By Sun Kim
Posting in Architecture
If robotics are moving into design, are computer programs pushing architects out? An article in the New York Times considers the rise of computer programs that let you design your own home.
If robotics are moving into design, are computer programs pushing architects out? Steven Kurtz for the New York Times writes about the increase in number and sophistication of computer programs that let you design your own home.
Some of these programs are created and released by architects and builders to make design accessible.
“We’re taking architectural skill, color choices and design, and putting it in the hands of someone who would not otherwise be able to afford an architect,” said John Stephenson, senior vice president for marketing at Ply Gem. For novices who want to spruce up a home’s exterior, Mr. Stephenson said, the Web tool “helps them get there.”
Jeroen Bekkers, the Dutch architect who created Floorplanner, which allows users to make detailed plans of rooms or entire houses, complete with furniture and landscaping, said he wanted to “involve people in the design process.”
The article goes on to profile homeowners who have successfully or not so successfully used the programs to get a project built. Most projects were small renovations of single rooms, but one doctor spent several months successfully designing a one story home.
As with any software, the skill of the user ultimately determines how useful or successful the outcome will be. People who have DIY knowledge and determination might be fine with just SketchUp and a good contractor. For others, the software becomes just a visualization tool or game, kind of like building a house in the Sims.
What's missing from programs like Floorplanner and Chief Architect is coordination ability, to warn someone the wall they just took out in their drawing was load bearing, or that the walls they'd like put in are over their property setbacks.
People tend to think of architects as simply providing the drawings, he added, without realizing how many other issues they deal with, like creating a design that’s in harmony with the site and the climate, following local building codes and coordinating with vendors and tradesmen. “That’s a lot for the lay person to take on,” Mr. Isch [cochair of the American Institute of Architects residential committee] said.
Even Ms. Petersik, the extreme D.I.Y.er, said she and her husband would think twice before tackling a bigger project like designing a house using Floorplanner or SketchUp. “I could see us feeling empowered by the program, but I could also see the program giving us false confidence,” she said. “It feels like an awfully big gamble.”
Image: Lineal Inc.
Jun 25, 2012
It is the fact that we do not value our buildings that our landscape looks like it has been run over by Godzilla. We don't see the value in design any more than we see the value in building efficiency. It is all about the first cost and building something that should be torn down in five years. Architecture is an ever evolving dynamic that is a reflection on the environment and on our aspirations as people. Many people look at something that was built a couple of hundred years ago and think, yeah that looks good. Real architects are looking at available materials and are designing the appropriate building for now and the future. Unfortunately, many architects roll over and do not engage their clients, because designing a building successfully does take time, which does cost money. If you want to devote land and building materials to something that will likely be there for dozens of years, it is worth getting a professional involved. What you don't know can hurt you and all the passersby that have to deal with the careless owner's design attempt for generations to come. Hire an architect - it will cost 2-3% of the cost of the project, but a good one will save you money and provide you with a project that will receive a better return on investment.
You can usually create your own design plans and then run them past a structural engineer to see if it is sound and the town engineer to make sure they are up to code. In many cities they are required steps anyway to get a building permit regardless of who makes the designs. Both architects I have worked with did this. They never worried about such things when doing their designs.
I have designed and built 2 houses and numerous additions as well as one barn using Google sketchup, as well as others using conventional design tools. Disclaimer: I am a small builder and understand the basics of construction, insulation,wiring, plumbing, setback restrictions and perhaps the most important, orientation. In some cases a structural engineer and a home designer is more useful than an architect. There are many architects who are awful just like there are bad doctors and lawyers. Expect incompetence and mediocrity. I would say to anyone interested to plow ahead and design away and run it by a competent builder, preferably one with good customer feedback who is willing to work with you. Keep the design simple such as a rectangular footprint close to the "golden section" with decent roof overhangs and no complex roof valleys and hips etc. Where you really save money is using quality recycled materials and windows and doors and doing the high priced home building chores like electrical and plumbing. Don't be afraid to use $15-20/hour framers but avoid the $60-80/hour guys. Use a lot of concrete well insulated to store heat or cold and insulate, insulate, insulate! The only decent insulation is foam or spray cellulose. The best foam is spray foam but foam panels are very necessary regardless. Refrigerators and water heaters are all spray foam insulated. Forget batts. Good luck. If you are going to build, make it last 500 years and that means keeping water and sun from destroying the structure.
An architect does more than just design a house, he makes sure that the specifications are correct. Would a normal homeowner planning on building in the Northeast know that you want 6" exterior walls with 20-rated insulation? Would they know that the local building code requires 12" stud-work instead of 16" that's legal elsewhere in the same state? Does the program automatically calculate how many nails you need for the walls and roof? Does it automatically specific hurricane-clips if you live in an area where they happen to occur? Until the program can know and understand the trade-offs between different materials, and be able to explain them to the homeowner in simple language, until it can automatically design the plumbing system with proper by-pass pipes and vents, until it "knows" the local building codes, a program will never replace an architect.(And, yes, I know what I am talking about, I built my own home using a design program and it was like building a house with Lincoln Logs. It gave me correct square footages, wall lengths, etc., but did not tell me how many 2x4's I needed, nor how much electrical wiring I needed, nor where to run those wires.) Terry Kepner www.FlyingChipmunkPublishing.com
My wife and I designed and built our house 25 years ago. It was fun, and the house is great to live in. Do-it-yourself first time builders should be aware that building your own house requires extensive learning from books or experts, and the time consumption is significant. We researched well, planned well, and worked full time on the house. The rewards are more than just having a house.
I saw the writing on the wall 10 years ago and began cross training myself. I could see the field of architecture was going to be similar to artists. While there are rich patrons who appreciate a good artist, the average person cannot afford originals and must contend with copies. Anything an architect/engineer does can be programmed into a design software. Softwares can be programmed by GIS to enter design and specifications for particular climate zones, earthquake forces or hurricane forces. It is all math. All the user would have to enter his address. There are softwares in effect now that check for building codes. Revit does material take-offs right now. However there is one thing software cannot do and that is to make unique and innovative designs. Most home owners are not looking for that. The future role of architects will be designing signature buildings and monuments for governments or commercial builders.