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Digital futures Hurley Robertson has completed a radical restructuring of its CAD and IT systems

Since Hurley Robenson & Associates was fOI"mcd in 1993, one of OUf key objectives has been the implementation of a sllstainable CAD and office administration S}'SlCm to suppOrl our pl'ojeclS, writes Grallllm. Thomas. The

implementation of the slIcucg)' has taken longer than expected. The key turning point has been inu'oduClion of a strong \·Vindowsbased network system and the phasing out of the l\'lac-bascd system that was managed on a more inclh~dllal basis. QUI' aim is to constant)' improve efficiency wilhin the office and to ensure the safe delivery of large-scale projeclS. To implement our IT SLralcgy we have a full-lime systems manager who is responsible for the set-up and day-to-day running of ouy net\\lork. In addition a computer group. consisting of a representative from each project team, meets monthl)' to set office-wide standards. This has allowed us to Lake control and develop stable systems that slaff feel comfortable using and that al-e easy to manage. The network has been standardised and a much more complex computel- service facility safely implemented. As a result productivity has greally improved. To provide the office with a stable backbone. we use Windows /2000 servers and Windows 2000 workstations because of the wide choice of hardware and software and their wide acceptance within the industry. Live projects are slOred on a central server and are grouped by project number: lI1is makes it easy to locate a particular job. Management of the large amount of data

generated by pr~iccts is simplified by storing it on a central server. To ensure reliability the server has a number of fault-tolerant features and each week a full back-up is made and stored off-site. The network is based on lI,e 'Windows Back Office Small Business'. an integrated package looking after e-mail, internet connection and network managcrnenl. The Windows domain model simplifies the management of accounts, with each employee hmring a single account to access all parts of the net\\lork. Staff can log on to any machine, facilitating thc allocation of resources within the office. Print management has been simplified through network printing and high-volume printing is dealt \\lith by digital photocopiers. As well as new systems, a more disciplined approach to in-house working practices has been implemented. A standardised computer folder structurc makes it eas)' to move stafr bctween projects. A practice·wide standard for la)'ers and annotations has enhanced CAD effectivcness. Specifications are now pre>e1uced with NBS Specificati n \>Vriter. A central directory of consultants and other contacts has been created under the e-mail system which allows staff to easily locate address details. An inu-anet 01- internal web server s)'stem allows staff easy access to information, key documentation and office manuals through their web browser. To meet the increasing demand for 3D drawings. we use ArchiCAD as the main draw· ing and visualisation software package. The main advantage of -this system is its ability to quickly generate prototype buildings in plan and 3D. The architect an develop the building using simple 2D constructs, from which the programme creates a 3D view. Creating a building is easy with the in·l>Llilt tools such as '.. .alls. dom-s and windows. Modelling a building in lI1is way means that design information is stored in a central file. This helps to co-ordinate production information. requires less drawing work and can simplify dr"awing managernent. As the project grows. several members of the team need to work on the model and this is achieved by cOlwcning it into a 'teamwork' model. Each member ofthe team is able to reserve part of the model for their exclusi,te use by a layer and store)' combination. A <II-aft is created thal is worked on locally and the changes can be sent back 10 the central model at any time. Although updates are not instantaneous, the method is effective and sU1\ightforward. Another interesting feature is the ability of the software to de"elop parametric o~jccts that are more flexible and efficient to use than simple libl-ary parts or blocks. For example. one pan is now able to fulfil all our

drawing title block needs. ensuring that drawings have a consistent look and are cas)' to sel up. A disadvantage is the lack of detailing pre>vided by the in-built modelling tools. To redress issues like these and to imprm'e staff proficiency, the practice provides ongoing in·hollse training on lI,e programme's distinct philosophy.

Due to the large amount of correspondence and production information generated for each project, we are considering introducing a more formal document and archh'e management s)'stem. Ideall)' tJ,e system would deal with the sharing of

information between consultants and t.he rorlIlal issue of documentation, while having minimal administnltion overheads. Other plans for the future include the deployment of nalscreen monitors and the production of schedules from the ArchiCAD model. In our continuing effon to improve working standards, our main objectivc in up-grading our IT facilities has been to de"ise a S)'SICm lI,at is reliable. stable and uses industry standard software. The successful implemenmtion of our ncw system has led to fewer day·to-d(1)1 support ails and pro\'ed a grcat contribution to lI1e efficient running of projects.

Above/left Sketch images for a 20,OOOm' office development in london's Cheopside (opposite Paternoster Square) were pro· duced in less than two days using the software modelling system.

Architecture today 'digital futures'  
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