Tools of the Trade II

This blog is a continuation of a discussion about an architect’s “tools of the trade,” specifically our communication tools between different parties in the design and construction field. 

After the client, the second party we communicate with is that of consultants.  Consultants are any other professionals, like engineers, landscape architects, etc, that we might hire on a project.  Below are just a few of the communication tools we frequently use with consultants:


Email / Calendars
This is probably the #1 communication tool for architects.  A huge amount of a project manager’s time is spent communicating with consultants via email and setting up future meetings or deadlines on the calendar to keep a project on track.


Walking the Building Site
Nowadays we hardly need to leave our desks to understand a building site.  Google Earth, Street View, County GIS systems, online USGS maps and aerial images make it so easy to get a sense of a piece of property.  Of course, meeting on site with many of the consultants, especially civil engineers, is still frequently needed.


Laser Scanning
Several consultants now offer laser scanning of environments that provide “point clouds” (i.e., regular samples of points in space that start to form an accurate 3D representation of a space), which are coupled with panoramic images of a space.  This can allow for very precise design work in existing undocumented or hard to access spaces.


Face-to-Face Meetings
Once a client has provided design direction, an architect needs to get all the consultants on the same page.  And for that, it’s hard to beat an in-person meeting.


Meeting Minutes
Detailed meeting minutes are essential for recording decisions and noting what needs to be done next.  As the coordinator of the design team, an architect is responsible for taking and distributing meeting minutes.  Frequently we include copies of the drawings that were sketched on during a meeting as a supplementary record.


File Sharing
Similar to Google Drive or Dropbox, SOA often uses Autodesk 360 to upload the most recent drawings or models for consultants to reference. Consultants use these drawings as a ‘background’ onto which they add their discipline’s information.


Spreadsheets (i.e. Microsoft Excel)
For space programming and cost estimating this is an especially great tool.  Frequently an architect will set up a framework for a cost estimate and then forward it on to different consultants to fill in the costs related to their field.


PDF (i.e. Bluebeam Revu)
PDF has become the universal 2D (and now 3D) document sharing format.  Bluebeam focuses on the AEC industries specific needs to consume, manage and manipulate this data in a quick and flexible way.  Especially helpful when all the PDFs we use have searchable text (which can be done via OCR) and vector lines.  Also bookmarking and hyperlinking in drawings really helps for usability during Construction Administration.


Screen Sharing
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, but combine this with a phone call and it is almost as good as a face to face meeting.  We use Skype for Business but I also like

The tools we use are constantly changing as new technology becomes available.  Stay tuned for the final part of this blog series: communication tools for code officials and contractors.

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