The marriage between technology and design has given birth to architectural innovation, writes Naressa Khan
TECHNOLOGY is all about progress and evolution, and architecture, an applied science all on its own, is no different. In fact, the two go together like bread and butter.
Thanks to computational design, architects can now rely on software and algorithms to not only manage design and construction processes better but to also pursue new frontiers in their domain.
KL-based firm Veritas Architects, for one, upholds this virtue, citing technological embrace as part and parcel of adaptation and evolution.
Resident IT manager Ricky Foo says: “To use technology is to enhance people’s lives, automate processes and make important functions easily available.”
Veritas principal and director Azif Nasaruddin agrees, stating it is a must for architects today to be aware of technological development. After all, what is their ultimate craft if not to optimise the qualities and dimensions of their surroundings?
Nasaruddin, who counts Frank Gehry as inspiration, notes: “I follow technology in general, not just with gadgets, but also trends of the future. I need to know how technology keeps changing our lives. I have my daily consumption of tech websites that keep me informed. I especially love EnGadget, because it touches on everything for discussion, not just provide gadget news.”
The most beautiful thing about technology, he notes, is that it enables maximum delivery, which Veritas regards as one of its core brand promises.
“As a collective, we always have to keep abreast of what’s going on, especially concerning specific areas today that require technological interfaces.”
SIMPLIFYING FUNCTIONS, INNOVATING DESIGNS
The beautiful thing about technological architecture is that it saves present time to expand future space. Architecture software today not only measure the precision of buildings-to-be but also forecast requirements that ensure it.
We owe it all to the 1980s, the decade that saw the emergence of PCs, or personal computers.
Nasaruddin says: “Before, we had to draw lines and vectors, and watercolour impressions, on paper. Soon after, we began to model 3D impressions using basic design software such as AutoCAD.”
Then, the evolution curve accelerated upwards.
“In the ‘90s, the process of modelling took a step further, thanks to Graphisoft, the company that brought on ARCHICAD. It’s one of the early programs that catapult what we now refer to as BIM, or Building Information Modelling.”
Automation is ever more present today with programs such as Dynamo, Enscape and SketchUp. Simplifying workload, these architecture software assign dimensions and values to visual cues. While some compound aspects of quantity surveying, others facilitate aesthetical innovations.
Back then, there were no values to lines drawn on AutoCAD, other than indications of phases and facades where stated. But with BIM software today, values such as material information and measurements are easily input.
“When you build a model virtually, you are projecting a series of brick walls. You can input into them insulation values, for instance. If a wall does not consist of bricks, then values such as cladding will follow. You can have all these information built in, and automate it,” Nasaruddin said.
“So when you assign four different walls in your model, they all enclose, giving way to automated values such as wall thickness and insulation properties, on top of obvious details such as colours.”
When it comes to delivering great creations and meeting the mark, Veritas believes there is no such thing as choosing one design software over the other.
On the equality between design and function, Foo says: “There is always a specific software for a specific set of functions. When it comes to project completion, each member of our working team will use a different program to tackle specific tasks they are responsible over.”
BRIDGING COMMUNICATION GAPS
Acquainting with certain types of computational design tools based on one’s role is an effective way of getting his tasks done, well within the area of his designation. But when it comes to innovation, there is no such thing as “comfort zone”.
A great architect today sets himself apart by being open to mastering BIM, in understanding the entire spectrum of the industry. This gives him insight into other important dimensions to a building such as infrastructure, MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) and construction.
Seeing itself as innovators of the industry, Veritas puts special emphasis BIM education and training among its employees.
Resident BIM manager and Frank Lloyd Write aficionadoAndi Kasa says: “BIM is recognised in Malaysia, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. A lot of people don’t jump into it, because they are leading projects as how they would before. “Fortunately, universities are taking it seriously, and educating students about it before they emerge in the professional market.”
The increasing emergence of BIM also uncovers a community of self-serving students who, for the love of knowledge, take it upon themselves to learn it, making them “the kind of architects in need”.
On the construction side of things, technology has also helped in bridging communicational gaps between project members, as well as between architects and contractors.
One of the things that Veritas has recently initiated is an internal Cloud
system, for effective communication,
task tracking and smooth handover processes.
Nasaruddin explains: “This system that we are testing will eventually ease the otherwise communicational delays and back-and-forth handovers between our architects and contractors. Also, errors spotted on site can be photographed and highlighted in the system. Feedback and problem-solving become immediate.”
Asked if there’s a certain technology that Veritas would aspire to incorporate, both Nasaruddin and Kasa enthusiastically cited virtual reality (VR).
“As a society, we have been talking about VR for ages, but it has not hit mainstream awareness here. Occulus, for example, has been working on it for a long time. Only recently didits breakthrough product come out, and that was for consumers,” Kamaruddin said.
“Once it is available at a point where it makes sense for us to professionally have it and use it in our operation and design processes, we will definitely take it on!”