I recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours in a chair at my dentist’s office with some time to think about how similar our two professions actually are. It’s interesting to think about the evolution of dentistry over the past twenty years and how much it parallels the evolution of the practice of architecture.
Last summer, my dentist of more than fifteen years decided to retire. He was a great listener and did a wonderful job of explaining the process and the expected results. These are skills all good architects possess as well. The irony was that he had terrible teeth, but I would guess that many architects live in ugly houses and it doesn’t affect how good they are at their profession. His practice was all analog; he didn’t even have a computer. All the appointments were hand written in a schedule book, cleanings were done with simple scraping tools and brushes, and he sculpted all the crowns he created by hand. A true craftsman and what many would label as “old school.”
Once he retired, I began going to my wife’s dentist whose practice just opened up. This dentist is young and all of her staff are even younger. She utilizes a very modern workflow that includes digital photos and X-Rays, cleaning with water jets, laser scanning, and even 3D printing. I now feel as though I have so much more information available to make decisions. Whereas I used to only have a conversation and maybe a small X-Ray, I now have multiple digital data streams at my disposal. My new dentist charges the same amounts, spends the same amount of time, but I am getting more value for the same price and effort.
I see this same transition first hand in the architecture profession. There are still many practicing architects that work the same way we have been for decades. They provide exceptional service and amazing designs. There are also many architects who have transitioned to a digital practice. They also provide exceptional service and amazing designs, but utilize technology to enhance their workflows, generate more information that is relevant to the process, and provide more value. Static hand renderings are being replaced by virtual reality, drawings are being replaced by models, thousands of design iterations can be generated quickly to find the optimal one, and deliverables now include 3D cutaways as well as information to help an owner manage the facility after construction. Is the traditional method broken? Certainly not, and some would argue it provides a more personal touch. But technology can often make the process better.
I’ve gone through this transition myself. In school, every piece of work I generated – except for one – was done by hand using various techniques and media. As soon as I began working after school, everything was then drawn by hand digitally with an electronic pen in CAD. Now, everything is a model-based BIM workflow. In addition to almost never printing anything, I now even take all of my notes digitally. I’ve embraced this change and will, hopefully, continue to do so throughout my life.
In my current role, I’m often asked, “why should I change how I run my practice?” I guess now I can answer them by saying, “maybe go ask your dentist.”
As an expert and thought leader in the AEC industry around BIM (Building Information Modeling) and FM (Facilities Management), T.J. assists architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners with successfully implementing efficient workflows with regards to design, build, and operate. After receiving his architectural degree, T.J. began his career by working in several architectural firms across the U.S. where he gained experience on both commercial and residential projects. Transitioning from the design-side of the industry, he has now become a recognized expert on the technology-side, working for one of the nation’s most successful Autodesk Partners as their Vice President of Technology Solutions..……He is a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. He has been known to remodel train stations on his lunch break. He has translated ancient Sanskrit, written award-winning operas, and can manage time efficiently. He can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed and cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in only twenty minutes. He is an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru. He plays bluegrass cello, was scouted by the Mets, and is the subject of numerous documentaries. Children trust him and the laws of physics do not apply to him. He balances, he weaves, he dodges, and all his bills are paid. He has played Hamlet at the Kennedy Center, performed open-heart surgery, and spoken with Elvis…… He is an Autodesk Implementation Certified Expert (ICE) and a veteran presenter at many industry events, including Autodesk University. A registered architect and LEED accredited professional, T.J. leverages his skills and experience to help clients successfully implement Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facilities Management (FM) solutions and workflows
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