Tag Archives: Architecture

Architecture – there’s a brilliant app for that!

‘There’s an app for that’ was Apple’s battle cry in their 2009 advert, and we scoffed at the idea that an app could do anything more than remind us when the last episode of ER was being shown or allow Mr Pacman to cheer up a dreary train ride.  10 years later, are apps literally defining the build of our landscape?

If you’re an architect, you may have spent time online scouring the web for useful tools to make life easier, maybe you’re already using online accounting apps like Xero or Quickbooks? Here is a selection of some of the more interesting software we found that might be useful for architects:

  • A360. This was created by CAD experts Autodesk, but this app lets you upload 2D and 3D drawings regardless of what software you used to make them.  This app means that these drawings are available on your phone no matter where you are, so you can review them, mark changes or observations, track the project’s progress and find your way around models of all sizes.


  • Concepts. This app isn’t just for architects, it can also be used by artists, illustrators, product designers and anyone that wants to be able to draw on the go, (but it is ideal for architects!)  It’s a digital sketch pad for professionals that enables them to draw exceptionally accurately with 64 bit precision.  With a 4.7 star rating, this is a popular choice!


  • Scala Architectural Scale. Despite the name, it is designed for both architects and engineers and it enables you to measure printed drawings both on the move and in your office.  It has both fixed and variable scales so whether you know the scale or not you can still use it.  There is a free version with 18 fixed scales, but you can expand the range with a paid-for upgrade.


  • RoomScan Pro. Great for smaller projects or improvement projects, this app allows you to mock-up the layout of a room very quickly just by waving your phone around the room believe it or not.  It even lets you draw out features such as stairs, exteriors and gardens.


  • Mosaic. Of course, we couldn’t leave out our own CDM app!  Mosaic app for construction professionals takes some of the sting out of the new initiative to get architects into the role of principal designer.  Mosaic can help users feel confident in their CDM work, as it gives frameworks to use and not just the template-based resources currently available elsewhere.  The key to this app is that it helps architects, who perhaps feel their CDM experience isn’t going to be sufficient to avoid potential prosecution, feel more secure in their work. The architects using Mosaic have declared they will be happy to take on more revenue-generating CDM work in the future, having started using our software.


Apps in architecture defining the landscape

These are only a handful of the myriad apps available online and offline, and with new technology opening up including the growth of AI and virtual reality as well as cloud-based tools, and the increased phasing out of the dreaded paper-based record keeping, in the future whole buildings could literally be designed by app alone. Architectural technology is a discipline that spans architecture, building science, design and engineering.

In practice, architectural technology is developed, understood and integrated into a building by producing technical architectural drawings, quantities, measurements and schedules. Computer software is now used on all simplest building types and methods, for the better. New breeds of architects perpetually innovate – while keeping an eye on the heritage of the past – to evolve their craft. For example, Guangzhou Opera House, designed by Zaha Hadid, is a suitably theatrical spectacle for the modern world, held together with joints built using medieval techniques, a fine blend of the past and the future! This level of asymmetry would not have been possible to achieve without modern modelling software and the architect’s vision!

The adoption of technology in architectural practice has undoubtedly allowed this creativity to be more easily achieved, but it has also enabled the industry to extend its business proposition far beyond its traditional remit of design and construction.


Architect | Created by slidesgo

Principal designer – why is an architect the best person for the job?

Since new legislation in 2015, the role of ‘principal designer’ has been one passed around like an unwanted gift.  The principal designer must establish a basic standard of Health and Safety practices throughout any given construction project, and theoretically, anyone with the relevant skills, knowledge and experience in Health and Safety could be the principal designer.

So surely some kind of health and safety administrator would be the best option to free up the architect’s time to create and design?  Actually, in the 2015 CDM Regulations, there was a strong drive for the architect to be the principal designer.

Why is an architect the best principal designer?

  • For maximum efficiency, a principal designer should be there from the start, as far back as the conception of a design. There is usually only one person or group of people present at that point and that is the building designer(s) – the architect(s).
  • It vastly decreases the risk of any health and safety issues as the building work is carried out. An architect who is also a principal designer isn’t just trying to create a beautiful and efficient building, but a beautiful, efficient building that is safe to work on and inhabit.
  • This in turn saves time. Once the design is finalized there is less need for there to be amendments and adjustment as a health and safety team review it.  Health and safety is considered throughout the design stage and is a part of the project from the off.
  • This in turn again can reduce the risk of unexpected costs. If all and any safety measures are put in place at the start, no new member of the team is going to add an additional 5% to the budget as they notice the need for a different material or additional safety measure.
  • Nobody knows the building like the building’s architect. An outsider will look at designs and renders and find out where everything is positioned and placed and why, but an architect already knows everything about the design.

With all of these overwhelming arguments for the architect being the principal designer, then why in December 2017 – nearly 3 years after the regulations were introduced – were only 60% of RIBA architects or architectural practices offering principal designer services?

The honest answer is most likely time and confidence.  Technology is to play a greater role in encouraging architects to step out of their comfort zone a little for the greater good.  With time-saving methodology and mobile technology, architects can provide the best possible service by wearing the hat of both an artist and designer of buildings, and a safe guarder of those building and living in it.

