May 2017

Office Processes As Technology

by Don Friedman on May 31, 2017


I’ve talked before about the changes in office technology during just the period covered by my career – thirty years, so far – but I was recently reminded that the edges of “technology” blur imperceptibly into the surrounding social context. The internal operations of any office (I’ll use ours as an example) are a set of processes that are subject to the same kind of modernization as engineering work itself. If the idea of operations as technology seems strange, keep in mind that the US Patent Office has awarded patents for office processes.

The reminder was that we recently had an intern start work, and the process that jumped out at me was on boarding a new person. A lot has not changed since I start in 1987: payroll and health insurance paperwork needs to be completed. The fact that some of that is now done via PDF and email rather than paper and mail makes it marginally easier, but not much different. Then we get to the computer…

In 1987, engineers in small firms generally didn’t get desktop computers. Now, we have one with CAD and analysis programs, internet connectivity (which may go without saying, but wasn’t yet standard in, say 1995), general office programs, and office management programs. The set-up includes creating eight accounts, each with a username and password: for the computer itself, for the server, for the billing program, for the group PIM software, for an online engineering analysis program, for the CAD program, for the library software, and for the internal communication program.

This is not a bad thing, as all of that computer power actually enables forms of work that were not previously possible, like entering timesheet information while away from the office, making field notes readily accessible to an entire project team, or group discussions that are not dependent on everyone being in a room for a meeting. It’s just surprising how fast and how thoroughly the changes have come.

Tracing the Past

May 29, 2017

There’s a great article up at Curbed making the type of connection between past and present that I’ve tried to do here: A Walking Tour of 1767 New York. It even discusses looking for Temple Street, which briefly occupied my attention.  Physical remnants of New York’s colonial history are frustratingly difficult to find because of the […]

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Pictures and More Pictures

May 28, 2017

I highly recommend the Urban Archive NYC app if you’re looking for pictures of specific locations in the city. Great pictures, easy to use interface. Have a good Memorial Day. The blog will return on Tuesday.

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Medieval Silliness

May 27, 2017

Central Park’s Belvedere Castle is intentionally modeled on English garden follies. Those follies were modeled on real abandoned castles, so Belvedere is therefore two removes from actual castles. That didn’t stop the Metropolitan Museum of Art from using it as the backdrop for a simulated knight fight in 1924. The terrace at Belvedere can be […]

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De gustibus non est disputandum

May 26, 2017

I am not a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. That is not the same thing as saying that I think he was a terrible architect. Any number of people I greatly respect tell me that he was great, so I try to separate my personal taste and opinions from a discussion of the objective merits […]

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Then and Now – Pier A

May 25, 2017

1936, already fifty years old: 2017: Pier A is the southernmost pier ever built on the Hudson shore of Manhattan, almost at the souther tip of the island. It was built after the municipal pier system had begun in earnest and Pier 1 was already complete upstream (north), hence the odd name. I have always […]

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Folly Into Building

May 24, 2017

Artist’s representation: We are proud to have recently completed an investigation of structural conditions at Belvedere Castle for the Central Park Conservancy as the first phase of a restoration project. It’s been fun so far and promises to be more so as we get into the design phase. Belvedere presents a peculiar issue in conservation: […]

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Big Data, Facade Version

May 23, 2017

The New York City Department of Buildings has a fascinating web page up that uses statistical analysis on the thousands* of facade inspection reports that are filed on a five-year cycle under the Facade Inspection Safety Program**. Here are a few of the facts that are clear, either directly stated or can be inferred from […]

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The Engineer’s Eye View

May 22, 2017

I took that picture last summer, while performing a facade inspection from a telescoping hydraulic lift. The right side of the picture is the last section of the arm, with the joint in the lower right the connection from the arm to the bucket; the white section of arm vertically in the center is the […]

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Review of “A Taste of New York”

May 21, 2017

If you suffer from vertigo, you might want to skip this one. It’s fun. I wish the film-makers had included some more footage outside of the most famous Manhattan icons, but then again, I know exactly where on the 7 train they were for their one shot in Queens, so maybe I’m not the target […]

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