Published: May 7, 2013

Every semester at CU-Boulder's Program in Environmental Design, as well as in architecture programs around the country, students are using computers to design their projects and then printing them out, sometimes at poster size, to have them critiqued and redlined by their instructors.  The print out is then discarded and the student goes back to the computer to edit his/her project and the process starts over again.

ENVD student Matthew Greenwald decided this tradition needed to be changed. So he created a proposal that aims to replace paper intensive desk critiques, or pin-ups, with technological solutions to greatly reduce reliance on printing. At the end of the Fall 2012 Semester, Matthew presented his "Paperless Pilot” to ENVD faculty in which he outlined his research and explained how he was proposing to use iPads, purchased by ENVD Student Government, and computer apps, such as Bluebeam Revu, to do desk critiques digitally instead of having each student print out their projects. 

“The iPad is an excellent first candidate for this pilot project because of their high resolution screens,” he said.  “It can be used for one-on-one desk critiques when appropriate, for studio pin-up critiques via a monitor or projector, or for full on presentation to an audience via monitor or projector. There are also styluses for the iPad that allow a greater degree of precision than a finger.”

ENVD Instructor, Marianne Bellino, liked what she heard and volunteered her Spring studio for the "Paperless Pilot". “For years I would download student files from D2L to my computer, print out the files, redline the documents and return them to the students in paper form,” she said.  “Now the students upload the digital files to folders on the server, I open them in the cloud, add comments and return them to their folders with notes and modifications.”

As for using an iPad for teaching purposes, “It required a paradigm shift and workflow modification,” she said.  “There is a steep learning curve in order to get used to new apps and programs such as Bluebeam Revu for the iPad. Eventually they become second nature.  While it did not make the studio paperless, it significantly reduced paper for redlining and student feedback and made me more aware of my own paper use.”

“The intention is not to eliminate hand drawing, modeling, or unique mediums like block printing or water color,” Matthew said.  “The main objective is to reduce the amount of printing that occurs during the course of a typical semester.”

Even though Matthew will be graduating, the “Paperless Pilot” project will continue thanks to ENVD Student Government President Jacqui Painter, who has pledged to keep funding the project as well as recruit faculty for the fall 2013 semester. 

“I believe that the iPad and future technologies like LeapMotion and large format touch screens can enable more possibilities than paper and pen critiques,” he said.  “Animation, video, and mixed media can become more common and students who would otherwise have difficulty articulating their ideas would now be able to express them.”