2019 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Design Futures Council! Over the years, the DFC has grown a very strong legacy of leadership and transformational change. DFC’s leadership in key trends includes sustainable design, technology, process innovation, management and design, and international practice. We wanted to share some of our articles from our 25-year history—from the beginnings of DesignIntelligence (1995) through today’s DesignIntelligence Quarterly. Enjoy!





The architectural profession has enormous potential to leverage the Internet in its own unique ways. The business reasons are there, the technology exists; it’s now up to us to begin to use this marvel of the Information Age to help create a better built environment for us and our children in which to live, work and play. Here are some trends to help that process along:

1. Client I.T. Demands/Project Extranets
We are seeing a growing demand from building owners and clients for greater responsibility of information technology management and know-how. Clients such as NationsBank and 3Com Corporation are requiring their AEC vendors become Internet literate, just to remain qualified to bid on projects. The enabling tools that are helping design professionals meet this client demand are Project Specific Web sites, commonly called Project Extranets. These can be described as project information containers that act as database-driven information management that streamlines procedures. This project data acquisition leads to data life-cycle facility & operations management. This service is part of the process of creating a building/facility knowledge base that a corporation can use early on in the decision-making of why, when and where they may need a building.

2. Value Migration
We are witnessing a fast migration of the value of architectural services from strictly information creation to the incorporation of information management and distribution. A good resource on this concept is in a book called Value Migration, by Adrian J. Slywotzky, published by Random House.

3. Construction Information Management (CIM): Systems Integration
Over 25 years ago, architects gave up certain risks, rights and responsibilities of construction supervision and a new profession emerged to fill those needs of the client, the Construction Manager. Construction management has blossomed into a profession that most projects use today. We are seeing history repeat itself as most architects and other design professionals are fast losing control of their main asset, their information. We are seeing Construction Information Management (CIM) services as an enormous opportunity for the architectural profession to take on as expanded services.

4. Powerful Remote Devices
We are viewing Portable Digital Assistants (PDAs) and PCS digital phones that leverage Internet technologies as major breakthrough technologies in 1998 in the AEC vertical market. With products such as the PalmPilot and Palm PCs, the PDA solution has hit the mark with our industry by allowing people in the field to access, view and transmit AEC information to centralized project databases from an easy-to-use, remote device. PalmPilots can now allow the extension of your web browser by hosting your project extranet in the field. The emergence of affordable, commercial PCS digital phone systems like Nextel’s services have emerged as the preferred method of communication in the field. The data acquisition process of a construction project is being revolutionized by these devices as they are beginning to be used to populate project extranets.

5. Paper Is Not Going Away
The paperless office should be viewed as the less-paper office. The field will continue to need paper as the means of communication. It’s the responsibility of the information creator and manager to ensure that the information that is on that piece of paper is the most accurate and up to date. Infrared poles in the field, Virtual Local Area Networks, Print On Demand services in the field and Infrared faxes/printers are becoming commonplace to enable the field to leverage the Internet as an information conduit.

6. Virtual Private Networks
VPNs will continue to gain acceptance as an alternative to traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) setups for architectural firms that need to link together with satellite offices, consultants, suppliers and project teams. On the average, a firm will see an immediate savings of 50% on their connectivity costs with an installed VPN system.

7. Architectural Information Systems (IS) as Profit Centers
There is an emerging trend that takes the “cost center” view of I.T. to a new vision of leveraging the I.T. resources a firm possesses to provide equity and the potential to become a “profit center.” The “profit center” approach varies from firm to firm, but when applied correctly, can provide the firm with a new lucrative revenue stream. Firms such as New Hampshire-based JSA, Inc. have “spun-off” their I.T. department to provide Web-based project management services. This spin off is called Evolv (http://www.evolv.com) and provides a Web-based project management service called ProjectCenter, which runs through AIAOnline (http://www.aiaonline.org). Other firms have such a good CAD training program that other firms in the geographic area pay the firm to train their staff as well.

8. IP Addressable Objects
With the advent of Internet Technologies, any electronic item has the capability of being connected to any other electronic item because it can now be given an IP address. With the advent of electricity becoming a true commodity through deregulation, look for electric companies to offer Internet connectivity through your existing electric outlets. Contributing to this trend is an emerging connectivity technology called VCSELs – Vertical Cavity Self Emulating Lasers. This technology uses mirrored surfaces within cavities to transmit data and voice at one terabyte per second. We see this leading to new hybrid building materials, such as new metal studs that can transmit data and voice throughout a building, requiring no traditional wires.

9. Franchised AEC Service & Information Centers
The Internet and its associated technologies, like Web-based tools, bring a cost-effective vehicle for the franchise model in which to operate. This isn’t to say that a franchise has to be on the Internet itself, just using the Internet technologies and tools are the enabling mechanisms. What roadway a franchise decides to use, the Internet, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a subsidized Wide Area Network (WAN) will be dictated by the size and economics of the franchise operators.

10. Year 2000 (Y2K)
Y2K is a concern with not only technology, but with practice. The specifying of automatic systems (sprinkler, elevator, HVAC, etc.) could put a professional at risk if they have not specified those systems to be Y2K compliant. You may want to check with your insurance agent to assist you in a Y2K action plan. On the Internet side, you may want to confirm with your Internet service provider that their systems are Y2K compliant and get that in writing. One of the main components of accessing the Net is through a router. Routers are vulnerable to the Y2K problem due to the original code that was written for them. If the router and its software is not upgraded, that router will drop off the Net, leaving you without access or a way for people to “see” you on the Net.

Finally, the Y2K issue is not about one date, it’s about three dates: September 9, 1999, January 1, 2000 and February 29, 2000. 9/9/99 has been a common default date for computer programmers to use to test their applications and systems before implementing them. On 9/9/99, millions of dormant commands will activate automatically if they are not disabled before then. It could result in some unusual activities by your computer or building automation systems.

1/1/00 is the date everyone is concerned about. The computer’s inability to differentiate between the year 2000 and the year 1900 is at the crux of the problem. It is an exponential problem that is not a hard technical problem to correct, but it’s rather the large amount of changes that have to take place, all before this deadline of 1/1/00. 2/29/00 is the leap year date for the year 2000. The problem is that if your computer thinks it’s the year 1900, when it reaches 2/29/00, your computer and systems will cease to operate because the year 1900 was not a leap year, thus a corrupted date will be seen.

by Paul Doherty

This article originally appeared 5.31.1998.