Architects have a lot of things they have to get right. Someone once told me being an architect is like throwing twelve flaming chainsaws into the air at the same time and somehow trying to prevent them from hitting the ground (or killing someone). From getting new work to designing and building new work, there is never a shortage of responsibilities that rest on the shoulders of the designer in chief.
These days, those responsibilities lean on improvements in technology in order to best keep those flaming chainsaws from falling from the sky. It started with computer aided drafting (CAD), but has since blossomed into an entire industry of software development, visualization, and rapid prototyping systems that have sped up the design process and forced architects to think about their work in an entirely different light.
These programs are the essentials that every architecture firm should be using. They are a mixture of design, communication, and efficiency tools that let architects focus on the most important chainsaw of all - the design.
While the road to stardom hasn’t always been smooth for the world’s most popular building information modeling (BIM) software, Revit has come into its own in the past 5 years as the preeminent drafting program for architecture firms around the world. It is the AutoCAD for a new generation of designers, and allows architects to think critically about the assembly and construction of a building digitally, making construction smoother, faster, and more efficient.
Few programs offer such a perfect mixture of flexibility and speed. SketchUp is the ideal design tool for small to mix sized firms looking to quickly grasp hold of design constraints and show clients progress without reaching for expensive visualizations. SketchUp is a user friendly as a 3D modeling program gets, and even interfaces well with Google Earth, VRAY and a host of other programs to make it a powerful little communication tool as well.
Architects and designers have to make their projects easy to understand and beautiful to look at. Programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign allow them to do just that. Adobe has been around since the very early days of computer aided graphic design, and continue to lead the industry when it comes to professional design software. These programs help architects create compelling story boards, visualizations, and diagrams that say more than a few touchy-feely words ever could.
Even if your firm isn’t producing top of the line renderings or visualizations, having VRAY around to build into your feedback loop will go a long way to making your entire team better designers. It interfaces seamlessly with both Revit and SketchUp, and allows you to critically assess the building design before it moves on to contract documents, permitting, and finally construction. VRAY is the best when it comes to software integration, and interface, making it a mainstay in architecture offices around the globe.
Internal organization is of vital importance for any architecture firm. Asana is an online task management tool that allows project architects to keep track of who is working on what, when they expect to have it finished, and what problems may be standing in their way. It allows team members to communicate digitally and for project leads to easily track progress and keep critical path items in the front of their minds. Asana acts to cut through some of the complexities associated with large and small scale building designs.
Much like Asana, Slack allows for streamlined communication between team members that can be set up based on specific projects. Not only is Slack good for coordination and correspondence, it can be a valuable team building tool that can boost morale by promoting inter office camaraderie. Slack is easy to use and can even be linked to construction companies and clients to keep everyone in the loop, preventing the need to constantly meet in person to discuss issues.
For firms looking to implement a bit more professional finesse than that offered by SketchUp, Rhino is the go to 3D modeling program. It allows designers to write scripts, which allow more complex architectural forms to be designed, analyzed, and refined to make them easier to understand and more manageable to build. Rhino also interfaces well with VRAY, making for a very powerful combination when it comes to creating photorealistic renderings and visualizations.