5 ways mobile technology is changing the way architects work

A recent study carried out by RIBA showed that 87% of architects agree that digital technology is transforming the way that they work. 79% state that adopting digital technologies leads to improved project efficiencies and 35% of architects use at least one form of mixed, augmented or virtual reality, with many planning to expand their use of immersive technology and use other variants soon.

Mobile Technology is beyond impressive now though and it is designed to be used on the move, or remotely.  Most smartphones now have microprocessors which enable increased computing power in a small device.

How is mobile technology progressing how architects work?

  1. Building Information Modelling. BIM was created in 1987 when ArchiCAD became regarded by some as the first implementation of BIM.  It was the first CAD product on a PC that could create both 2D and 3D geometry and was the first commercial BIM product for personal use. The 2016 central government target which then required level 2 BIM to be employed for its projects upped the game.  Luckily mobile technology was catching up to make this much easier for those wanting to get ahead of the game.  Years before this, mobile-friendly programs were being developed and now the majority of BIM software packages either already have or are due to have a mobile-friendly version.  Those worried that the enforcement of technology would mean running between being on-site and getting in front of their PCs can be reassured.
  2. Apps. Much of the time there are specific tasks such as health and safety that are important enough to be able to access at all times.  This is probably why there are so many established and up and coming apps on the market designed for niche tasks such as these.  In addition, they can fill in areas where architects feel less comfortable such as CDM regulations, providing useful frameworks to follow when acting as principal designer.
  3. Artificial Intelligence. A good example of this might be parametric design; a design system that enables architects to play with parameters to create different types of outputs and create forms and structures that would not have otherwise been possible.  Still in its infancy compared to other technology, using AI on the move will be essential to be able to function to the best of its ability.
  4. Virtual Reality. The possibilities for this area, in particular, are endless.  Being able to take a virtual tour of a finished project enables problems to be identified at the concept stage instead of at the end where rectifying the issues might be costly and time-consuming.
  5. Communication. A very basic functionality of mobile technology that we all sometimes take for granted.  It’s only in the last few decades that making and taking phone calls anywhere is possible and now we can add video calls, multi-person video conferences and of course mobile email to the mix.  This is what mobile phones were originally designed for, and essential for any successful architect.

The real cost of neglecting principal design on building extensions

Fines for not following health and safety in construction can go into the hundreds of thousands of pounds even if there is no accident, but when extending a building there is the added complication of current inhabitants.

The new Construction Design Management Regulations (CDM) were put into place in 2015 and enforced a greater emphasis on accountability from the conception stage all the way through to the finalization of a project, yet there have been a number of high profile cases where workers and members of the public have been put at risk since then.

In early 2016 concerns were raised about the lack of health and safety controls at a large timber frame extension being built onto a residential home in Exmouth.  Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive visited the site and found a number of health and safety breaches, including uncontrolled high-risk activities that put workers at risk of death, serious injuries or ill health. This included falls from height, fire, slips and trips and badly controlled wood dust.

Perhaps worse, as this was an extension there were inhabitants still at the premises, so 80 physically and/or mentally impaired residents were put at risk due to the possibility of fire spreading into the home.

Unsurprisingly the construction company involved were fined, but more significantly for this purpose so were the architects involved, as the legally responsible Principal Designer on the project.  Whilst they were involved in the design of the building and not the actual building of it, the responsibility of health and safety is now spread much further than just a supervisor on-site with a clipboard tick list.

How a principal designer reduces the risks

Architects taking on the role of principal designer might make them more responsible and liable, but it also gives them more control.  In setting the standards in health and safety at the design stage they not only reduce the risk of fines or worse, injury or loss of life, but they also set the standard expected by those involved.

The real cost may seem monetary and this number would no doubt have been so much higher if someone had been injured or killed.  In fact, the real cost is ethical.  In this example, very vulnerable members of the public were at risk but even in an event where members of the public aren’t involved, more vulnerable team members such as apprentices and trainees could be at risk if standards aren’t maintained.

Design Team Meeting | created by iconicbestiary

Health and safety – no longer architectural design’s ugly cousin

You don’t need to look far at the moment to see how big a legacy can be left by neglecting health and safety in construction projects.  This is not just when injuries and deaths occur on site but more predominantly of late, when people are living in the building once it’s habitable.

Building a sleek and sexy looking building used to be key, with a safe and steady building being something of the ugly cousin of the zippier design-led project.

Faced with the very human cost of what could happen, architects are now taking into account health and safety during the design and construction phases as well as the long-term safety and security of a building.  When presenting a building for proposal they recognize that people no longer want to just be dazzled with design, but they want to be able to see how it’s going to be a building without the potential for a devastating heritage.

Not only this, but an architect would not want to have to live with the knowledge that their design caused loss of life.  For most people, it’s beyond ticking boxes, you can literally save lives by taking health and safety into account from the conception stage.

Where does Construction Design management come in?

In short, when architects take on the role of principal designer, they get the best of both worlds.

As principal designer, they set the standard when it comes to Health and Safety practices throughout the construction of the project and beyond.  As they design, they look at how the construction might be achieved as safely as possible, and this becomes an integral part of the design itself.

The risk here is that Health and Safety once again becomes the unattractive annoyance as it increases the design phase timeline with additional paperwork and collaboration.  Smarter ways to work will be key in maintaining the momentum recently acquired where the safe construction and inhabitation of a building has become as important as the finished product design.