A qualitative study on the impact of digital technologies on building engineering design offices

Graham Hayne, Bimal Kumar, Billy Hare

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    The ethos of building design offices has undergone radical transformation following the widespread adoption of digital technologies. Design calculations that were formally carried out by hand over a period of weeks and months are now completed in hours using highly sophisticated analysis and design packages. Likewise, the drawing board has been almost universally abandoned in favour of CAD systems and parametric 3D models. The purpose of this research is to identify the effect that digital technologies is having on operations of design offices. A series of semi-structured interviews were carried out with experienced practitioners (Consulting engineers and a steelwork sub-contractor) all of whom have witnessed the evolution of the industry to a digital environment. A subjective research philosophy was adopted using an inductive approach to analyse the data. Not surprisingly, it was found that the use of digital analysis, drawings and modelling suites have brought significant benefits to the industry. There are, however, many issues that are adversely impacting the industry; the over reliance on computer analysis by younger engineers was argued to be leading to a loss of understanding of the basic engineering principles in their designs. There is a tendency to ignore the historical philosophy of building design and it’s associated approximations with inexperienced engineers focusing on levels of accuracy more akin to manufacturing. With some modellers being trained in the use of the technology instead of the principles of engineering and construction, the quality of information being issued to constructors is often lacking.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationComputing in Civil Engineering 2015
    Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 2015 International Workshop in Civil Engineering
    EditorsWilliam J. O'Brien, Simone Ponticelli
    PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Electronic)9780784479247
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

    Publication series

    NameCongress on Computing in Civil Engineering, Proceedings


    • design
    • technology
    • training
    • digital tools
    • digital technologies
    • design offices
    • operations


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