Are You a Technology-Enabled Architect?

Jan. 24, 2007

By Chuck Wilson, Executive Director, National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA)

Before you quickly say yes and move on, think about technology beyond your CAD systems, BIM, 3-D modeling, and other design tools. What completes your firm’s technical skill set is your capability to perform advanced technical design work. Do you offer complete design solutions for the client’s technical needs?

Think about the buildings you design or specify or work in. I would guess that you could think of dozens of ways to help your clients maximize their investments by applying technology in new ways. Why not take a proactive approach and ask questions relating to the total cost of ownership that explore ways to use electronic systems to enhance the buildings’ efficiencies, reduce staffing, and save energy? I guarantee that your clients will appreciate you asking these questions. Why not go further by being a leader in your marketplace?

One way to quickly review your technical offerings is to evaluate how comfortable you would be discussing divisions 25, 27, and 28 of the recently updated Construction Specifications Institute’s MasterFormat™ 04 with a client. I can tell you with great confidence that the technical systems in these new divisions will become the fastest-growing portion of your total project costs in the future.

In our latest market intelligence report research project we discovered that more than 35 percent of architecture/engineering firms and 62 percent of the construction management firms that filled out the survey have begun to transition to the 04 version. That is a terrific start, and I’m certain many more will convert in 2007.

In addition, we get reports of building owners who start with technology first when interviewing design firms. They have become so technology-savvy that often they will select the systems integrator and/or technology consultant before even interviewing architects. The reason I think this is happening is that there is a trend toward having the IT departments, facility management, and building operations play a larger role in the owner-led design teams. These men and women are totally onboard with technology and expect the same from you.

Their logic is that the technical systems have become integral to a building’s purpose. For example, a command-and-control center, performing arts center, conferencing facility, or even a house of worship must be equipped with audio, video, lighting, control systems, digital signage, and data networks that make that building perform for its intended purpose.

Technical applications will, in many cases, begin to drive new construction and lead to many renovation projects. This is all in addition to the more obvious need to conserve energy, build safer schools and hospitals, and construct more efficient workplaces. Like it or not, technology is a major factor in determining which firms get selected on many new projects. Why not give yourself a competitive edge by becoming a technology-enabled firm? It could well be the best way to protect your future and your business.

The good news is that NSCA University has a College of Allied Professionals that has been developed just for you. This series of courses provides instruction on how to discuss, design, and specify technical systems for commercial buildings. In addition, NSCA has hundreds of independent technical design consultants in our membership who can partner with you on your next project. Our role is to expose you to what’s possible, educate you on how to provide your clients with better systems, and help find the best partners to assist you in this effort.

In addition to all the talk of integrated technical solutions, advanced building designs, and convergence, we now have launched the Connected Buildings Conference™ that will offer you a look into the future of intelligent buildings during our NSCA Expo in Orlando, FL, this March. Please visit the NSCA website,, for more details.

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