies being increasingly adopted by the industry include virtual reality (VR) and generative design, which were cited by 28% and 26% of correspondents respectively.
The biggest takeaway from this year’s Architecture + Technology survey is that, while 2020 was no normal year, the working conditions it has necessitated might become the ‘’new normal’. While the pandemic forced AEC professionals to adopt new hardware and software for remote working whether they liked it or not, the profession has been pleasantly surprised by the outcome. This has led many in practice to re-examine their workflow and work-life priorities in the long term.
With the rise in collaborative tools and apps for ease of communication, this shift is more easily facilitated in architecture than most professionals. For this reason, mobile workstations –balancing immense processing power with the lightweight and compact qualities of a laptop- look likely to become the standard hardware for the profession.
Whatever the post-pandemic world looks like, one thing is clear- the practice of architecture, engineering and construction will continue to advance with the help of powerful, mobile technology and innovative software solutions.
At Aligned Studios, we provide all our architects working remotely with the latest tech-enabled laptops and large screen monitors supported by the latest available software to be able to generate top quality work. This allows them to collaborate efficiently and effectively with cross border partners from the comfort of their homes.
Want to work with our highly qualified and tech-enabled team? Check out the services we offer.