Learning doesn't stop at graduation: Todaro

Why an experienced architect enrolled in George Brown College’s building information modeling program

Image of pencil on a computer keyboard

Pencil on a computer keyboard | Photo: Reza / Flickr CC


Al Todaro

In January, I made the decision to “go back to school” by submitting an application to George Brown College for the building information modeling program.

Why did I do that after working in architecture firms for 22 years, followed by three years at a construction company? What more could I learn that I have not already learned from having worked the last 25 years?

To my fellow, younger, architecture students, believe it or not, there was a time when the only one in an architectural office that used a computer was the accountant. All projects were drafted manually. Every line that was drawn had to be planned carefully. Every mistake could only be corrected with an eraser, and then redrawn. When I graduated from architecture school, this is what I did. I made plenty of mistakes.

To understand why I was making those mistakes, I had to get out of my comfort zone and get out of the office as often as possible. It was only from speaking with carpenters, masons and tile setters that I was able to understand what I drafted weren’t just lines on paper, but real materials assembled in a logical sequence with real costs. I knew then that I had to keep learning about current and new building materials and methods.

Computer-aided drafting/design (CAD) was intimidating. With every year that passed, it was being introduced into more architectural offices. This new technology divided many offices into two camps: one believed there was no need to make any changes at all. They believed everything worked just fine the way it was. The other camp embraced CAD and immediately saw its benefits.

By learning CAD, I was able to prepare construction documents much faster. It allowed me to be assigned greater responsibilities on projects. That was when I was able to prove my worth to the firm.

Several years ago, building information modeling began to appear in the architectural industry. It introduced a new process of working in a virtual, collaborative environment where all stakeholders in a project shared information with each other to create one master digital model of the project. I knew which camp I wanted to be with.

To my fellow architecture students graduating this year, I can offer plenty of advice and lessons learned. At the top of the list is to keep learning. It doesn’t stop at graduation. An employer is not obligated to teach. If they offer it, take it! If they don’t, find a way to learn it on your own. There is no such thing as “going back to school.” There is only “moving forward.”


Learning doesn't stop at graduation: Todaro