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Architects 'lagging behind' in information technology

A group of major practices has warned that architects are falling years behind the rest of the design industry in the use of computer technology.

They are so concerned that, along with firms of engineers and quantity surveyors, they have invested £275,000 in a special project to catch up and are planning to spend £365,000 more in the next year.

The group, called Teamwork, includes Geoffrey Reid Associates, Broadway Malyan, Llewelyn-Davies, BDP and Fitzroy Robinson. It hopes to promote architects' use of three-dimensional design technology which goes beyond computer aided design and creates far more sophisticated 'in-computer'models.

'In all the other design industries, people are creating three-dimensional models in the computer before they ever start constructing anything, ' said Teamwork director Bob Dalziel. 'But we are not being supported properly by either the software providers or the professional institutes.

We are getting impatient with the state of the technology.'

Teamwork is demanding design software which can be loaded with physical and structural properties and can be modified by many different consultants. They say this will help eliminate design weaknesses and clashes between different parts of the supply chain.

The group plans to unveil a pilot project and research paper at a seminar at the RIBA's h e ad qu a r t e r s on 2 7 November. Its paper will conclude that: 'Although information technology has been used to motorise existing communication processes, the problems of incomplete, inaccurate and out-of-date information continue to plague the industry.'

The initiative follows the news that scientists have modified the violent shoot-'em-up computer game, Quake, to allow architects and clients to walk through virtual buildings.

The idea came when RMJM, the architects of the new £15 million Microsoft-sponsored computer laboratory at Cambridge University, wanted to show its clients in the UKand Seattle how its designs would work.

Computer specialists at the university's Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies removed the machine guns and laser weapons from the popular adventure game to allow the architects and clients to tour the building together over the Internet.

'The three-dimensional software which is available to architects today is actually very crude compared to the computer-generated images which people are used to seeing in the cinema, 'RMJM project director, Geoff Cohen said.'This has a fun element that can take the job of looking at architectural plans out of the ordinary.'

The computer game technology was adapted for £180, compared to the £10,000 estimated cost of commissioning a two-minute walk through from a graphics company.

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