Thursday, March 31, 2016

Software in the Profession

By: Ken Howder

Software in the Architectural Profession (and Lacking Thereof), Part 2

            The previous section merely pointed out an obvious problem (and it is a somewhat seriously productivity-effecting problem) related to ‘yet another’ confusing, frustrating, and time-ineffective topic about the current state of architectural academia, I would state an obvious solution to an obvious problem in a school setting: A specialized class, or classes, designed to inform students on the pros and cons of the several available packages.  However, this would not quite be enough due to the lack of access for some students to get these programs to use on their own.  This series of classes combined with the “student” license versions of each available to students would be an immense step taken forward for any architectural program. *I recently read an article that led me to the MIT school of architecture divisions website and their server/software/hardware setup that they offer all students in the division.  If you have never thought about what an “ideal learning environment” would look like, this is it – The MIT CASA server system.  
These programs are going to be around for the rest of the architectural field, and they are going to get to be more and more complicated tools.  I just strongly believe that this should be addressed in academic programs that offer architecture/other building fields.  I also firmly believe that access to actual computer labs equipped with proper equipment is a must as well.  With that in mind, a freezing cold room with Dell Inspirons (Inspiron class are, at best, capable Facebook and word document editing PCs) and unreliable printers in not an ideal place for students to learn some of the things needed.  Side note: especially when they run slower than my old Toshiba 1gb-ram laptop.  I brought one of my own projects that I work on into the lab one time, once was all that I needed to know that this lab in question is extremely outdated to a learning-environment suitable for technology majors such as architects.  I would ask that they upgrade at least to entry level workstation class computers, but I already know how that entire conversation would end up.  
Other factors to take into consideration for an effective computer lab in these types of fields include: Clustered computers for heavy CPU tasks (rendering), Graphic card upgrades/bridges for faster viewport rendering while doing work, and access to the different software that can be used in the field – All of the parametric and their corresponding suites, Rendering specific programs for M/V/I-Ray and of course the capable hardware, and – potentially the most important – simulation software such as IES-VE (having 4 computer licenses is not adequate, although if the hardware within the lab that you run it on can’t handle complex CPU load, then don’t even bother to offer any at all rather than 4), the virtual reality based software’s that are coming into play (such as Unreal Engine, etc.), and possibly the most important – Programs such as Mat Lab that can allow students to change the variables of their simulations in any way.  I say “such as,” because I am just getting into learning Mat Lab, and while it looks like a viable solution to run simulations (more accurate than IES-VE, Vasari, etc.) on dynamic building elements (currently static-only on the architectural simulation software).  Maybe my next post will describe more in detail on the pros/cons and what can actually be achieved by using Mat Lab in the architectural field.

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