How to Prepare for Architectural Technology Modules

How to Prepare for Architectural Technology Modules

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When explaining architecture to a person who knows nothing about it, usually the words ‘designing’ ‘buildings’ or ‘drawings’ come about. But not many people talk about the technological aspects of the course. This may be because if you don’t already have experience working with real projects in a firm, your main focus is on hypothetical projects that don’t need a technology viewpoint.

But to prepare architecture students for the real world,it’s important to touch on architectural technology including basicconstruction ideas and the knowledge of how exactly a building is made and thenin turn, how that combines with the design.

This article is aimed at the undergraduate students,especially second and third years who may have no idea how to prepare for thetechnology modules. Usually, this comes in the second term while you’re inbetween design work and maybe finished with dissertation so it’s reallyimportant to be able to multi-task as best as possible.

What is the technology module / dissertation / submission?

The actual technology ‘module’ or dissertation in someuniversities can vary because each place will have their own education methodand requirements so unfortunately, without looking directly at the brief, wecan’t give guidance on each and every aspect. The deadlines, type of submissionand other requirements completely depend on the university and can be betterthat way if you have a lot of guidance. Here, we’re going to be speaking from personalexperience, so if something isn’t the same for you, just ignore it.

Now you might be thinking, I already have so many differentprojects and deadlines and now technology has been added to that. We’ve alreadyexplained the purpose of the submission, but the overall idea is to enhanceyour design project. This adds a level of detail and actually shows theexaminer how the project moves from being hypothetical to reasonably realistic.By doing research about various things like case studies, detail drawings andother tests or experiments, you’re learning key skills.

From experience, the technology module or dissertation is a booklet of information that includes the project and its context as well as some tests, case studies and development of the project’s technological focus. It also includes drawings such as plans, sections and detailed construction drawings on a large scale. Check out this example on Issuu.

What are the aims and objectives?

The purpose of a technology module is for students tounderstand the technical aspects involved in any kind of building project, nomatter how big or small. This has to integrate with your design project butfocusing more on an element rather than the entire building. Often, the aimsand objectives will be provided to you in the form of a brief or marking guideso make sure you read it properly and understand what it wants you to do.

Thinking from a submission and marking perspective, theexaminers are just looking for an understanding of technical elements. Theybasically want to see that you can create and draw out basic concepts that havederived from your project. For example, when testing out an element, you don’thave to have successful outcomes. They want you to fail and learn howyou failed and then what you did to correct the situation. This shows growth inyour projects.

As well as this, the examiners are looking for high qualitywork with innovative ideas. Of course, working on a ‘simple’ technical elementis difficult enough, but if you broaden your creativity and come up withunusual ideas that may very well not work, it shows that you like to experimentand think outside of the box.

How does this help you later down the line? Architects don’twork alone on a building from start the finish. There are many otherprofessional people involved who will need to understand your thinking andideas through your drawings. If you ever sit down with a constructionalengineer you will realise the jargon and overall concepts are much moredifferent to architecture. You will also need to make others understand howexactly your vision comes to life. It’s all good and well designing a beautifulroof structure but if you don’t have the technology behind it sorted it, no onewill have an idea on how to actually construct it.

In addition, the technology module is great for prospectiveemployers. Whilst working in a firm, you will be tasked on various things thatyou didn’t necessary learn in university because you were working onhypothetical projects. This is where having a technological understanding comesin handy. Although you might not be an expert in it, you have a solid basewhere it makes it easier for you to learn as you go rather than learning fromscratch whilst on the job.

Breakdown of content

The following ‘chapters’ may not be required or could beslightly different depending on your course and university. This example isfrom the 3rd year technology dissertation at the University ofGreenwich.

Project Context – This is all the information you havealready gathered so far for your project. You have to basically think about howyou would introduce the project to someone who may have not looked at yourdesign work. This includes analysis of the site, the brief, your key driversfor the project and even where it is located. It’s basically background information.

RMS – This is a research methods statement. This is whereyou explain your technology focus, again with the context of the designproject. The RMS is also a standalone document that gives an outline of thetechnology submission.

Dissertation – The dissertation is the main element of thesubmission. It has two parts, first the aims and technical questions that needto be answered, the case studies and the actual investigations carried out withexperiments. The second part is the drawings. This includes plans, sections anddetail drawings as well as a 3D view if needed.

