Taking the plunge with new technology
New building technology can open up exciting design opportunities. But what does it take for an architect to put their hand up and be one of the first to take it on – what tips the scales?
We asked Jasper van der Lingen, Director of Sheppard & Rout Architects Ltd, Chairman of the Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, and a member of Christchurch’s Urban Design Panel.
For Jasper, adopting new technology is about being comfortable it has solid grounding.
“I’ve taken the leap of faith with an upcoming building in Christchurch using the new EXPAN LVL technology after knowing the amount of testing, and the experience and expertise of the people involved.”
With the sheer amount of materials and technologies constantly being introduced to the market, it can be difficult to keep up. But the jumping in is the really hard part he says.
“We are naturally cautious and try to find out as much information as possible preferably from independent reliable sources. We need to be well convinced before we try something that is new.”
An architect has to be very cautious not to get caught up in the hype, Jasper says.
“I’ve been around long enough to see loads of whiz-bang things. The leaky buildings situation is a classic example. Some early examples of Monolithic cladding were sold as the best new system for building. I believe you have to be very conservative with new technology, and go in with your eyes open.”
But he says, like any group of people, architects are all different.
“Some are less risk averse, while some like to push the envelope more than others. People have different thresholds for conservatism, and you make your judgement based on your experience.
For me, I’m very open to new technology, but cautious. Whenever something new comes along I need to do research.”
Architects also face a mountain of other barriers when they’re considering using the latest innovations. Jasper cites those as building code requirements, council conservatism, client conservatism, cost, aesthetic considerations, and durability.
And then there’s always getting the client on board. That’s a case of talking it over in depth, and often getting the actual supplier or expert to present it to them, Jasper says.
“We try and involve them in the decision, so they go in with their eyes open too.”
So there’s a lot to weigh up. But if at the end of that process, you decide to take the opportunity to be involved at the cutting-edge of new technologies, the professional and personal rewards can be huge.
“If you believe in it, and it is the right product for the particular job then it is great to explore something different,” Jasper says. “We try not to be different for differences sake though - it has to be appropriate.”
“EXPAN is a great example of a product that has significant implications for the building industry nationwide, if not worldwide. For me, it will be very satisfying to be involved in some way with making a revolutionary product become accepted and developed.”