In October 2016, the Institute of Digital Design Australia (IDDA) conducted a survey with Architecture & Design readers with the aim of sharing the key trends, challenges and forecasts associated with digital design tools in the Australian architectural design industry. Architects, engineers and construction companies were asked a series of questions about digital design.

Key findings and recommendations from IDDA Director Ben Coorey have already been published but we thought we’d share some of your answers to the survey’s major question so that you can continue the conversation among your peers.

Below are our top 30 answers to the question:

What's your #1 single most important challenge with digital design in your business?

Key problems included software performance, monopolies, compatibility issues and cost, among others. 

“Dealing with a monopoly (by definition four or less suppliers in the market) when it comes to purchasing and operating digital design software. We are compelled to keep paying year upon year for software subscriptions which don't deliver quality and error free package. We are compelled to pay for support for undocumented features that do not work only to be consistently informed that this has been a known bug for several years and here is a work around you can use until the bug is fixed. For five years, stairs in Autodesk Revit have not worked and every year a new version comes out and it is not yet fixed. And as far as monopolies go they are able to charge whatever they choose without fear of competition because of the cost of changing platforms and retraining is prohibitive.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

“As the media and communications manager I primarily use Adobe software, however the whole office (architects) does too. We are not huge, we are not tiny – about 40 people, and the new Creative Cloud set up is so difficult for us to manage. It simply is not economical to install CC on all computers – you pay for it monthly, what if that licence is not used for more than 2 days in a month, and that happens across 40 computers every month, every year? What a waste of money. To open CC version files you must save as a different type of file which sits along side the CC file, so then you have 2 files – file management just got more complex than it needs to. Might I add that the system upgrades of our Macs earlier this year has been 90 per cent the reason for going to CC because previous CS versions were no longer compatible and causing headaches. In our minds, software companies are not helping us. We have not benefitted from anything new lately.” - Individual Contributor, Architecture firm

“Biggest problem is that the programs are not written by architects and they don't work the way architects think and don't reflect architect's work processes. Yet to find the perfect CAD program – if someone combined the best parts of Revit, ArchiCAD and Vectorworks, they would have every architect beating down their door. No one can afford to have all three. We actually love designing in CAD, but it is too restrictive on thinking. It's much easier to pick up a pencil and sketch, than it is to learn how to program or write code to make the CAD program do what you want it to do.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“Our business is designing and building up market homes. We are a small company offering personal service to our customers. We use Revit which is a fantastic program for what we do. The program is expensive to maintain and has been packaged with various other programs that we do not use.” - Individual Contributor, Building/Construction Firm

“As with every digital design project it comes down to the level of communication between the consultants and the design team. At every start of a project there must be a clear understanding of the deliverables and the exchange platform. The flexibility of utilising any kind of digital software makes it difficult at the end to find the right media/data set to agree on and to work with. A lack of digital fabrication technology and the utilisation of digital manufacturing/fabrication in the construction industry makes it difficult to make a digital design a reality.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Engineering firm

“1. The cost and 'life' of digital software and licences, and this applies to both perpetual and subscription-based licences. To compound the problem, we do not only require multiple licences of one software, but a whole host of different software. A most significant cost to our business annually.

2. In establishing price of software (particularly subscriptions), some flexibility would be good. e.g. In the case of AutoCAD, why not allow businesses to subscribe based upon the type of projects they undertake – residential or commercial? Both types of projects are miles apart in the revenue generated. Why not provide an architect, who only designs houses, the option to subscribe at a lower cost for the full version of AutoCAD, with the condition that the software is to be used only for residential work? AutoCAD Lite is just about useless.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

“The pace at which the software can produce "conceptual designs" is great for winning work, however, as the documents appear move advanced in the detail and working due to the output, the content in the design is actually still lacking resolution in a lot of respects. This leads people with limited knowledge of the end use of the documents to assume that a lot of the content must be correct because it has been automatically generated and simply add minimal detail, less coordination and output these documents for construction/manufacture which are essential not 100 per cent fit for purpose. Hence, the quality of the documents outputted from some offices are significantly reduced in actual quality but may appear better then they are because the presentation may be improved due to rapidly generated view of the models/project.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Design Firm

Keeping abreast of annual changes (under the guise of updates) to software. Given most software has gone to annual subscription, there appears to be a perceived need by suppliers to upgrade software on an annual basis. This seems to result to new or changed functions that are not fully tested before release. This results in annoying down-time in production dealing with less than optimal updated software. None of the colleagues I talk to ever upgrade software immediately. They always wait for the second sometimes third release before using. Additionally, upgrades every year results in having to migrate projects across multiple versions of the software, which is not recommended, or alternatively running three, sometimes four versions of the software concurrently due to projects that span several years.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

“The technology is forever developing and changing so keeping up to date with the latest version release or the latest shortcuts or even the latest add-ons is difficult as there is so much happening in the industry. Also, being outside of Sydney it is difficult to take advantage of the training provided with the updates.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Design Firm

