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22nd September 2019

Technological Developments Set to Disrupt the World of Architecture

Architecture disruption article image

Design leaders spoke to Architecture Magazine and revealed the technological developments they are anticipating to impact the world of architecture. They discussed topics including Virtual and Augmented Reality, Robots and Automation and Artificial Intelligence. Here are the highlights:

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Steven McKay, senior principal and global design leader at DLR Group and senior fellow and executive board member of the Design Futures Council.

“The intersection of architecture, design, and technology must centre on people. Human experiences have been and always will be the cornerstone of our profession. The digital tool set has enabled us to transcend traditional architecture practice, albeit sometimes with a high barrier for entry. This year, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and real-time rendering will continue to transform the way we design. Using these tools to design at a one-to-one scale provides the ability to inhabit a proposed design concept while iterating options within a continuous feedback loop. VR will continue to give us the opportunity to gain new perspectives that allow us to design in a more dynamic manner than ever before”.

Hilda Espinal, Chief technology officer at CannonDesign

“Virtual experiences through simulations holds great promise. To date, architects are mostly using VR to create environments that reflect space as it will be built. However, virtual simulations will allow us to see how these environments hold up during routine and surprise events. For example, we will be able to test how hospitals endure in the face of hurricane winds, or if shadows projecting on a floor will cause patients to slip or fall. When the simulations are coupled with audio playback, we will be able to model the sound from a local community pool to assess its impact on the appeal of new apartment complexes. We are barely scratching the surface of how we can be leveraging virtual simulations”.

Robots and Automation

Bill Zahner, CEO and president, A. Zahner Co.

“For this year and beyond, Zahner will continue to push the intersection of art and architecture by focusing on the increased relevance of automation. In particular, we are using robotics to enhance the human application of surfaces on metal. We have always striven to integrate the handcraft exemplified in art with the algorithm-driven rigour offered by automation and digital integration into the business of making. For instance, if you could paint a room with a robot and leave the detail, edge work to the person, you can accomplish more without being overwhelmed with boredom and still achieve the individualistic, handmade look. A robot thrives in the mundane. Humans need detail”.

Digital and Data

Heath May, associate principal, HKS, and director of HKS LINE

“We see the construction industry adopting new, substantive technologies more rapidly than architects, with technology-augmented construction processes leading the way. The use of AR and reality capture for layout and field verification will likely become commonplace on most large-scale projects. Where they are not limited by regulations or liability, drones will be used to support site observation, field inspections, and reality capture. We also expect to see an increase in the scale and capacity of additive manufacturing processes, including 3D-printed cementitious materials, structural metals, and high-strength composites and polymers.

In support of the progress being made in the construction phase we expect that architects will aim—or be forced—to more effectively utilise 3D models and BIM through the pre-construction and construction administration phases. These changes will likely be driven by the expansion of new delivery models—including direct-to-fabrication, systems unitisation and off-site fabrication, and large-scale prefabrication—that rely on consistent downstream digital integration among the designer, contractor, and fabricator”

Artificial Intelligence

Natasha Luthra, Virtual design and construction director of emerging technologies, Jacobs

“The possibilities of what artificial intelligence (AI) systems can do for our industry are endless. ‘Smart cities’ are the obvious first place where these technologies will take root, given that any AI technology will need large data inputs to be successful. A few companies in the construction space are already combining the needs of the building industry with machine learning, looking to identify safety issues on construction sites by using machine learning to comb through thousands of pictures and videos”.

“I also expect predictive modelling to make greater inroads into design. Imagine incorporating the power of autocomplete—like that in texting—into your design process. use artificial intelligence (AI) to autocomplete modelling tasks. For example, a team showed how AI can automatically finish modelling the sides of a room, thereby saving production time. We can teach the AI to autocomplete many spaces and elements, especially those that follow a clear set of rules, like restrooms and egress stairs. This will allow designers to focus their time on the areas of the project that really demand attention”.

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