Sharing information and knowledge is easier with tools such as email, yet only larger firms in the architecture services industry have been able to effectively collaborate among partners, employees, and external specialists over more than a small number of employees. Transmitting data among trusted professionals is one of the important challenges the industry faces, and as more workers are able to collaborate, sharing skills and information with one another means it is not necessary for every architecture firm to retain many experts in various fields. By adjusting this outdated business model and shifting labour protocols to meet real demands (not just market demands), an entirely new approach to architecture and the built environment is possible.
Palladio’s software is simple. It is a business application monitoring tool which organizes, distributes and records micro-tasks whenever files are exchanged. These micro-tasks are called contracts. Contracts are daily design tasks, and when compiled chronologically, they result, in the story of how a building, bridge or tower was designed and built. In other words, a Palladio contract makes it easy for architecture professionals to collaborate since there is an ongoing record of their interactions, which can be easily located for review at a later time. The benefit of recording these interactions systematically, is that it establishes deeper trust and accountability among accredited professionals. Palladio is such a powerful tool because it offers a balance between progressive new technologies and continued use of familiar techniques and industry standards.
With new and emerging technologies, effectively managing workflows and maximizing the use of employees will make long-term planning in Canada more competitive. Staff expertise and project progress can be monitored with Palladio, and available staff can be linked across the country according to any new project or internal demands. This new adoption of technology will also reduce the number of employees who are laid off during slumps in the construction industry.
Around the clock services are also possible as large teams can be assembled rapidly and their cooperation can be monitored in order to deliver products quickly and efficiently. Previously only large multinational firms could operate in this manner, leading to a monopoly on design services in Canada. Some firms in Toronto, for example, account for as much as ten percent of the total revenue for the architectural services industry in Canada. This monopoly on design services has led to a generic production of building types and styles in the commercial sector over the past decade. Like the shift that took place in the industry with the introduction of email, now a highly efficient communication tool, Palladio is a revolutionary software, allowing even small architecture offices to classify, control and archive files with such ease that they can compete with larger players.
The architecture service industry has come to rely heavily on human resources to hire employees. These employees are often skilled technically, in specialized computer programs for design, yet are inexperienced when it comes to decision-making about construction processes, implementation, and administration. While this system has worked well enough in the past, the construction industry is becoming increasingly nebulous and hiring large teams of permanent employees no longer makes sense for many licensed architects. With such a vast multitude of technical demands in the industry and countless design programs available, training new associates often requires a great deal of time and resources. These additional expenses, along with salaries and benefits, account for nearly half of the operating expenses in the industry. The Canadian architecture services industry’s revenue in is expected to grow faster in the coming years according to Statistics Canada and IBISWorld. However, the profit will only increase if the operating costs remain the same or are reduced, as the industry grows at an increased rate. Palladio’s software solves many of these issues simply by offering a reliable communication channel among professionals and automating time-consuming tasks such as coordinating workflows and archiving files.
Maintaining employee proficiency in highly sophisticated, constantly changing software has become an industry-wide challenge. Offering ongoing training and making time for employees to learn new software is expensive, but falling behind can be catastrophic for an architecture firm. Additionally, recent graduates, who are highly skilled with the latest software, can transmit unforeseen knowledge into even the most conservatively-disposed organizations. While recent graduates will not likely be able to meaningfully contribute to all of the aspects of a complex project, firms can greatly benefit by absorbing their fresh knowledge and insight.
