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Paper itcon-2001-2:
Architectural Practices and Their Use of IT in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

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Arif A, Karam A

Architectural Practices and Their Use of IT in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

Abstract: The application of Information Technologies (IT) is moving forward with tremendous speed affecting all industries and professions; our building profession is no exception. To identify the extent of IT application in the building construction context of South Africa, a survey was conducted in the year 2000; it included IT as one of the many topics investigated. The Western Cape Province (WCP) was selected as the first subject of the ambitious national survey. The survey provides insight into the particular patterns in IT applications within the local architectural industry of the WCP and tracks its implications in terms of human resources and technical needs. This research paper presents a focused perspective of the findings of the survey on the local practices; their general profile, their computer technology profiles, their particular applications of technology and finally the effect of computer use on the profitability and cost reduction of their practices. The data presented in this paper highlights the high numbers of small-sized offices as a general characteristic of the local profile. Although a good percentage of these small offices seem to have a high need and use for IT applications, larger-sized offices are totally computerised and are all networked as well. The use of computers is clearly concentrated in three areas: administration, communication in addition to the core activity of construction drawings production. The survey reveals a major dependency on computer-aided-design (CAD) software where its use extends, in most cases, to clients' presentations. This dependency makes high demands on staff and principals' literacy and on the high competency levels needed for their use of technology. On the financial effect of IT use, many practices are not fully convinced that there is an actual reduction in their running costs. The exception occurs in the case of practices run by principals who use computers themselves; they have a positive perception of the financial benefits of technology. This research establishes a baseline from which to scale the progress in the use and application of IT in the architectural profession, being a key player in the construction industry. It serves as a measure for future surveys of the other provinces. It is hoped that it provides a foundation for many assumptions made by practitioners, technologists, consultants and educators of this field.

Keywords: Architecture - South Africa, Architectural Practices, Building Construction, Computer-Aided-Design (CAD), Survey - Cape Town

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Full text: http://www.itcon.org/2001/2 (available to registered users only)

Series: itcon:2001 (browse)
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