Environmental analysis and integrated working
"Collaboration" is the big word in architecture today. Yet I'm not sure how much of it actually happens. Architects outsource to engineers, quantity surveyors, contractors and environmental scientists, to name a few professions, but I'm not sure how much of it you can call collaborating. Traditionally these professions have defined boundaries of responsibility; boundaries that are rarely crossed by an outsider.
I believe that the computer and the increasing level of interoperability between software is changing all that. I have a client with a small architecture practice with a project to build a sustainable-concept house in the Highlands (see image above). They have been approached by service engineers, who these days seem to be dabbling in passive environmental performance as well as machine-run environmental systems. Environmental modelling on computers are quite advanced these days, with tools such as Ecotect leading the way. I assume that these service engineers had similar tools.
This got me thinking about how their expertise and software can be put to use in the design process of the house. I knew that Sketchup was running at my client's practice. If there was an easy way to take the Sketchup model, send it to the engineers for environmental analysis, and have the reports back in a matter of hours, environmental performance would become a huge driver for the design process.
This feedback process above all needs speed and integration between the two offices, and the use of computer models offer that. I am due to check out the systems at the service engineers and see how the two distant offices can benefit from a collaborative working approach. I will report back with findings.
The lesson here is that huge amounts of work can be saved if different professions were to share information in the way of models and digital drawings. With integrated working methods, jobs can become quicker and therefore cheaper to undertake, for all professions involved in building.