Information Technology positions our daily activities and businesses in an increasingly global context: The practice of architecture is no exception. Technology presents new scenarios for Workshare and defines the way in which a design is developed, communicated, and realized.
Today, work association no longer implies personal interaction. Technology has made possible ordinary virtual communications, accelerating information transfer and influencing working methodologies. This is the virtual office: physical space usurped by work space in the internet. Architects are not only facing a promising business opportunity, but a new practice model that will revolutionize the professional practice scenario. BIM consulting firms will focus on stressing design and creativity as core values and commoditizing production and repetitive but still necessary tasks.
Global economy has provided many opportunities for new innovative businesses and has opened up a space for efficient access to resources. A new understanding of architecture and its practice is increasingly focused on strategically improving business performance. The field represents a unique situation: while architectural practice is quickly becoming global and open-sourced, the physical artifact of architecture continues to serve as the physical manifestation of a community’s identity and aspirations.
Architects are beginning to assimilate and integrate innovative processes into their practice that would be impossible without technological advancements. Principles from these innovative working methods and technologies enable firms to survive by adapting to external changes and maintaining a sustainable advantage in architectural practice. Increasingly dependent on the larger international context, the practice frequently necessitates dispatching team members to remote locations.
The field of architecture is continuously evolving following the changes dictated by contemporary societies, where consumerism and change provoke a new conception of architecture. Today, clients of architects are focusing their interests on issues such as process efficiency and business performance to the detriment of individual interpretations of architecture. Economics and market conditions tend to prevail over design intentions and aesthetic goals. Maximizing the potential of the architectural outsourcing practice model for each architectural firm will require strategic approaches to architectural practice as a service, as well as a business.
Fulfilling current requirements in the management of architectural projects demand the establishment of teams and tasks spanning organizational boundaries as a strategic practice for business results. This task may seem much simpler than it really is. Many issues for multi-team architectural production such as communication, Workshare, and trust, frequently become problematic for reasons beyond our control. Such problems may arise even when dealing with traditional teamwork models. Therefore, when one replaces the often-decisive factor of personal interaction with the virtual alternative in a multidisciplinary team, the challenges become even more complex.
The very need for Workshare arises from the diversity of skills and opinions required to formulate an architectural work. Inevitably architects find themselves working in teams with other members, and these team building experiences help form an overall collective identity.
Today team members are not necessarily required to work together in the same physical space, since communication technologies have enabled efficient interaction at a distance. In fact, personal interaction in architectural Workshare has evolved greatly with time. As remote teams develop the capabilities to collaborate effectively in ways that do not jeopardize the process of logical project development, personal interaction within architectural teams takes on a different significance. The banal transfers of information that once took place between desks in one office now take place many times daily via digital interaction between workstations around the globe. Personal interaction between such parties may be reserved for more significant meetings to initiate or substantiate relationships or to perform checks on a project’s progress.
Some of basic tenants of architectural design over the last fifty years are called into question by globalization’s continual flattening of the world. The fact that people from diverse and remote locations and cultures contribute to a given project’s development has significant implications for practice. This also presents the risk that individual contributors who are employed from remote areas may lack essential contextual knowledge not only about a specific project, but also about its local building industry and its local culture.
This changing definition of architectural practice, as something that occurs on many continents at the same time and followed by many different parties, has contributed to the lack of transparency that outsourcing has received in the discipline. Secrecy has shrouded outsourcing, even when the processes being outsourced were highly auxiliary. Authorship has traditionally been at the core of architectural production, whether by an individual principal in a firm or by a core of designers who work under a collective title. Outsourcing may be viewed as putting traditional values of authorship and remuneration in crisis. However, outsourcing may be studied as an outgrowth of the traditional partnerships that have taken place within individual studios or firms.
While globalization has impacted the way architects work together and therefore their relationship to traditional cues for the design process, the growing global economy puts pressure on the discipline to be more oriented toward the consumer. Changes in the field of architecture echo the trends in all of the design fields where radical improvements in communications and technology have enabled a democratization of design. Consequently, the general public has changed its perception of and value placed on design. Today, availability and affordability are the criteria influencing consumer choices about design. As happened in fashion and in furniture design, the new economic implications are turning design products of all types into commodities.
Architectural design is encountering a similar evolution, where the general public expects architects to provide design services with an emphasis on architecture as a product of consumption. As a result, now more than ever before architects are required to generate original designs, but also to ensure that they can deliver these designs on time and within budget restrictions. This necessity to provide broader services will put additional pressure on architects during the stages of project execution, already often problematic due to the great deal of complexity and coordination involved in bringing a project to completion.
As global markets succeed and information becomes more easily available, domain standardization for design and construction methods is fast becoming a common language for remote interaction. The international use and commercialization of predominant brands for construction components and products, transforms them into preferred industry standards, becoming common knowledge for teams from many different locations. Without a doubt, technological convergence allows further connection and facilitates Workshare between diverse and/or dispersed project teams. However, as technologies change the factor of adaptability must be examined. An increasing exchange of global architectural services brings the added difficulty of dealing with the particular requirements of each architectural environment: local codes and regulations, industry methods and standards, and cultural principles. Nevertheless, the proliferation of young architects, with a global architectural education and, consequently, with a broader perception of multicultural platforms of practice addresses these difficulties.
The overall fragmentation of the AEC industry and the particularities of knowledge iteration in the implementation of building design have impeded architectural outsourcing adoption within the field of architecture until now. Nonetheless, the field of architecture, although slow to adopt this work practice, is not immune to this global trend which has generated certain geographical expertise concentrations for providing architectural outsourcing in countries such as India, Philippines, and China. Architectural outsourcing providers can be characterized by their geographical dispersion.
The availability of talented manpower, lower costs and best infrastructure has helped architectural outsourcing to India gather commendable speed. With the increase in offshore demands and wielding the latest software and technical skills, architectural designing outsourcing in India serves clients from the UK, the US and the Middle East. A number of small-medium firms with 50+ employees have mushroomed across the country offering quality services at a fraction of the cost. The growth in the industry has been so spectacular that the rupee crunch and fall in the number of skilled resources has not drastically affected most firms.
Industry estimates predict architectural outsourcing will form the second largest segment in the service industry of India. Offshore architectural outsourcing poses enough benefits to the overseas markets, which is the reason behind a marked growth in the demand for these services in leading KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) industries in India. Accounting to $16.7 billion in revenue, India is expected to contribute to two-third of the global KPO by 2011. Several architectural design outsourcing companies in India have bagged small scale design projects abroad, mainly from the US, the UK and the Middle East.