Cowan’s technology keeps home dreams a reality at a safe distance

Photo of guy putting on VR goggles in gutted room

Cowan’s technology keeps home dreams a reality at a safe distance

Learn how Cowan Architects uses remote access and virtual reality technology to keep your home improvement dreams on track at a safe distance.

Winston Churchill once said ‘We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us” and how true this is. No wonder therefore that we want our homes to be our castles and dream lofty thoughts of better spaces and luxurious interior design. No more so than now, having spent so much of our time reviewing our surroundings during ‘Lockdown’.

There are many technologies that we’ve been using at Cowan Architects on a daily basis for inter-office meetings such as Zoom, WhatsApp and Microsoft Teams that have now become commonplace at home, but they’re not new. Their applications are becoming evermore creative and that’s a good thing as we can now use them to facilitate the architectural process whether in Lockdown or not.

So, if you can’t meet an architect face to face, you can still get started on a renovation.

What do we want to know?

Your architect needs to know what you want from your home. Give some considerations to what spaces do you like the most, where do you sit and chat, what rooms enjoy the best light or views, where would you want to put a desk for work. Be prepared to show these spaces either with video or photos.

Think about what you would like? What styles interest you, what looks, colours, feels capture you. Can you create a project-specific Pinterest board (like ours perhaps (www.pinterest.co.uk/cowanarchitects)? Or a mood-board of photos of interiors, exteriors and designs that inspire you.

What else helps us to get a good picture?

Information is key when it comes to working with an architect, and this is just as vital before an initial remote consultation.

If we know the address, we can do a Google Earth search to get a real feel for access and layout. We can also check planning policies for the area and past planning approvals. An idea of timelines and budget is appreciated as well as anything that show the floorplans such as Estate Agents details for the property.

It might also be worth considering sustainability ideas and future-proofing at this stage.

What technology would we use for our consultations?

Video apps and everyone’s new understanding and access to them make this an easy and comfortable prospect. So, whether you’re using Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp, it also allows for several parties to be involved at the same time to maximise effectiveness.

It also allows for a ‘walk and talk’ at the property allowing us to get a much more technical understanding of the condition and possible issues that we may face.

There are some requirements that remote access will struggle with such as surveys and measurements, but even information for these can be largely provided by research, planning archives and historic data. Some surveyors can also use digital measured surveys too or undertake a restricted time visit limited to an hour to get the key aspects of a survey that can’t be achieved by photos or Zoom calls.

Technology that we use to help you

We would normally put an estimate together for you based on the information that we have garnered. We may include a number of options, if these are necessary, to help you make decisions based on budget or style. Large file transfer sites such as WeTransfer allow us to issue information as well as allowing us to continue our work outside of the office, if needs arise, so that projects are not delayed.

Cowan Architects also offers you Trimble SketchUp (3D Model Software) which can be exported to a Virtual Reality experience. Using Enscape, you can experience our innovative design ideas through real-time visualisations, walkthroughs and immersive virtual 3D reality at any stage of the project irrespective of complexity or scale.  Another architectural technology package we use is Revit (3D) exported into Adobe Acrobat (PDF) which you can manoeuvre freely as an additional dimension to the pre-determined sequence from Trimble SketchUp.

Other professions involved and technology

Structural engineering plans can be created remotely but there is no real alternative when it comes to foundations. Photos of trial pits that get under the earth can certainly make the job easier and provide more reliable information.  Draft plans can be made without trial holes, based on an engineer’s assumptions but it’s definitely important to measure the actual depth of foundations and structure at some point so that the design meets Building Regulations.

Planning officers can easily work remotely and can use online map technologies or request additional photos or video if they need it. If supporting reports are needed such as bat surveys, heritage statements, flood risk assessments or biodiversity reports, then specialists will be needed to undertake the work. They will likely require access to the site but may be able to research the bulk of their work online.

Don’t delay

So if your creative juices have been flowing as you’ve surveyed the walls of your castle rather too closely this Spring, don’t delay just because there are restrictions in place. Remote Access technology will expediate the whole architectural process for you in so many new and beneficial ways.