How To Advance Your Design Workflow

The architecture and construction industries have always been intrinsically tied to technological innovations. Every breakthrough in architectural style is a reflection of the advanced tools and materials that become available. In addition to revolutionizing the way we design, technology redefines our design inputs, generating new possibilities, and connections within our work.

In this article we will look at how you can easily integrate cutting-edge tools into your design workflow, giving you the chance to enhance your projects. For an overview of the benefits of these innovative tools, take a look at our last article on The Benefits of Recycling Architecture.

Our previous article illustrates how new technology is advancing our capability to affordably recycle, renovate, and reuse architecture. However, these tools are not limited to repurposing buildings. They also have innovative applications within the entire spectrum of architecture, design, landscape architecture, and project management.  This outline is intended to open new creative avenues within your design process regardless of your field.

The Workflow:

Workflows are personal, and strategic depending on the work that is being carried out. Certain steps may be included or omitted depending on the parameters of your project.

Courtesy of Wingtra


  • Photogrammetry is the process of taking thousands of photos, each with a referenced geolocation. The standard practice is to use a drone with a predetermined flight path to capture the required imagery. These photos are then stitched together using computer software to create a comprehensive 3D model with texture mapping taken from the images.

  • Lidar is a three-dimensional particle scan based on the principles of radar and created by lasers. It provides incredibly accurate results if performed correctly, and until now it has been far too expensive to be used in common renovation projects. In the past, lidar has been used to map the pyramids and other high-value sites. Today, it is far more accessible and used as the ‘eyes’ of self-driving cars. It has even become a feature of the new iPhone and iPad! It is a fact that you can now perform 3D scans with the device in your pocket. Check out this article to see the results!

Both of these methods have their pros and cons which are comprehensively compared in this article on Photogrammetry vs. Lidar. While these techniques still require a little human touch, it is minimal with the readily available computational assistance.

In comparison, if we consider, the time, labor, and funds that would have been required to achieve this as little as ten years ago, it is almost certain that the project would take a different direction, rightfully influenced by the factors above.

Courtesy of CyberOptics


Our next step is the translation of information. This is done using a computer and can be achieved using most laptops, making it even more accessible to the individual practitioner. There are a number of free and paid softwares that you can use to do this.

Rhinoceros 3D produces great results as we can see in use by the Landscape Architecture firm Topophyla, who have successfully integrated this tool into their workflow dubbing it Drone Aided Design (DAD). Based on their results, it is especially helpful in mapping the site boundaries, terrain, and trees as well as any existing structures.

Courtesy of AccuCities


Now you have your 3D model of the existing site! Next, you can 3D print the model on your desktop 3D printer to have a tactile physical model for your design process and your next client meeting. 

If you are doing a lot of physical model prototyping, there are a lot of affordable desktop 3D printers on the market. If you only need it periodically, there are other solutions. Check if your city has a local FabLab where you can rent machines hourly at affordable rates. Otherwise, there are many services worldwide that will print and ship the model to you depending on your needs.

Courtesy of ScanTek3D


Finally, as you enter the construction phase, you will be able to precisely prefabricate elements, reducing overall costs and margin for error. But remember, your project’s success is dependent on the quality of data that you gather. Any small mistakes or gaps in information will be magnified and all of your efforts to reduce the margin for error in the construction phase will be pointless. 

During the construction phase, it is important to constantly evaluate the project. This work is also made simple if we cycle back to the first step: SCAN. You might wonder why we need to do this again?

The reason for re-scanning the ongoing works are for the as-built inspection & modeling for quality control and for the re-calculation of material quantities. Integrating this step into your project makes it far more sustainable and saves cost. Performing this study at various stages provides data for the reevaluation of material quantities, limiting waste and scrap materials, and reducing the environmental impact of the project.

Courtesy of Topophyla


Now that you understand these steps, you can start to experimentally integrate them into your existing design process. In addition to making your work easier and more precise, it has the potential to remove creative boundaries, prompting you to produce elements or ideas that you could not envision before. It enables you to take a new perspective on the project inputs and parameters.

Overall, the architecture and construction industry will benefit greatly from these innovations, and,  you do not have to be a big company to use them. These tools are affordable and available to the individual, enthusiast, or private practitioner. 

Written by Keesje Avis

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