Remember playing the telephone game where several people sit in a circle and one person whispers a message to the person at his or her right, who whispers it to the next person, and so on, until the message has made it around the entire circle? Of course, the message is completely different by the time it gets back to its origin. There’s been a breakdown of communication, and we often see something similar in our roles as architects.

This communication breakdown can take an endless variety of forms. An example: Floor plans, in theory, should deliver clear, concise information that is readily understood by those who need to use it. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Information may be poorly conveyed, details may be unclear, confusion may creep in … just like in the telephone game. But with the emergence of some exciting tools, we can begin to eliminate communication breakdowns like these.

Today, we use a building information modeling (BIM) software program called Revit, and an advanced 3D-visualization simulator called 3DS Max Design to clearly – and very vividly – communicate information. Instead of pointing to sheets of paper and explaining what you are looking at, we’re able to walk you through a live 3D model of your project. Not only can you “see” how it might look, now you can almost “feel” what it would be like to be in that space. In this live model we can walk anywhere you want to go. How about we look through the window or sit at your desk? Does the space feel too small? Let’s move the wall right now and see if that feels better. Want to know if the sun will blind your computer monitor? Let’s just turn on the sun and move it across the sky. At Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates, we can do all that and more.

But … for all the wonderful things that these programs can do, we need to remind ourselves – and our clients – that these are just tools and they cannot and should not replace the very important design work that can only come from the brain of a knowledgeable and experienced architect. Without a disciplined design process – one that begins by listening and ends with the production of detailed construction documents – all the tools in the world are rendered useless.

Here at Krech, O’Brien, Mueller & Associates, we’re proud of what we’re able to do with our many tools. We know they can help put an end to the communication breakdowns that occasionally pop up … and in this we see tremendous value. But amidst this value, we also understand the role of the tool, and work diligently to ensure that inspiration, creativity, and discipline drive our work, each and every day.

(Read more about what we can do with software design tools here.)