Today, more than ever, architects face the need to embrace a “digital transformation journey.” A wide-ranging suite of tools and technologies are continually generating new possibilities for collaboration and innovation. Those teams that leverage these possibilities can radically improve productivity, efficiency, and client experience.
The “digital transformation journey” is less about the evaluation and use of these tools and technologies—or even about their outcomes. Instead, the journey is about embracing a growth mindset. This mindset is open to experimentation, renewal, and change. Digital transformation involves reimagining how a firm brings together teams, data, and processes to create value for clients and maintain a competitive advantage. It’s all about the journey—there is not set destination.
Over the past decade, MOA has explored a variety of tools and technologies to assist our teams in executing the firm’s vision of delivering the promise and value of great design. More than simply the willingness to adopt a new tool or technology, our firm’s embrace of this digital transformation journey is a foundation of our culture, and a shared belief in our strategic direction.
Below, we highlight several technologies and explore how they are changing the way our teams deliver projects and the internal workings of our practice.
One critical change to the internal workings of our practice is the adoption of a culture that embraces digital transformation. Our team is empowered to explore new ways of delivering work for our clients, provided the autonomy to advocate for change as well as the training and tools to implement those changes.
Culture, of course, is not directed from above—while a digitally literate and engaged leadership team sets the course, everyone at MOA, from newly hired interns to seasoned architects and designers, generates the will and momentum to adapt swiftly and effectively to change.
MOA’s methods for presenting design to our clients is in a state of constant change—one that will likely accelerate over coming years, as mixed, augmented, and virtual reality bring our design work to life in new and engaging ways prior to construction.
Our design team leverages a range of predesign tools during the discovery stage as we assess potential project sites. The incorporation of specific, contextual insights can often serve as a critical source of inspiration for our team, well before they launch into the 3D design process. Other tools enable our team to filter a large set of design ideas, presenting only those that are most suitable for the project. These tools include historical climate data analysis, building orientation analysis, daylighting analysis, and analysis of regional weather conditions. Tools deployed during the BIM process assist our designers in analyzing a variety of design options, indicating areas where changes could lead to potential cost savings.
COVID turned our work lives upside down, with a major impact on MOA’s business practices and workplace environment. Given the necessity of social distancing and the advent of remote work in March 2020, our team dove into a plan to implement improved communications infrastructure and enable employees to fluidly work from home offices and collaborate, later in the pandemic, across teams in multiple locations.
The virtual workspace quickly took center stage—collaboration occurring in virtual meetings that leverage video conferencing and cloud-based document sharing and collaboration. Our office’s embrace of BIM process eased MOA’s transition to the virtual and hybrid workplace, positioning physically dispersed project teams to work together much as they were before the pandemic—on virtually shared models in a common data environment.
The virtual workplace was likewise embraced by our industry partners—including clients, associate architects, consultants, and contractors—allowing us to collaborate more effectively externally as well. The ability to conduct clash detection on BIM models has shown continuing value as our teams collaborate across large project teams.
As we develop a BIM model for a project, we are virtually constructing the building before it is physically built. The value of a virtual model enables our design team to standardize, systematize, and optimize every element of the building before shovels are in the ground.
The suite of available BIM tools transforms the process of architecture, providing architects and designers with the ability to validate designs according to an increasingly wide range of performance metrics. This enables us to the deliver the economical, efficient, and effective designs that are looking for.
The gains in efficiency in the BIM approach are obvious—a 3D, data-rich model that the entire project team can develop, share, and access removes many of the hang-ups and tensions of the traditional design process. A shared BIM model provides the much-needed framework that allows the broader industry to move away from the previous fragmented and (often) adversarial approach to construction.