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Innovators in Architecture:

Schemata Workshop: Enabling Architecture and Design Using Amazon Web Services and Citrix Cloud-Based Virtual Workstations.


With a construction market rivaling any in the United States, Seattle design professionals have their work cut out for themselves. Unfortunately, for many BIM\CAD design professionals, traditional IT models continue to present challenges in offering mobility and easy access to high-performance design platforms. The models have grown so large and complex, and the applications so demanding, that most design professionals only have limited options to get their work done. Typically, these design professionals are forced to drive into the main office in order to enjoy satisfactory performance when working on commercial CAD\BIM models that require high-end CAD workstations. Today, even many of architecture and engineering’s largest firms struggle with issues of mobility and performance and few design firms offer employees the ability to work from anywhere, on any device.


Schemata Workshop was able to break this cycle by adopting a cloud-based model that empowered their employees to work quickly, at the speed of thought, from anywhere, on any device. The practice was able to scale out of expensive servers and workstations, stressful backups and risk management issues. The cloud platform enabled the firm to adopt lower cost workstations for their workforce, enable complete mobility, and do it without sacrificing performance.

Eager to bring mobility and simplification to their IT operations, Schemata Workshop began their engagement with Approach Technology in late 2015 and adopted a 100% cloud-based IT model in early 2016. In our video testimonial, Schemata Workshop founder Mike Mariano explains now, almost 4 years later, how it has helped their practice financially, operationally, and how a Citrix based platform hosted on Amazon Web Services has been a positive catalyst for their business.

In transitioning to virtual workstations managed by Approach Technology, the design professionals at Schemata were able to leverage the scale and power of the Amazon Web Services Cloud. Leveraging powerful computing resources and graphics cards at AWS, today’s BIM\CAD professional can leave all the heavy lifting to the cloud and allow just the pixel data to be streamed down to the end user device.  Using a Citrix Workspace backed by powerful data center hardware, design professionals can work quickly, from virtually anywhere, because the large modeling data never leaves the data center and all the heavy processing occurs up in the cloud. This enables BIM\CAD professionals to work on iPads, Surface Tablets, and other devices that lack expensive hardware, storage, and graphics acceleration.

  • Empowers team members to work from anywhere, on any device, bringing professional access to those needing to work at home, on leave, or those who just want to embrace the ability to work from anywhere.

  • Provides Schemata Workshop the flexibility to scale with changing business conditions.

  • Grants teammates access to powerful data center class hardware for BIM\CAD and other 3D rendering workloads.

  • Approach Technology cloud enables real-time, synchronized communication and markups between offices and many different job site locations.  Enables a complete virtual office environment and allows the organization to add team members outside the Seattle metropolitan area.

  • Fully managed cloud-based IT replaces the old in-house servers and the hassles with adding new storage, back-ups, updates and security and bandwidth limitations.  Allows management and ownership to focus on building the business instead of managing IT.

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

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 and Amazon Web Service’s (AWS).  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 so much technology and use it remotely anywhere.  This gives our staff a tremendous amount of flexibility from where they work, whether it’s on site, at home or just the ability to be anywhere and 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 really to its 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..

Autodesk Revit models are rendered way more quickly in the cloud. Instead of moving large CAD files, just the changes in the individual pixels are streamed and rendered on any device.

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.

Running Adobe Creative Suite and Adobe Draw from the Cloud on an iPad

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.

Bluebeam “punch-lists” are streamed from the cloud over WIFI to tablets on remote job sites

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

Approach Technology cloudpowered workstations at Schemata Workshop, Seattle, USA.

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 and Microsoft Office.
Sign up for your Approach Technology Cloud Demo TODAY