While the fear of being replaced by technology is a rational one in many industries, the truth is that technological breakthroughs simply transform and reshape the way that many people work. This has been the case so far when it comes to architecture, and the latest wave of disruption is coming in the form of artificial intelligence, or AI.
When CAD was developed, it quickly made those mad hand-drawing skills of an architect nearly irrelevant. There are other expert systems now available that make functions such as construction documentation and cost estimating much more automated. In the future, and even currently in some areas, artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on the role of architects in various project phases.
1. Site and project research
AI is a powerful tool that will help the designers of projects both large and small to customize every aspect to suit current and future conditions. By having access to data about demographics, likes and dislikes, income levels, and other relevant information, this connected system can simulate conditions to create the right physical design.
Open-source plugins such as Google SketchUp and software such as EcoDesigner Star allow architects to analyze environments and calculate building needs without leaving their office. This can enable an architect to take on much larger projects than were possible in the past.
2. Project designs
AI can also be used to design projects of all sizes and types. The architect participates by providing project parameters, and the system delivers a series of different proposals. This used to be an expensive and laborious process that was only open to clients with deep pockets.
Berlin-based CoPlannery was launched as an architecture firm using AI as a means to quickly evaluate a client’s project needs and then match them with a team of independent planning and finance experts. Autodesk Revit is a building information modeling (BIM) software program that allows architects and other professionals to design every aspect of a building. There are now add-ons to this system that automate some processes using AI.
3. Client and user engagement
Since much of AI’s technology was developed by the gaming industry, it has a unique ability to produce forms of augmented reality that can transform the way we view architectural designs. Clients can view a proposed project from several angles as they walk through or hover over the area in a virtual environment. An architect can use this same technology to solve complex problems related to design.
4. Working with robotics
AI systems have already been integrated into some areas of the construction industry, such as scheduling and machine operations. Architects also use various machines that AI can help design and operate. One example is 3D printers that can produce detailed and elaborate scaled renderings for proposed projects.
5. Integrating AI systems
Using AI in architecture can help save time and foster innovation, but these systems could end up being fragmented. That is if it weren’t for the possibility of integrating them using AI!
A young architect named Behanz Farahi is creating several adaptive AI systems for use in homes, such as a Breathing Wall that will learn from and adapt to occupants. One of the goals is for these systems to also integrate with other “smart home” systems either already in place or soon to come.
Instead of viewing AI as an unthinking digital draftsman, it can instead be an intelligent partner in design. Not only will these machines learn how to do things that humans do, saving time and resources, but they will also become innovators themselves, ushering in an exciting new age filled with opportunities.