A specialised and fundamentally technical area of expertise, architectural design is an essential component of building construction. The process of architectural design includes the generation of architectural models and drawings through architectural design and architectural drafting processes. With growing demand for such services, there is a corresponding demand for skilled human resources capable of providing these functions in Western countries, which can be a constraint for firms not equipped with an adequate number of trained personnel. A legitimate solution to overcome this constraint can be found with overseas companies that specialise in delivering the relevant services.
To better understand the services required, it is important to look at an overview of what constitutes architectural design. Primarily, this involves the process, output and services associated with the different stages of architectural design, which are: Concept Stage, Schematic Design Stage, Design Development and Permissions Stage and the Construction Documents Stage. These stages are inherent in every architectural project. Here’s what they entail:
In the Pre-design Stage, the parts of the design are assembled and options of the design can be figured out from reviewing zoning and building codes. In this stage of design, full code summaries and research design parameters are produced. Basic site research is conducted to decide solar angles and any other site-specific conditions. A primary part of this stage is listening to the client and getting to know their needs. These ideas are then sketched. The structure’s dimensions are measured and drawn for base drawings. A list of needs of the project is made. The architect then finds or creates surveys, sketches, site plans, floor plans and elevations to the client a rough idea of the design.
At this stage, the ideas begin to be fleshed out, decisions are taken on what ideas are feasible and which ones work best for the location and fit within the budget. Several design options are sketched depending on rooms and features asked for. There is quite a bit of back and forth at this stage, since the client’s feedback would result in a number of reworked, modified and updated sketches. A specific design will emerge, and loose drawings are made, regularly by hand. Once this is approved, a schematic pricing set, which includes plans, sections, elevations and a basic list of everything that can’t be drawn, is produced. The sequence of the process is discussed, and the functions of the building are considered, and diagrams are produced. Doors and windows are added schematically. Plans and elevations can show the basic envelope. Options for materials to be used are discussed.
Design Development and Permissions
Schematic drawings are developed into permit or planning documents. A lengthy review process takes place, taking into consideration zone requirements. Drawings are developed into 3D models to make better decisions. At this stage, there is increased coordination with structural engineers to complete engineering and detailing work. Floor plans and elevations will have specific dimensions and choices of wood, flooring, windows, locations of cabinets and appliances, assembly details and relevant code information will be finalised. More details are added than ever before, even such details as how the floor meets the wall – base trim, flush trim or no trim. Mullions define window openings. All recommendations made by trades, suppliers and manufacturers are included in the drawing set and submitted to authorities for permits.
Once permits are obtained, the rest of the documents required to commence building are finalised. These include design refinements of the design development documents. They involve further detailing, interior elevations and material choices. MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) plans and foundation plans submitted by the structural engineer are added. There is also a great deal of coordination. Drawings generated at this stage develop to a great level of detail, for example, how a handrail bracket connects to a wall or how much a tiled floor is sloped to drain water. These extensive details are required for the contractor, as construction drawings dictate how the project will proceed.
The different stages of architectural design can be executed with a single software platform or a combination of platforms. Some of the preferred software options and what they help to achieve are as follows:
Autodesk’s Revit BIM platform helps provide:
– 3D BIM models from pre-construction concept stages to detailed construction stages.
For MEP engineering design, within the BIM format, DIALux and Camel assist in MEP design, MEP coordination, MEP drafting, and MEP modelling with:
– Mechanical, electrical, public health and fire protection building services design for concept, schematic, design development, tender and construction stages.
Revit MEP and Navisworks for 3D building services coordination can help in producing:
– Spatially coordinated Revit 3D models, including all building services (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire) with other disciplines (steel, concrete, false ceilings, etc.)
– MEP coordination drawings of plant rooms, building risers, prefabricated corridors and ceiling modules
AutoCAD and AutoCAD MEP can help create:
– MEP CAD drawings, installation drawings and shop drawings
Using Revit Architecture and ArchiCAD for architectural CAD services helps produce:
– Construction drawing sets, CAD drawings
– Architectural CAD drafting, architectural CAD models, architectural photomontage creations and architectural rendering
Even though a healthy choice of software tools exist to aid in developing architectural design, there may be certain constraints. These include:
Access to the Right Resources – Skilled resources with recognised expertise are required to provide services utilising the above software tools. This means that there should be a sufficient quantity of human resources that have the technical qualifications, knowledge and experience required for different projects of varied proportions. Also, the personnel involved would ideally be dedicated to one project at a time and not working simultaneously on other projects.
Expensive Software – Architectural firms must be prepared to invest in updated software for all relevant personnel, which could prove to be expensive.
Training – Each contributing project member must be extensively trained on possibly different software for them to be efficient and comfortable with the software tools available and necessary to create a competent and comprehensive product. This can be expensive and time-consuming.
How best can these constraints be overcome?
Most, if not all, of the above-mentioned constraints can be overcome by outsourcing either part of or the entire design process. The reasons why outsourcing, especially to countries such as India, helps generate technically efficient architectural design at competitive rates are because:
• Overseas countries possess a wide array of experienced and technically well-qualified teams. The sheer numbers mean that obtaining dedicated teams, especially with an architectural CAD services team, for an entire project’s design or any specific part of it is no pipe dream and can be achieved well within budget.
• Several overseas firms have been in the business for some time now, and so, there is a real possibility of finding a suitable and budget-friendly firm with 5-10 years’ architectural design and drafting experience.
• The popularity of the Revit BIM platform among overseas outsourced companies leads to higher levels of sound experience, paving the way for qualified technical expertise at less cost.
• A bank of overseas companies specialising in BIM outsourcing have earned impressive certification, generally a minimum of ISO9001:2015. Autodesk-affiliated centres, with Autodesk Developer Network status, are in large supply overseas, further ensuring optimum quality services.
In summary, the architectural design stages of Concept Design, Schematic Design, Design Development and Permissions and Construction Documents are essential for successful project execution, and though several different software platforms can help architects and other project team members deliver comprehensive design, there may exist certain constraints for Western firms. The solutions to these constraints can ideally be rectified with one key adjustment – outsourcing. Outsourcing in architectural design has been shown to be cost-effective and produce technically sound and high quality architectural drawings, models, computer-generated images and construction documents. It is the ideal way of overcoming architectural resource-related design constraints.