Audit – this part explains the real-world technicalities ofthe project. For example, the costs, materials, building regulations and healthand safety. Luckily, it doesn’t need actual figures but simply an understandingof the way it works.

Our top tips


Here at :scale we heavily emphasise on organisation. It is alifesaver! Similarly, for the technology submission, the best thing you can dois organise yourself. Set out a couple of hours once you have the brief, tobrainstorm on your project and make a template of the pages you need. We wouldrecommend you buy a small notebook where you can keep your ideas. It will alsocome in handy during tutorials with your tutors regarding tech.

If your brief doesn’t already include a breakdown of thepages you need, either make one yourself or look at past projects to get abetter idea of the structure. We’ve already touched on this above. Then, createa file in Adobe InDesign and set up a front cover (not the final thing), thepages, headings and subheadings and other details you know you need to include.This way you’re not creating pages one by one and slowly adding it to a folder,you can instantly lay out a page in your file and keep it all in one place,ready to go. If you have ideas for the presentation or colour scheme it makesyour life much easier. Personally, we would say keep it simple but do somethingfun with it that doesn’t go over the top. If you need ideas, have a look on ourPinterest board ‘Layouts’.

A small but crucial part of the technology is to come upwith a technical focus. This might be something new you’ve thought of orsomething you want to build on. Let’s use ‘natural ventilation techniques’ asan example. If you wanted to make your building more sustainable, for whicheverreasons, you need to come up with ways in which you can introduce naturalventilation. An example of this can be a wind catcher or wind tunnel. Usingthis as one of your technical experiments, you need to think about the kinds oftests you can do to ensure you have the best model.

  1. Placement of the wind tunnel – here you canexperiment where it will be placed, depending on the orientation of thebuilding, you can do wind experiments on site, 3D model a wind tunnel and usesoftware to understand where it will catch the most wind.
  2. Design – think about the best kind of design ofa wind tunnel. Look at existing ones, the materials, the size, all kinds offactors.
  3. Efficiency – obviously, you can’t test this onsite, but you could simulate conditions via a 3D software or a scaled physicalmodel.

Essentially, the more factors you have to test, the better.But you need to make sure it makes sense with the rest of your project. Why areyou testing this? Why is it important for the project as a whole? The best partis, even if some tests don’t work it, you can and should include it so that theexaminers can see you tried various routes and then finally settled on the bestoutcome possible. This bit is probably the part where most students get stuck,they don’t know what exactly they need to ‘test’ but once you’ve got someideas, it becomes very easy to keep going.

By planning ahead of time, you’re leaving yourself more timeto work on the real stuff. You don’t want to be rushing at the end working onthe layout of the dissertation even though it is an important part. Planningahead also means thinking about printing services. For some technologydissertations, drawings are also required but these have to be to scale andtherefore need to be on sheets of A3, A2 or even A1 and have to be folded andstuck in. Make sure you leave space for this and plan and scale your drawingswell.

It’s also a good idea to have two copies of yourdissertation, one for the submission and one for yourself or as part of yourportfolio. Make sure you decide on how you will print your document andunderstand roughly how many days it will take. Then, count back from the daybefore your deadline and set it as your own deadline to finish everything. Youwant to leave a day or two for adding in the drawings and checking everythingis good. If you can, try leave a backup option in case nothing works out. Thiscould be a simple printed out booklet you make yourself.

Use your 3D models to your advantage. You don’t need anexquisite physical or digital model for this. Smaller, prototype models orexperiment models are great. A good tip would be to duplicate your currentdigital model, extract out the area of focus, whether it’s a sliver of yourbuilding or a corner and use that file for the base of your technologydrawings. Remember, you don’t need fancy renders or illustrations, a simpleline drawing in orthogonal view is great. If possible, try and model thebuilding with actual layers of the walls, the structure etc. so that when youdraw a section out, it’s already there. Some programs like Revit or Vectorworksmake it easy for you to do this.

Don’t forget

This was our breakdown on architectural technology, what it is, what you need and our top tips for getting through this module. If you want to see more useful and helpful articles or even our tutorials, make sure to check them out below or by going on to our Blog page.

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