Creating a time-stamped "history" of a design process, from start to finish, without the need for character assessment, credential authentication, training periods or time-consuming administration, gives new freedom to the architecture services industry. Palladio’s business activity monitoring feature exists as a series of immutable records of interactions between two parties, which are time-stamped on the blockchain. These time-stamped interactions can track the progress of a building's design evolution, serve as records of hours worked, archive portfolio documents for future client presentations and even serve as important documentation during legal proceedings. While tasks can be rapidly and efficiently completed and archived remotely, Palladio’s software can also be integrated into an office's existing framework and be used between colleagues as a simplified business application monitoring tool. Recording hours manually is inefficient for licensed architects and architecture associates alike. The Palladio system improves the way architects exchange services, archive files, and make payments. It also improves interactions between licensed architects and associates; a transparent system records interactions and incites both parties to communicate in clear and concise ways. In order to be more productive, creative, and focused on better architectural services, both architect and associate can properly fulfill the demands of the industry. The client and end-user, in turn, benefits from a more efficient industry and better internal communication. The Palladio platform enables Collaborative Blockchain Design (CBD) by combining three new technologies, making it possible for:
2) recording hours, archiving documents, and monitoring exchanges and
3) making payments.
A CBD “contract” is posted on the Palladio platform when the licensed architect:
1) enters their digitally-verified public key, assigned by Palladio to all licensed Ontario architects, and
2) makes a service deposit.
A verified associate "intern" architect can commit to a contract that has been posted. In order to commit, the associate architect must:
1) be accredited by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB), use their unique public key to access the form, and
2) make a service deposit to the contract in the amount required by the licensed architect.
Because the constructor is payable, the contract begins with some initial funds. In addition, anyone can add more funds to the payment by calling "addFunds". All behavior of the contract is directed by the licensed architect, but the licensed architect can never directly recover the payment, unless the Recover function is called before anyone else commits to the contract.
If the CBD is in the open state (State = 0), any digitally-verified associate architect can commit. An associate architect can receive payments in the committed state (State = 1). Associate architects must be verified, by using their assigned public keys, or the function call will revert, return and show an error, and the submission will not be posted. If the commitment is not authenticated, the contract remains open.
When an associate architect is digitally verified, and a contract is created, the contract state changes from Open (State = 0) to Committed (State = 1). Once the Auto Release time elapses, the state changes from Committed (State = 1) to Closed (State = 2). This change in the state from Open to Commited cannot be reversed. The CBD will never revert to the Open state once it is in the Commit state, but it can revert to the Closed state once the Auto Release time reaches a value of 0 or if funds reach a value of 0.
In the Commit state, the licensed architect can at any time choose to release funds to the associate. The funds cannot be burned, except by Palladio; once the contract is in the Commit state, it must run the entire time of the contract. The time of the contract can be extended by the licensed architect if necessary, by calling the Delay Auto Release function.
The associate must include the link to the file they submit. In the case of an associate failing to submit the agreed link to the file, a record will be made on the blockchain and in their personal file, possibly disqualifying the associate form obtaining a professional license.
This is a quality control feature. Missing one submission is considered acceptable, but more than three failed contracts could lead to disqualification from the license application when facing review under the Association of Architects.
This software is a fully functional decentralized application enabling an electronic chain of digital interactions. The calls to the contract include:
1) Auto Release Time (in hours)
2) Service Deposit (amount required by the licensed architect, to be paid by the associate architect)
3) Amount Released (licensed architect can release funds at any time once the contract is in Commit state)
4) State (Open = 0, Commit = 1, Closed = 2)
5) Title and description (brief description of the Task using concise professional language is very important)
6) Licensed Architect Verified Address (cryptographically verified by hashing the msg.sender's address and then querying the registry for a matching keccak-256 hash)
7) Reference File Downloadable link for the Contract (link may be stored on the Palladio server at first and eventually on IPFS once the technology is fully safe and functional)
8) Auto Release Interval (time determined by the licensed architect for the task to be completed in hours)
9) Associate Architect Verified Address (cryptographically verified by hashing the msg.sender's address and then querying the registry for a matching keccak-256 hash)
10) Get Full State (making this call returns a string of all contract parameters)
* Note: Palladio retains 2% of every amount that is automatically released to pay for maintaining and updating the Palladio software and the registry and archiving files. Initially these services will be partially-centralized; eventually they will be integrated into a decentralized storage service system such as Swarm, IPFS, or another tool which will eventually come to reach full functionality in the coming years.
