Most architecture firms are small, with 10 or fewer people wearing many hats: designer, draftsperson, project manager, biz dev, QA, marketing, finance, HR and more. What makes one firm better than the next boils down to two things:
- How well do they serve their clients? Are they designing the best building that leaves its owner delighted in all the key dimensions: functional, beautiful, safe, on time, on budget?
- How efficiently can the firm do their work? There is always a push-pull between keeping the client happy and having sufficient profit at the end of the project to keep the company vibrant and growing.
For a firm to successfully navigate those two prime factors, they need to maximize time spent in client meetings and design while minimizing the biggest time suckers in their workflows. For nearly every firm, drafting is public enemy number one!
For most projects, drafting (management of the required sheets, views, dimensions, tags, notes, schedules, lineweights, callouts, etc.) represents at least 50% of the total man hours spent, yet its primary objective is clear communication of decisions already made earlier in the process, which is a noble goal, but does not itself improve the design.
What if that whole block of time just disappeared? What if instead of today’s process of personally drafting your drawings (or handing them off to a draftsperson) for weeks, the drawing set was always instantly available and could be sent straight to QA for validation? That’s a game-changer in so many ways…
Who benefits from automating drafting?
Let’s check in with the various members of the firm and see how they’ll be affected:
Building Designer: You want to create a beautiful, safe, functional, affordable, constructable building. This requires you spend your time choosing and composing the building parts and their attributes. Today as your design progresses, you worry: will I remember to capture all these decisions in my drawing set, or will some annotations be missed, causing field errors or RFIs? An instant, procedurally-generated drawing set would track every design decision to ensure the set matches your intent.
Project Manager: You supervise your project’s schedule, manpower needs, and corresponding profitability. The largest and riskiest phase in the schedule is Construction Documents, during which time you increasingly resist change requests on behalf of your designers and draftspersons (“if we rearrange the program so late, we’ll have to re-draft our plans!”). PSA: every time you say “no” to a client costs you in customer satisfaction. If a project’s drawing set were always instantly available, you could accommodate design changes much later in the process – without repeat drafting work, inflating your schedule and shrinking your margin.
Image Credit: Lee Calisti
QA or Technical Lead: You need to ensure your firm’s designs and documents are high quality. Manual drafting, even using today’s leading software, introduces lots of human error. For example, one of the most common errors in a drawing set is contradiction: your wall’s dimension was strung to its finish face, when the sheet note claims “all dimension strings refer to face of wall structure”. On a two-hour wall, that’s 1-¼” of discrepancy right there – enough to prevent that built-in cabinetry from fitting, so suddenly your client’s receiving a change order from the GC to reframe the wall or resize the cabinetry.
If drafting is automated, and the drawing set’s annotations are procedurally generated, they would all obey the same clear, complete, consistent rules, all the time. The QA person’s role can eliminate time spent on the drawing quality, and focus 100% of their energies on design quality.
Marketing or Business Development: You want your firm to stand out from the pack. The most powerful differentiators are those which directly affect the client and lead to rave testimonials. A fast, responsive architect who can speed up design cycles, allow more client input and changes, and who delivers working drawings at every stage of the project is a building owner’s dream. In construction, an error-free drawing set, fully and automatically annotated can reduce RFIs by up to 80%, keeping the build project on time and on budget – yet more music to clients’ ears.
Financial controller: You see the benefits at the bottom line: eliminating drafting means more than just eliminating the cost of man hours associated with the person doing that work. QA cycles are faster, and front-line architects and designers will have more time and opportunity to deliver a happy client. That means higher customer satisfaction a higher bid win rate. Likewise for HR, it also means happier architects who are designing, not drafting, and arguing about fewer errors in their drawing sets. You’ll see less turnover – who would leave a firm in which their work balance was 0% drafting?
It’s Time to Eliminate Drafting…
Production of drawing sets is an important service offered by any architecture firm, but, at least today, it’s a painful one as well. Virtually all departments of the firm will benefit greatly from its automation. And that’s exactly what we plan to do with Modumate, the first all-new 3D design solution for architects in nearly 20 years. From any arrangement of 3D objects, Modumate will know how to draft your drawing set – clearly, consistently, completely, and instantly.
Founder & CEO of Modumate.
Licensed architect in California. Previous experience at 7 architectural design firms ranging from 1-300 employees in size. Also a LEED AP building performance consultant (net-zero energy/water/waste/carbon).