From generating floor plans to mapping sun paths, Tom Ravenscroft picks the best time-saving apps for architects
The smartphone has turned 10 this year, and a lot has ‘appened’ in the digital world in that time. The rise of Uber has increased the ease and decreased the cost of getting around our cities; Airbnb’s ubiquity allows us to find somewhere to stay with the click of a button, and Pokémon Go got us trekking across them for a good week and a half early last year. There’s no doubt the technology within our portable devices has advanced as usage has risen dramatically – an estimated 1.4 billion smartphones were sold in 2016 alone.
Apps have moved from being fun curiosities to useful, and sometimes essential, business tools, and architects are now integrating them into their daily workflows to organise information, save time, collect site data, access digital models and, indeed, learn about architecture. Here, we select six top apps for architects.
ArchiSnapper is designed to save time by digitalising often time-consuming processes. Replacing the traditional camera and notebook, this field reporting app allows architects to create draft reports on site by enabling photographing, drawing, sketching and annotating within the app. All information collected is automatically numbered, classified and uploaded to the Cloud. Once a final PDF report has been created, it can be sent to anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer.
This app is ideal for architects wanting to know how sunlight will impact their designs. For any location on earth, Sun Seeker can show the solar path, its hour intervals, its equinox, winter and summer solstice paths, as well as rise, set and twilight times. The results can be viewed in either a flat compass view or an augmented reality 3D view.
While not designed specifically for architects, Slack can greatly improve communication within architectural practices or across design teams. Created as a solution to redundant or irrelevant email chains and overflowing inboxes, this cloud-based communication tool allows users to group messages in a similar way to services such as WhatsApp. This gives architects the ability to create channels for a project, topic, team, or anything else where a particular group of people need to share a thread of information. Images, PDFs, documents and spreadsheets can also be dropped right into Slack.
Drones are increasingly being utilised in the built environment and this free app provides architects with a tool to easily fly them and create interactive maps and models. Compatible with any drone, the app allows users to make flight plans, automate take-off, flight, image capture and landing, and continue non-interrupted flights to map large areas.
Images taken by the drone can be uploaded, examined and annotated on any device to generate maps and interactive 3D models.
BIMx – Building Information Model eXplorer – is Graphisoft’s app for viewing ARCHICAD models on mobiles and tablets. The free app for Android and iOS allows architects to share designs with anyone who has it, and enables easy presentation to clients and contractors. Models can be viewed in 2D and 3D, or in virtual reality (VR) on the iPhone where the Google Cardboard is supported.
MagicPlan is a tool that can save architects time by quickly generating professional floor plans simply by photographing rooms. Multiple rooms can be combined to create floor plans of entire buildings and elements such as furniture can be added.
Tom Ravenscroft is editor of video channel The B1M