Microdesk Founder Discusses AEC Trends, Technology
Microdesk, a design consultancy firm, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Mike DeLacey, founder of Microdesk, talked with GeoDataPoint about the company’s growth and success as well as how the industry has evolved since Microdesk began. He also shares his insights on new technology and expected changes in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) design over the next 20 years.
Microdesk opened in 1994 as “Microdesk of New England,” where it built and sold its own hardware and software for the design industry. In 2003, the name was officially changed to Microdesk, Inc. as it expanded to the west coast.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen within the industry?
DeLacey: "If we look backward, the most significant changes have been around design, culture and technology. Twenty years ago, technology was a necessary evil, handed down to IT directors and, back in the day, CAD managers.
Now, I think senior-level executives in design are paying attention to technology, seeing it as an absolute necessity when tackling challenges we see today. Over the past seven to eight years, BIM has been getting attention from exectives across the board."
What are some trends you’ve seen that still growing?
"We’ve successfully gone from 2D to 3D in the world of construction. That trend accelerates a bit every year. Many places have 3D modeling mandates in place. There has been an aggressive push by institutional owners to push design and construction. We’re seeing more organized 3D models. There has been a broadening use of information with design data, which is more seamlessly flowing into the fabrication process.
We’re seeing new applications coming out of the software world. Products that can be used on a desktop or mobile device have increased including robust virtual models of an entire city with applications to analyze disasters and protect cities against future storms and developing citywide bus routes.
It’s mind boggling the number of applications that can be done based on the information we can collect."
Where do you see this technology going in the future?
"Within 10 years, we will be able to map existing buildings with rapid improvement in technology to generate point clouds. Once you start thinking of drones and autonomous robots inside buildings, using the same technology we use outside buildings, we can map the whole world. For example, with Autodesk ReCap, we have the ability to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle, take photos, put the photos in the cloud and generate point cloud information within a third of an inch of accuracy.
How has Microdesk stayed relevant? How will the company adapt to changes?
As software has become easier and easier to use, it allowed us to expand into the consulting side of the business: process improvement rather than technology. We became adept at understanding how to build technology into existing processes to align with our clients’ goals. When you’re sitting with the managing partner of an architecture firm, the discussion is different than with a CAD manager. He wants to know how technology makes him more efficient and more powerful. It forces us to go and find answers to these questions, whether it’s a design firm or an architecture firm or a construction firm.
From an organizational standpoint, we added 60 AEC mapping professionals to our company. We stay focused to make sure we not only understand what technology does but how it affects clients’ business. We help clients understand how to put different types of technology together to solve big problems in a unique way.
We are on the leading edge of technology through consulting, which has become absolutely necessary based on the rapid pace at which technology is moving. It’s increasingly challenging for design, AEC organizations to manage internally. These firms are constantly evaluating and looking at technology and come to someone like Microdesk to answer questions and how it will affect their business.
As the cloud becomes the delivery method of choice for this community, you will see the amount of applications available for these firms expanding to maybe 10,000 applications years from now. State agencies and private firms need to stay abreast of what’s meaningful and use technology in the best way possible to solve problems.