Transitioning to Online

The Future of Construction Will Include Teledesign

by Richard K. Olson, president & technical director, Tile Roofing Industry Alliance

(Editor’s Note:  Richard K. Olson is president and technical director for the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance.  The association represents industry professionals involved in the manufacturing and installation of concrete and clay tile roofs in the United States and Canada, and works with national, state, and local building officials to develop installation techniques, codes, and standards for better roofing systems.  Olson can be reached at rolson@tileroofing.org.)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an explosion in demand for online design and building construction.  For quite some time, design professionals have been participating in online trainings, certifications, and project documentations as a resource to enhance face-to-face gatherings.  COVID-19 restrictions have now challenged designers and architects to perform all work virtually via online platforms.  Teledesign will continue to be a part of the future as this period of isolation comes to an end.  Industry associations have been re-evaluating every aspect of available resources, offerings, and opportunities to create a forward-thinking model that will include the virtual online capabilities.  Design professionals should evaluate and understand the challenges that come with transitioning work to a cloud-based platform.  Be sure to list current functions and resources, as well as develop a plan for establishing an online design alternative. 

Technical Data

         Many of us depend upon our expansive libraries of design tools, codes, and products, which are often in hard copy.  The ability to scan or locate electronic versions will be critical.  Consider collaborating with peers to create online libraries or shared online documentation program as a resource tool.  Building these connections will enhance the quality and expedite the completion of our work with greater efficiency.

Information Technology

         The transition to the teledesign platforms will take greater information technology resources than most of us have in place.  The use of Zoom or GoToMeeting™ programs will require stronger internet connections that will allow concurrent video and voice capabilities that are not interrupted or intermittent during connection.  The use of higher quality microphones and cameras will enhance the experience with your clients.  Improved routers, stronger 5G connections, and even just hard lines to your computer can increase the available bandwidth for good connections. 

Organization

         As the virtual meeting host, you should clearly outline the timing, topics, content, and outcomes you wish to see from your gatherings and send them out prior to the attendees.  This is important, as we are not face-to-face, which allows greater controls for quality and balanced discussions.  You should establish which attendees are required to be a part of the meeting, as too large a group may become hard to manage when decisions are being made. 

Online Virtual Meetings

         One of the expanded uses of the online platforms will be the ability to have virtual inspections, onsite reviews, or the ability for instant access on issues that arise on jobsites.  With a laptop, tablet, or phone, architects are now able to have virtual connections in real time.  These include product selection, design, installation questions, and progress reports that can be performed via virtual meetings.

         There is no set timetable for how and when the COVID-19 restrictions will be eased.  Industry associations are establishing dual options for face-to-face and virtual gatherings for the foreseeable future.  Associations will need to allow for the greatest flexibility to members and external audiences to gain the resources, connections, and training they require.  The ability to master the online virtual platform will be a tool, which we will continue to utilize even post COVID-19.  The ability to help reduce travel, increase outreach, and provide a benefit via online virtual platforms is part of the future and will be combined with traditional gatherings.  Design professionals will be able to increase their capabilities and efficiencies through reinventing the way business is done.  The use of teledesign will be part of normal business moving forward, and COVID-19 has just helped to expedite the transition.

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