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UC’s Integration of Technology into Architecture Curriculum Wins AIA Award

As software tools are increasingly used by design practitioners, UC’s incorporation of that same technology into the sophomore architecture curriculum is winning recognition in the form of one of only five technology awards from the profession’s premier national organization.

Date: 5/31/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Anton Harfmann

UC ingot   The art of designing buildings and the science of constructing them and all their complex systems – ventilation, water, electric, electronic and more – are increasingly performed in 3-D thanks to advances in computing power combined with decreased costs for that power.

According to Anton Harfmann, associate professor in UC’s top-ranked School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID), about 25 to 30 percent of architectural practices in the United States are making use of what’s called Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, and that number is only expected to grow.

He explained, “In the last five years, BIM technology has been increasingly adopted by firms because high-speed computing hardware is now so affordable and the software available now can carry enormous data sets that help precisely model a building and all of the structural and system relationships within it. BIM software is now a realistic tool vs. an experimental one.”

So that architecture students within UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) can be prepared to work and lead in firms adopting this technology, sophomore students in Harfmann’s required "Design Science" lecture course must complete design modeling assignments using the latest BIM technology.

“This lab with laptops as I like to call it sets the students up to be the experts in this technology when they go on their first cooperative education terms, because a large percentage of firms are still 2-D based. The students can provide expertise as these firms begin to use the software. The students become co-op heroes, and many of them have come back from co-ops to thank me for the pain I put them through in learning and working with the software in my class,” said Harfmann, who has used the BIM software in his “Design Science” course for four years now and who routinely makes presentations to practitioners and educators regarding the integration of BIM technology into the design curriculum.
Working image from
Image from UC's "Design Science" course. The screen behind the student is a mathematical model. The 3-D model of a beam (beneath the student) can be altered, using BIM technology, if other factors (like span) change within the design.

Most recently, his teaching endeavors with the BIM software have earned him one of only five national awards from the American Institute of Architects’ Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) group. He will receive that award during the AIA’s June 20-22 convention in Denver, Colo.

During Fall 2013, Harfmann will not only teach sophomore architecture students in his “Design Science” course but will also open the course to architecture graduate students from DAAP and sophomore architectural engineering students from UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

This technology is so valuable for practitioners (and students) because it builds a strong bridge between theoretical compositional design and construction reality. It allows for more design experimentation in terms of choice of materials, wall thicknesses or any other elements within a building’s design and construction.

“The course and the tools in it are about precisely modeling the relationships between all the components in a building, not just the static, individual elements. The clear advantage to this approach is that if a change is necessary in one or more elements – as is often the case – you no longer have to do a complete remodeling or start completely over, as would be the case with a 2-D design. The students in my course can quickly adjust their 3-D models to accommodate the specifics of their design choices,” stated Harfmann, who credits UC’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning (CET&L) for helping him to adapt his course to the semester calendar.