PARTNER Content: AEC Thought Leaders Share 3 Ways 2020 Changed the Industry
by Traci Vogel, Autodesk
In September, Autodesk brought together more than 50 architectural, engineering, and construction industry thought leaders for a two-session virtual symposium on the events of 2020 and their immediate and long-term industry impact.
The impetus for the symposium was, of course, COVID-19. The pandemic has shifted strategic priorities for many firms, and we wanted to hear from leaders how that shift was changing their vision of the future.
What we found was that AEC leaders have been, as Hilmar Koch, Director, Practice Group, Strategic Foresight at Autodesk, put it: “jostled into a new state of thinking about both physical infrastructure such as transportation and virtual infrastructure such as communication and digital systems, and the purposes they serve for us.”
We were most interested in the white space this convergence of digital and physical opens for the industry, and symposium participants had a lot of ideas – and a lot of questions. Here are some of the topics that came up:
Reimagining the Workplace
The leaders we talked to agreed that the way we work has changed, and we won’t be going back. The need for physical distancing fueled rapid adoption of distributed work practices. Firms moved the bulk of their projects to the cloud – some within days of the lockdown. Once most firms recovered from the initial shock of distributed work and the challenges it presents with collaboration, AEC leaders were quick to highlight the new opportunities it creates. One of these opportunities is that the geographic limitations of work are gone. Clients are no longer as focused on hiring within their localities, and there’s a huge opportunity to diversify the talent pool.
Sustainability Means Resilience
COVID and climate change have emboldened new language and energy around how we talk about sustainability. As one symposium participant put it, “I see environmentalism and resilience as interrelated. The world is changing, and our building and infrastructure are going to respond by being stronger and more sustainable.” There was hope that a resilience framework might inspire a global alignment around sustainability initiatives and provide a way to break through the false choice between environmentalism and economic advancement.
Technology as a Means, Not an End
One symposium participant commented that “the industry talks about disruption and innovation, but we seem to be stuck in a place where innovation means using different technology but asking for the same output.” There was urgency around using the COVID pause to reimagine how technologies such as generative design might reveal new ways of solving problems – not only around productivity, but around outcomes.
Read the Full Report
Reflecting on the events of 2020, AEC leaders who participated in the symposium saw a year of hardships, yes, but also a year of progress. Over the space of a few days in March, we radically changed the way we live and work. That portends an adaptability that the industry may not have recognized earlier. If we take the opportunity to use this sustained period of crisis to reinvent our industry, we will emerge stronger, healthier, and more resilient than ever before.
Access the full report, Reimagining AEC: Industry Leaders Look to a Post-COVID-19 Future, at the Autodesk Return & Reimagine resource center.