Transactions to the contract include:
1) Trigger Auto Release (this functions reverts the state of the contract from "Commit" to "Closed")
2) Delay Auto Release (in the case where an associate architect requests more time to complete the task, the licensed architect can offer to delay the deadline)
3) Log Associate Architect Statement (associate architect can send messages with this function)
4) Recover Funds (associate architect can recover any remaining funds once the auto release time is at zero)
5) Add Funds (anyone can add funds to the contract)
7) Log Licensed Architect Statement (licensed architect can send messages with this function)
8) Commit (associate architect can commit to a contract by making a service deposit and calling this function)
Once an associate's credentials are verified by hashing msg.sender’s address and a matching address is queried in the Palladio registry, the smart contract changes from the Closed state to the Commit state. The endorsement hash corresponds to an endorsement record stored and monitored by Palladio. It consists of a combination of the following security authentication tools, which will be carefully defined in the algorithm:
- Endorsement Hash
- Endorsee Address (Smart ID)
Quality Assurance requires a subjective interpretation for each contract, under the scrutiny of a licensed architect, and the eventual review of each contract, conducted by the Architectural Certification Board. While a licensed architect can trust the credentials of an architecture associate on the Palladio platform, the quality of the submission may not meet the obscure standards of that architect.
Every submission is time-stamped and hashed in a permanent, public and immutable contract on the Ethereum Virtual Machine, so if the submitted file does not meet the standards of the licensed architect, a new contract can immediately be submitted. The goal here is for the licensed architect to have access to a number of contracts, instead of a single, slow and expensive submission in the traditional way.
The licensed architect can make very small payments for each contract to be completed rapidly and, if the need arises because a task was incomplete, a new contract can be submitted immediately. In some cases, to avoid potential delays, a licensed architect may want to submit several contracts simultaneously, in order to receive multiple submissions all at once, from different verified architecture associates.
A minimum of 3720 hours in specific categories of architectural experience is required following the completion of a Master of Architecture from a recognized University in Canada. These completed hours are manually tracked, verified by a licensed architect and eventually submitted as a completed Canadian Experience Record Book (CERB) to the Ontario Association of Architects.
Once these hours are completed, architecture associates can apply for their licenses. There is a requirement of 940 hours of experience in Ontario, under the personal supervision and direction of an OAA architect within three years of the date applied for license. This experience is not being replaced by Palladio software; the process is being improved.
Architecture associates often spend months applying to offices and hours formatting examples of outdated academic projects while writing letters to dozens or even hundreds of architecture offices. This time could be spent working on actual projects in the industry instead of writing resumes. The Palladio Platform enables architectural design professionals to receive paid experience from the day they obtain their diplomas.
Palladio encourages recent architecture associates to begin submitting work on its platform immediately following their M.Arch degrees. Any work submitted by an architecture associate is recorded on the public ledger. As the architecture associate hones skills in a low-pressure, remote environment, those skills will improve quickly. Eventually they will have the experience to work as an intermediate member in an office environment; this will happen in a much shorter amount of time than it does with the current slow-moving integration approach.
Every submission by an architecture design professional is recorded on the public ledger, and the number of an associate’s total remaining hours is automatically updated according to the smart contract parameters. Once a total of 3720 hours has been recorded on the Palladio platform, a review is done by the corresponding State or Provincial Certification Board. Once this review is passed, an associate can apply for exams and eventually earn a license.
This platform for monitoring business processes and facilitating communication between architects and associates will have an impact on the industry beyond improving administrative efficiency. As the OAA and CACB continue to improve their digital administration, Collaborative Blockchain Design will help catalyze a new way of thinking about architecture; where the best minds from around the world can collaborate on complex projects simultaneously, offering varied perspectives and a range of solutions to complex design challenges.
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