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Why architects can’t work from home

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As the coronavirus spreads, going into the office is looking increasingly risky to many. What are your experiences? Leave a comment and join the conversation about what practice and the profession look like in a COVID-19 world

Maybe you have already wondered to yourself ‘Can I work from home?’ Perhaps work has asked you to fill out a survey so they can gauge if staff could be productive remotely. Working from home is often thought of aspirationally, but would architects actually be able to work from home and would they even want to?

The AJ employs some not-currently-practising architects and their response is a resounding ‘no’. Architects can’t work from home. We’re interested to see whether readers agree.

Companies don’t have enough laptops; it’s difficult to co-ordinate CAD drawings from home – if you even have CAD at home as the licences are so expensive; you need to be able to print things and sketch ideas out collaboratively; if work laptops are available, you won’t be able to use Revit effectively with only one screen; and site visits are obviously not possible from the sofa.

These are the broader reasons why architecture firms have not earnestly embraced flexible working while other businesses have moved in that direction. Often only high-level employees in architecture practices can work from home as they don’t tend to do any drawing, their jobs mainly involving management and emails. 

There are also some cultural barriers to overcome. In 2018, the AJ reported the experience of Pepper Barney, an architect at BDP who, when summoned to discuss a flexible working request, says she was asked how they would know she was not just watching Grand Designs? The request was later turned down and she quit.

What can you do from home then? How might coronavirus shape and change architectural practice? What does it mean more of (reading, research, business development … catching up on your recent issues of the AJ)?

Or maybe everyone has already been enrolled on intensive online CPD courses.

Our readers join the conversation

Co-director of HAT Projects Hana Loftus says coronavirus might have greater impact in different areas of the profession: 

Kieren Porter doesn’t think the question helpfully contributes to the profession’s image:

KITSON Architecture director Ellen Kitson says on Facebook ‘Totally possible to work at home as an architect. I’ve done it loads! It’s not perfect and I also miss the atmosphere of my practice but as long as you are super organised you can do it!’.

But Elisa Pardini, partner and co-founder at Pardini Hall Architecture says it’s ‘Impossible for all the material that is in the office. Plus I don’t have the licence I need on my personal laptop’.

David Simpson, associate at Associated Architects has working from home down pat: 

On Facebook RPS Europe senior architect Jordie Bokor, agrees that it is ‘Definitely possible and much more dependent on whether your practice has a decent VPN/internet bandwidth and laptop resource than about the uniqueness of the architect’s role.’

Hari Phillips of Bell Phillips is optimistic;



Readers' comments (18)

  • Perhaps this speaks more to how disconnected your not currently practicing architects are from the profession?

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  • John Kellett

    Of course architects can work from home. I work from home every day on BIM projects. But then I don’t use Revit :-) One architect can easily work on and complete projects of over £5 million without assistants. So why not?
    If on the other hand a practice relies on teams of cheap architectural staff wrestling with 2D CAD or is running expensive software it is less likely.

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  • I'm not sure the image you use to headline the article helps anybody. I've run my own practice from home for eight years but never worked laying on the floor!

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  • What architects can't definitely do is to work from the grave. So we better take care of ourselves, instead of the profession, for once.

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  • Darrin Salt

    Several of our major architectural-practice clients have now enabled working from home very successfully (we are their IT provider). Where staff have a powerful workstation at the practice we've enabled them to (securely) remotely connect to it - allowing graphically intensive applications like Revit, Vectorworks et al to be used even from an under-powered laptop. And where a workstation is not available, hosted desktop with graphics acceleration (GPU) comes to the rescue.
    Technology to assist this way of working - be it on a temporary basis due to the current Coronavirus situation or more regularly, to support flexible working initiatives is available to all. There is normally no need to purchase more expensive software licenses and either struggle to make it run on poor portable machines or spend a fortune on mobile workstation laptops - unless there is a specific business case for doing so.

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  • Total rubbish who ever sanctioned this piece? Clearly just to wind up most sensible Architects who regularly work from home.. We have people in the office who work from home regularly some of them visualisers all you require is a stable internet connection and remote desktop. Working in Revit does require two screens but that's far from an issue that rules it out as a perfectly reasonable working solution. Life doesn't only revolve around a laptop or a tablet. Never mind the good old drawing board or the sketch pad.

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  • A combination of working together and communicating directly and working from home is possible for architects as much as for any other profession, especially given remote access technology and when working within trusted, established teams.

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  • I could't disagree more, I think, no, I know Architects and other designers can work from home very effectively as they are creative professionals therefore adaptable and problem solving by their nature.
    Yes its different and yes some facilities may be limited (large format printing, but who does loads of that now anyway) but in a connected world working from a fixed home is a simple solution to solve when we spend half of our time working form anywhere.
    'Remote desktop style technology' negates the need for complex, powerful systems at home providing a simple portal to in studio facilities making it as if you’re actually sat at your desk. All security, licencing, hardware issues are overcome instantly.
    Culturally speaking if you’re not a business already operating flexibly and with a high degree of agility then you’re seriously behind the times. Face to face is great but the world operates by innovative use of technology to communicate now, look at how the new generation of workforce (including Architects) communicate and collaborate, its effective, fast, efficient and simple.
    Yes it’s a different way of working but it’s far from impossible.

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  • Are we witnessing the death throes of new office construction? And, attendant with such a likely decline, a calamity for every enterprise connected with commuting.
    A plus all round. Less stressed workers, lower carbon footprint; No need for HS2, lower London property prices.
    In short - A blessing for most.

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  • Just completed my first day of working at home after very suddenly finding out I would need to self-isolate. Very easy remotely connecting to my PC and servers at work - couldn't have gone better and I would recommend to any practice considering it, particularly in the next few weeks. Working from home made no different to my normal work-day, other than I could put a laundry load on at lunch! Very proud of my employer for ensuring this process was in place and for making it so seamless.

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