To get the right programs and supporting add-ons is very expensive, but without them our production times and presentation is lacking industry standards. Therefore, the money must be spent or you get left behind by your more cashed up competitors. Manual design and drafting was more down to talent, not equipment.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“It’s about translating what’s in your head after understanding the clients brief. Then having ongoing discussions that means the design evolves. Therefore, the translations from the beginning of the design process is rarely what you start with. This means quick turnaround for the design and client discussions. This often impacts the time required to develop the changes, but the technology is getting better.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

“We sell the digital technology - Autodesk. I think the three most common barriers are: - too tied up with project delivery right now to take any time to learn a new technology. - a reluctance to invest properly in training (which only exacerbates the issue above). - contracts not specifying digital outcomes clearly and other parties on projects not delivering digital design as a result.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Supplier

“One issue we struggle with is trying to teach good presentation output and a final product format. We seem to need more auditing and checking of junior staff now? BIM has made everyone lazy in that things seem resolved, and yet they aren't. Many things happen automatically, and yet the final product is not so considered, nor able to be modified. The expectation of BIM documentation requires more up front design resolution, and yet our fees don't necessarily reflect the equivalent work. (i.e. Clients still expect a minimal DA fee yet the model requires much more input than previously).” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“Being able to produce good quality and fast 3D images from Revit. We currently use SketchUp and will continue to do so as Revit is not living up to expectations. We would ideally like to use one drafting CAD platform – Revit. But it is not responsive enough to respond to the fast turnaround times during the design phase and the quality of drawings is poorer than SketchUp.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“The degree to which you model in 3D. The fee balance of modelling (time consuming early in the project) not matching the cash flow or fee schedules that are perceived as reasonable. Time consumed in presenting a worthwhile model for presentation. Redrawing of the model at documentation stage due to the many finite and dimensional changes that happen between design and documentation. The provision of details that are anywhere near what good handwork can provide. Object libraries that are not flexible.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

Getting more product suppliers and manufacturers to present their products in ArchiCAD format, in order to offer an up to date, accurate BIM process.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

As a sole practitioner working on domestic designs, having no one to ask or share digital issues with, so that I can use the software better. I know it can do so much more than what I do with it. I did belong to a Revit user group (Geek Group as I called it), which was mostly male dominated, tech guys from larger firms. It helped with this problem, but it no longer exists, plus the demographic of the group was so vastly different.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

The rate of change of technologies and therefore pace at which we have to react to stay ahead of the market in terms of R & D, training, etc.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

We find it difficult to get decent two dimensional drawings from architects as they seem to be all moving towards 3D modelling programs that don't generate 2D views well (they are full of superfluous rubbish). Consequently, we are moving away from servicing architectural clients.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Engineering firm

Lack of system resources – computer systems having enough 'grunt' to perform the work quickly and efficiently. Other departments realising the importance of having this software and the system to support it.” - Individual Contributor, Local Government

Many smaller firms do find it difficult to co-ordinate and integrate with consultant teams given the time required and the necessary fees to cover such additional costs. These fees are impossible to charge to many clients who are continually seeking competitive and reduced fees to ensure greater profitability or probability that a project stacks up to proceed with.” - Individual Contributor, Architecture firm

3D design software takes much longer to create 3D models in comparison with old 2D design software, however time to produce design is shorter than ever.” - Individual Contributor, Engineering firm

The challenges of getting the right expertise, of people who really know what they are doing and what they are talking about - and then how we translate that to our client's needs and wants.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Engineering firm

“I'm trying to self-learn ArchiCAD. The quality of free online resources is patchy. Graphisofts learning program is great. Being a sole practitioner finding the time is always problematic.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

“Inefficient. The workflow is unproductive because we use more than one program to document. The office is too slow and busy to adopt a program that can resolve this as a one-stop-shop. The time and money it takes to set up a new system and train staff is prohibitive.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“Being a sole trader, keeping up with the changes with the software and finding time to still learn is hard because you aren't making money while you learn and work comes first.”  Owner/Founder/CEO, Design Firm

“Ensuring all players work collaboratively on the same platform. Not all consultants work in Revit or 3D at all and translating their information is very time consuming.” - Senior Executive/Team leader, Architecture firm

“As a mature age sole operator I have worked with ArchiCAD for the last 20 years. It has always been and is increasingly expensive to update and get support for problems." - Owner/Founder/CEO, Architecture firm

Integrating digital production techniques. Digital prototyping and production is still in its infancy and keeping on the many varying tolerance requirements and accuracy limitations of varying technologies is tedious and tiring at best.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Design Firm

It sets too many rigid boundaries and is not "portable" like on a beach, or at a restaurant, or in bed when I get these design urges sometimes. It places the designer in a strait jacket – which is contrary to freedom of design/art.” - Owner/Founder/CEO, Design of Innovative building materials