15 Feb 2011

Architects and Technology

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I’m a sucker for inquiring minds and am eager to share my thoughts with most people who are willing to listen — except solicitors. If you don’t believe me ask the unsuspecting caller who thought they called for a quick question and I corralled them for an hour discussing design, market conditions, the weather and which line is truly the slowest at Target. So despite needing to finish a set of construction docs this evening, I paused to answer an aspiring architects questions about architects and technology.

This was a week of inquries. I had three calls from “green” advertisers, two resumes from out-of-work draftsmen, 11 emails from advertisers promising to improve my business and a thoughtful letter from a seventh grade student. Only the seventh grader’s letter solicited a response. She wrote:

 

Dear Mr. Faulkner,

 

My name is [student], and I am a student at [Name] Middle School. My seventh grade Computer Technology class is learning about how technology is used in different types of careers. My assignment is to research a career that I am interested in and to write to someone who works in that field to find out what technology they use (ex. communication devices, programs, etc.) and how often they use it.

 

I am interested in architecture because I love to draw and also buildings fascinate me.

 

Your website caught my attention because it gives additional information that others do not, and [is] also a friendly one.

 

I understand your time is valuable, but if you are able to answer a few questions for me, I would greatly appreciate it. What I would like to know is:

 

What kinds of technology do you currently use?

How often do you use these technologies in your job?

How have changes in technology helped you today?

At what age did you become an architect?

 

Thank you so much for your time. I have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you [and] sharing your insight with my classmates about how technology affects you in your job!

 

Sincerely,

[student]

 

I immediately started a response and I wrote:

 

Dear [student],

 

Congratulations on your interest in architecture and thank you for contacting me to ask about Architects and Technology for your 7th Grade computer technology assignment. You may not know this but architecture is a mystical profession and architects spend most of their non-design time educating the public about what we do. In fact, answering questions like yours is how I spend part of each work day. You asked me to answer the following questions:

• What kinds of technology do you currently use?

• How often do you use these technologies in your job?

• How have changes in technology helped you today?

• At what age did you become an architect?

 

What kinds of technology do you currently use?

I use many technologies similar to other businesses across the world and probably in similar ways. Technology is an organization and communication enabler that connects me to clients and my industry. Connection to clients is critical because thatʼs how I generate revenue to run my company. Connection to my industry is critical because thatʼs how I keep pace with technology and architecture practice. The devices I use most frequently include:

 

• Computer (used to run productivity programs, organize information and produce service documents)

• Internet (used to research products, attend online classes and connect with my professional network)

• Productivity Software (Chief Architect, iWork, email, Joomla, scheduling, contracts, cost estimation, graphics, virtual studio used to create design documents, websites and host virtual design tours for clients and colleagues)

• Digital Measuring tape (to record dimensions and develop as-built documents) • Global Positioning System (to locate building sites and driving directions to/from projects)

• Cell Phone (to communicate with clients and colleagues when Iʼm on the road) • Portable digital and cloud storage/file sharing (to share files and backup critical
information)
• iPad (to present ideas, collect information, sketch and draft reports)

• Digital Camera (to record site conditions, capture good ideas and reduce paper)

• Automobile (to visit clients, construction sites, attend seminars and business meetings)

 

How often do you use these technologies in your job?

Technology is a substantial career-partner. Even when Iʼm on vacation, technology is part of my daily routine. On the rare occasion Iʼm without my techno-toolbox, I experience the inconvenient truth of how reliant I am upon it.

 

• Computer – every day
• Internet – every day

• Productivity software – every day

• Digital measuring tape – weekly

• Global Positioning System – weekly

• Cell Phone – every day

• Portable/digital/cloud storage – every day

• iPad – every day

• Digital Camera – weekly

• Automobile – weekly

 

How have changes in technology helped you today?

With change comes a little pain so some technological changes enhance my profession and aggravate it at the same time. Most notably, technology enhanced my productivity, accessibility and education.

• Productivity: One way technology improved my productivity is the software programs that help me communicate more effectively. I can create and distribute ideas via email or real-time in online web sessions; however, when technology malfunctions or I upgrade software, Iʼm very unproductive. Technology is so integral to my organization and communication that when it fails, I fail. Another way technology makes me more productive is I can transport my office on a hand held device so I have information available at my fingertips which allows me to answer questions or share information immediately instead of having to find the answer and share it later. Fast responses increase my credibility and free me to focus on the next task.

• Accessibility: One way technology increased my accessibility is my website. I use my website to display work samples, marketing literature and teach clients about architecture. Before my website, I hand-distributed flyers and carried bulky design portfolios. A website means I can reach more clients at little cost; however, the disadvantage is advertisers contact me to solicit services. Having a website also means I must maintain it which costs time and money. Another way technology improved accessibility is clients reach me via phone from almost anywhere and I can call contractors to report a job site problems. Technology helps me receive updates and resolve issues faster. Being accessible has its downfall because when everyone can find you itʼs hard to find time alone when you need to recharge.

• Education: One way technology improved my education is I completed my Masters online while working full-time and raising my family. My job required so much travel it would have been impossible for me to attend an in-residence masters program. It worked for me, but I donʼt recommend it for everyone because you can gain knowledge via an education program, but thereʼs no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Another way technology helped is the Internet gives me access to more information and I can research more in less time; however, the abundance also means I have to be more selective in my search to find credible information. A third way technology helped is learning technology (computer rendering, website construction, graphics production) broadened my skill set making me a more valuable colleague and business owner because I have technology and architecture skills; however, more skills translates to more work and dilutes time spent on your core architecture practice.

 

At what age did you become and architect?

Architectural education, internship and licensing requirements dictate the age at which a student can start internship and when an intern can become an architect. All architects must attend a 5-year professional degree program, complete a 3-year internship and pass a 12-part licensing exam that may take 1-year to complete. If you graduate from high school at age 18, the soonest you can become a licensed architect is age 26-27. I was 29 years old when I passed my licensing exams and have practiced architecture with several companies, including my own, ever since.

Technology may enhance an architect’s productivity, accessibility and education, but it’s an architect’s passion for solving problems that makes one a success. I’m glad you discovered your passion early so you can enjoy it for the rest of your life. Good luck with your technology assignment and if you need more information about architects and the technology we use please call or email – with a parent’s permission of course!

 

Sincerely,
Eric T. Faulkner
Architect

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About the Author


Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 28 years experience in design, construction observation and life.