This is the 6th instalment in a series of 10 articles where we attempt to categorise chronologically and thematically the list of things you will need to start your architecture practice, and furnish it with the glimpses of insight we’ve accrued during the first three years of our architecture practice, Mihaly Slocombe.
This is the most expensive part of establishing your architecture practice, though you can save costs by utilising electronic hardware you already own. As a minimum, you will need a computer, printer, modem and camera. Probably the biggest decision you will make will stem from the operating system you choose: Mac or PC. With the resurgence of Apple market share over recent years, most software is now available on both platforms. The exception to this rule is Autodesk’s Revit, though its competitor, Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD, is and has always been built for the Mac.
We were introduced to Apple’s OS operating system while working at Perkins Architects before we established Mihaly Slocombe. We have never looked back: we run Macs and only Mac-compatible software. We would be lying if we said we weren’t seduced by the Apple product lineup, though their reliability, seamless hardware / software relationship and sophisticated interface are also very attractive. A decent Macbook Pro will set you back around $2,500. A similar iMac will set you back around $2,000.
Unfortunately, specialised software is an almost impossible financial ask for a young architecture practice. To purchase the minimum necessary software packages like AutoCAD, SketchUp, the Adobe Suite and Office for two users will cost around $30,000, plus ongoing annual upkeep. This is easily equivalent to your entire first year of earnings. This reality makes us angry: software manufacturers are clearly out of step with the buying power of small businesses. Suffice it to say, you will do what you need to do.
Invest in the best internet connection that’s available to you, and couple it with a good modem, wireless router, wireless printer and network attached storage device. We recently purchased Mac Airport products that together establish a very reliable wireless network, far superior to the Netgear devices they replace.
The need for a physical server is a thing of the past. We use Dropbox and love it: automatic syncing across all our computers and mobile devices, instant backups of our work, zero hassle. A 100Gb account with Dropbox will cost you $100 a year, nothing compared to what you would have had to spend on a server. The network attached storage device is for those of you who, like us, are pedantic and paranoid: a tertiary backup system on site just in case the internet breaks down. We have discussed the advantages of Dropbox and Cloud computing in general in this recent article.
Finally, while the camera attached to your smartphone is adequate for most circumstances, it won’t be of much use in low light conditions or in the tight confines of internal rooms. We recommend you invest in a compact digital SLR like the Sony NEX range of cameras: they are significantly cheaper than their larger digital SLR cousins, but still boast interchangeable lenses, full manual functionality and great image resolution. The Sony NEX3N costs $950 including one prime and one zoom lens.