Join Eric Carter, CEO of Approach Technology, as we explore “Innovations in Architecture” through conversations with the most influential in architecture, construction and engineering firms and technology.
To keep up with Seattle’s exploding architecture and construction market Schemata Workshop had faced problems with their old in-house server model. New architecture CAD models were growing exponential in complexity and size. They needed to remove the hassle associated with managing their old IT infrastructure such as managing hard drive space and backups. In addition, they had to adapt to new construction project partner’s needs that required the flexibility to look up models, take notes and create punch-lists on the job site. They wanted the flexibility to quickly add new team members and to enable a higher-level of collaboration in terms of sharing project information on any devices at work, on the job site or at home.
At the client’s request, Shemata Workshop decided to use the Approach Technology Cloud, an innovative technology and managed IT service that sets the standard for project efficiency and collaboration for AEC Professionals worldwide. Approach Technology made it easer for Schemata Workshop to scale their booming business and cost effectively add new employees without the need for expensive workstations. Schemata Workshop’s new cloud enabled teams enjoyed new speed and rendering power to quickly build, share and collaborate on huge Revit models without the burden of downloading them from the old in-house server. Thanks to Approach Technology’s Cloud, Schemata Workshop’s team now has the flexibility to work from the office, at home or on the job site with any device. The hassles of weekly software updates were removed, storage is now scaled dynamically with new projects and the owners rest easier at night without the risk of having all of their data stored at the office.
- Increased the ability to scale their team members and computing needs with the added flexibility to work form anywhere on any device
- The end-to-end managing cloud based IT replaced the old in-house servers and associated hassles with adding new storage, back ups, updates and security
- Approach Technology cloud allowed real-time, synchronized communication and markups between offices and many different job site locations
Tell us how Schemata Workshop started?
Mike Mariano: Since graduating from school in 1993 my partner and I have had a chance to work in some pretty advanced offices with very advanced technology over the years. That gave us a sense and a taste for what an organized firm looks like with all of the tools, techniques and support that a large firm has to offer.
When we opened up our practice almost 15 years ago now, we had the interest of having similar tools and support for the work we were doing at the time at large firms. There was just four of us at the time when we opened. Now we are fourteen and growing. The technology that we surround ourselves with has allowed us to deliver really high-quality products to our clients.
Who are your clients and what are your favorite projects?
Grace Kim – Clients range from public agencies including the City of Seattle’s Sound Transit and other transit authorities. We do a lot of housing work for affordable housing providers as well as for profits development entities. Our favorite projects are the ones that improve the public realm. A high-profile example of this in Seattle is the Capitol Hill Transit Oriented Development Project which is above the new light-rail station on Capital Hill.This was a complex project that required us to organize our team internally, with our partners on the job site or at their offices. The project serves our community and is the central hub of activity on Capitol Hill.
Tell us about how you scaled your technology since you started?
Mike Mariano -We started off having an in-house server when we opened up our practice fifteen years ago. Fairly typical at the time we had an in-house server and individual desktop PC workstations, just like every other architect had. That served us for a while. Eventually I found the opportunity to look at the cloud. ATI approached us with this idea of using their managed IT support services, Citrix andAmazon Web Service’s (AWS) Cloud. The cloud delivers high computing power at each and every workstation that is independent of the actual PC that you’re sitting at. The (Citrix) virtual machine allows us to access to so much technology and use it remotely anywhere gives our staff a tremendous amount of flexibility from where they work whether it’s on site at home just the ability to be anywhere in have access to the full system.
What architecture software are you now running from the cloud?
Most of the software we are using is related to Autodesk. Autodesk has a three-dimensional building information modeling program (BIM) called Revit. We were one of the first to use it to really it’s fullest and of one of the smaller companies to do so at the time. Autodesk and Revit have become very common these days and now is the AEC industry’s standard.
We also use the Adobe Creative Suite that includes InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. I have a tablet that I use Adobe Draw with often. It is kind of “old school” in the sense that I can just draw with it; but it outputs vector graphics to share with other applications and the ones we use for marketing. The cloud now powers our large desktop workstations, laptops, tablets and even mobile phone applications from anywhere with an internet connection.
New Approach Technology AEC cloud computing enables a new way of working
With the cloud we are enabled to work on the job site and perform a process called “Punch Listing”. This is a process by which the architect will go around with a general contractor and review a project. After the construction project is substantially completed, we walk around the job site with the contractor and a tablet running Bluebeam. This software allows us to go ahead and mark up the CAD drawings. We can actually take pictures in the field of the things that we are looking at and take notes. The contractor appreciates this because we can give them a completed list of everything that needs to be done. Then they can go through and mark off that list and make sure everything is completed correctly for everyone’s satisfaction.
The technology that Approach Technology has afforded us via the cloud provides us with the ability to have high computing power on each and every workstation. This is independent of the actual PC that you’re sitting at and is powered by the Citrix virtual desktops. This new approach allows us to have access to our applications in the cloud and enables us to work remotely anywhere, on any device. The Approach Technology cloud model gives our staff a tremendous amount of flexibility from where they work, whether it’s on the job site or at home. Just the ability to be anywhere and have access to our full system in the office is exciting.
What was the trouble with your old in-house server?
When we had our in-house server it was managed by an outside IT consultant who monitor it remotely. Periodically they would come to the office to take a look at things. We did not have air conditioning like most other smaller scale offices in the Northwest. Periodically, we would hear the fan winding up on the server when it was hot. Yes, we have security in the building. However, every now and then as an owner I was concerned that I would walk up one day and see all of our PC’s and server missing! We had to make sure that all of our backups and everything else was done. Certainly we were diligent on how we approached everything and made sure that we were doing all of the right things with the technology available to us at the time. Yet a lot of the time, well it still didn’t feel quite like it was enough.
The transition to the cloud was seamless
The transition the cloud was pretty seamless. Approach Technology met with us to develop a list of processes that needed to be done. They identified all of our users in the office. Then they set each user up with all of their personal applications, custom settings and data that they needed on their new (Citrix) virtual machines. This way each user had a way to vet what was on their old system and compare it with their new virtual desktops in the cloud, all before we switched over.
The opportunity to have our cloud-based servers provide all of the capability needed for every desktop to be a workstation has allowed us to keep many of our older PCs running longer than we might have otherwise. This saves us time and money.Mike Mariano, Founding Principal Schemata Workshop
What we have access to now is the highest performance equipment and technology out there. We appreciate not having to upgrade individual workstations to keep up with technology. Today, we have Approach Technology managing all of the upgrades for us as soon as new software updates become available. The new performance and memory capabilities have been pretty astounding!
What has changed over the years that is driving innovation in architecture?
Models are getting more complicated. The parametric modeling that we develop via Autodesk’s Revit software is incredibly complex. As we start bringing the other disciplines into the models, things get even more complicated. It can be hard to keep up but what we like about this is that it’s the Architect becoming the “master mason” or “master craftsman” of this effort. We are coordinating all of the team’s work, orchestrating all these different disciplines. The structural engineers, the MEP systems, all these things are weaving and feeding into this is central model that we maintain. We are excited to have the capabilities to manage all of this complexity. We have this new capacity now since the computing power and software has finally caught up. Our team continues to push new innovations in architecture and the ability to quickly do renderings now is faster now. Everything is faster, much faster now to access, far more reactive.
How do I get Started, is there a Demo I can Test Drive for myself?
Approach Technology provides a free initial consultation to understand your needs. Then we set your team up with a Cloud Test Drive Account to experience applications such as Autodesk REVIT, BlueBeam, Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and Bluebeam.
Sign up for your Approach Technology Cloud Demo Today.