Firms engaged in architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting are investing in design technologies to keep up with the competition and take their offerings to "the next level," a recent online survey reveals.

According to the survey, conducted by business-management-services provider ZweigWhite’s weekly management publication, The Zweig Letter, 37.5 percent of respondents said their firms are primarily investing or have primarily invested recently in technologies such as building-information-modeling (BIM) 3D design software. A significant number of respondents (25 percent) also reported investments in systems, such as major server and computer-hardware upgrades.

A large majority of respondents—88.9 percent—said their firms recently have undertaken or are undertaking significant technology upgrades. CJMW Architecture PA in Winston-Salem, N.C., recently underwent a major conversion to BIM software.

“We believe that BIM technology is a natural evolution that will eventually become standard practice in our industry (similar to 2D CAD in the past two decades),” John Drinkard, president of CJMW, said.

Carney Engineering Group in York, Pa., also has made major investments in design-process-enabling technologies recently.

“We are a small firm, and need every competitive advantage we can get to stay in front of larger, more established firms," Joshua Carney, president, said. "Our best route to this is to provide what they cannot in terms of speed in implementation of the new technology and the services that come with it.”

Klotz Associates Inc. of Houston is making significant investments in systems.

“When complete, this upgrade will provide mirrored systems and data located in our two largest offices," Dan Sullivan, information-technology manager, said. "All four of our offices will benefit from this upgrade. The benefits include improved application performance, increased storage, and disaster recovery/business continuity.”

With the design industry becoming increasingly technology-dependent, major investments are seen as necessary.

“Our position as design leaders in the marketplace must be reinforced by our abilities to delineate designs in many different, exciting, and intimately interesting ways,” Brett Kratzer, design principal for REZTARK Design Studio in Cincinnati, said.