Each user of AEC-Apps can combine third-party programs from companies such as Autodesk and Adobe with apps, plug-ins, and scripts written by other architects or software developers. This bottom-up approach to software allows users to review programs and applications, and share tips and tricks for how to best use the software that drives the AEC industry.

Each user of AEC-Apps can combine third-party programs from companies such as Autodesk and Adobe with apps, plug-ins, and scripts written by other architects or software developers. This bottom-up approach to software allows users to review programs and applications, and share tips and tricks for how to best use the software that drives the AEC industry.

Credit: 500GLS

Between unending project demands and the hunt for future commissions, architects are expected to keep up with the ever-proliferating array of software. But which programs are worth the time it takes to learn them? The answer may lie in digital technology itself.

AEC-Apps, a website and social network co-developed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Case Design, is a crowdsourced information resource and exchange created specifically for architects, engineers, builders, and designers. The online forum is intended to foster dialogue about the profession’s digital toolkit.

Generally speaking, AEC-Apps combines an open-ended set of available, third-party software applications with an open-minded set of community members. Website users group apps according to their relevance. In turn, these groups of related apps help members find other like-minded members. Users can browse each other’s virtual toolboxes, or “App Kits.” Each app is rated and reviewed by fellow community members and listed alongside plug-ins and other similarly recommended programs. Aggregate or crowdsourced ratings determine the order in which the apps appear. “It’s interesting how social media is being interwoven in our society in areas that we’d never expect,” juror Bill Zahner said.

Interestingly, AEC-Apps—which we had covered in an article listing helpful apps for architects—is conceived not only as a consumer exchange but also as a progenitor of new apps. SOM and Case hope that users will invent or adapt new tools as they identify gaps in the available technology. Here, digital DIY will meet commercial software on a level playing field, with potentially complementary results. Although AEC-Apps is currently in beta testing with a small base of users (membership requires approval by the site’s administrators), its web of knowledge is steadily spreading.

To see all of the winners of the 2013 R+D Awards, click here.


Project Credits 
Project AEC-Apps (aec-apps.com
Design Firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York; Case Design, New York 
Project Leaders Nicholas Holt, AIA (director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill); David Fano (partner, Case Design) 
Project Team Skidmore, Owings & Merrill— Jason Chen, Robert Yori, Assoc. AIA, Robert Mencarini, AIA, Nick Scalco; Case Design—Mike McDearmon, Angel Ceballos, Jose Capelan, Diego Sapriza, Jorge Sierra

  • The AEC-Apps.com home screen displays recently added apps and featured App Kits. Once logged in to the website, users can add apps to their own App Kits.

    Credit: Courtesy SOM and CASE | AEC-Apps.com

    The AEC-Apps.com home screen displays recently added apps and featured App Kits. Once logged in to the website, users can add apps to their own App Kits.
  • In the screenshot above, an AEC-Apps user's App Kit is displayed, along with recent activity. Users collect apps within their App Kits, and can rate and review various apps so that other users can see what apps might be beneficial to project development.

    Credit: Courtesy SOM and CASE | AEC-Apps.com

    In the screenshot above, an AEC-Apps user's App Kit is displayed, along with recent activity. Users collect apps within their App Kits, and can rate and review various apps so that other users can see what apps might be beneficial to project development.