Design Tech Innovations
We are in an age of technology. The tech world is constantly evolving these days–just when you think they’ve done it all, there’s a new app you can install on your phone that makes life a little easier. Rewind to forty years ago– computers and high tech gadgets were just starting to take off. Anyone from the 70’s remembers PONG, one of the first home video games. Now, the technology has evolved so much that you can now send a message to somebody on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds. How cool is that?! In our industry of remodeling and design, we have been able to benefit from these design tech innovations as well. Here’s a look at some cool design tech innovations that have improved the design and remodeling industry.
Home improvement shows are all the rage right now, and one of the star features is the computer rendering of the proposed designs. It’s incredible to see a designer’s vision in striking detail in a video rendering and then see that vision come to life. While there are certainly some embellishments on the renderings you see on TV (many of those programs are created just for the TV world), software used by most architects and design-build firms is coming close to matching what you see on slickly produced TV shows.
One outstanding example is Chief Architect. While not recommended as a DIY software (although their website begs to differ), this is a product used by many local firms. Chief Architect Software is computer aided design software for the home design and building industry. Chief Architect was originally released way back in 1992, but in the last few years, improvements have made it much more user-friendly, and the graphics rendering ability of the product is outstanding.
Gone are the days of hand drawn blueprints where design changes can take multiple meetings and weeks to deliver. Once a structure is built as a 3D model in Chief Architect, then moving walls, windows, doors and interior design elements such as furniture and lighting can be done real time during meetings with clients. This literally saves months of work during the design and development phase of a project. Chief Architect covers all aspects of design, from construction and framing documents, cabinetry and millwork, to interior design elements, paint colors, counters, flooring, and even furniture. Designers can import custom items and add them to the design for a realistic vision of your project. It is truly changing the design world.
The mainstream introduction of smartphones in the late 2000’s ushered in more improvements for our industry. Even something as simple as the built-in camera and ability to send a picture instantly on a smartphone has made managing construction infinitely more efficient. Project foremen can collaborate with customers and designers who cannot be on-site “real time” when they need an answer in order to keep a job moving.
Moving to applications, there are great new visual tools to envision what your home will look like with new siding and a new color, or what a paint color might look like on your walls. It is as simple as snapping a few pictures and letting the app do the work!
James Hardie, the manufacturer of the #1 ranked cement siding in the USA, has teamed with a company called Hover. This application will provide accurate measurements and a rendering of a home. This helps siding companies provide accurate budgets and a sneak peek at what your home will look like with new James Hardie siding.
Production teams in the field can install measuring applications that will help generate materials lists, assist with framing plans, calculate angles or room dimensions, and more.
And of course, there is the flashlight app on almost every phone these days. Simple, and used almost every day!
Remember buying magazines and marking pages or cutting out pictures when planning a home project? Well, maybe not if you are under 30! Today, planning your project starts online. From finding a design-build firm, creating idea books with inspiration photos, researching appliances, furniture and other decorative finishes, and everything in between– everything you need is at your fingertips online. As with design software, online research and shopping saves lots of time and streamlines the design process.
If you are planning a home improvement project or to build a new home, one of the best websites is HOUZZ.COM. Houzz is a website and online community about architecture, interior design and decorating, landscape design and home improvement. The Houzz platform and mobile apps feature photos, articles, product recommendations, and a user forum. On Houzz, you can browse over 12 million pictures, find a designer or contractor, and shop for finish materials for your home. Finding inspiration photos and sharing them with your design time will make collaboration a breeze and will help your designers to understand your vision!
Let’s face it, everybody is overbooked. Work, kids, gym, school, church, friends . . . when do you ever get off the “treadmill of life”? For many, weekends are reserved for kids’ sports or recitals. Nights? You’ve got kids’ practices! It’s hard to carve out time to focus on a major home project–but it is critically important. When I’m dealing with a client who cannot focus on a project or invest a little of their time and energy, it’s a red flag. Those are the folks who rush through everything and then end up complaining because they think the project wasn’t planned to their liking.
Fortunately, technology is helping solve this problem. With Go To Meeting and other live meeting software, presentations can be done from anywhere at any time. This makes a world of difference during the design and development phase of a project, and it ensures all parties are on the same page. Sometimes, emails and calls are just not enough to solve problems and collaborate on design details.
Speaking of emails, you’ll also see a major reduction in the amount of email used as online collaboration becomes the standard of the industry for project management. While this has already happened in many industries with larger corporations, the design and remodeling industry is just now starting to embrace this great technology.
A perfect example is the Microsoft 365 platform. With this product, each project or customer has an online “newsfeed” where all communications and files are stored. The communications are much like a Facebook newsfeed, so it is easy to track all communications among a team of designers, project managers, and customers and refer to the feed later if there are questions.
Laser levels and measuring devices!
Yep, as simple as it sounds, a laser level or a laser measuring device can make life a whole lot easier! In terms of measure, I can measure the entire inside of a home including cathedral ceilings in about 1/5 of the time it takes with a tape measure. Carpenters use laser levels to plan complex framing projects or to assist in perfect installations of kitchen cabinets, and again the time saved is remarkable!
Clearly, the design tech innovations advancements over the past ten years have drastically improved the design-build industry. We can’t wait to see what the next ten years may hold!