No more pertinent topic for our practice community exists than understanding and preparing for the wave of new technologies that will change architectural practice.
Letter from the editor
By Rebecca W.E. Edmunds, AIA, NOMA
What better way to kick off my term as editor of the AIA PMKC’s publication, PM Digest, than putting a spotlight on industry changing technologies? I’ve fed my curiosity about all the tech that’s buzzing across our industry—A.I., generative design, automation and extended reality (VR, Virtual Reality; AR, Augmented Reality; MR, Mixed Reality; and RR “real reality”)—and now I want to feed yours. Honestly, no more pertinent topic for our practice community exists than understanding and preparing for the wave of new technologies that WILL change architectural practice. Change is coming—in fact, it’s already here.
If you haven’t yet played with the new and accessible A.I. systems, such as ChatGPT or any of the image generating systems out there, it’s time to start. At the heart of A.I. is data. Any form of A.I. is only as good as the data that informs its thinking. In compiling, sorting and applying this data, the technology blurs the boundaries of intellectual property and ownership (we’ll get into that with AIA Trust and my thoughts on A.I. and writing for architecture in a future edition).
For a profession not known for sharing the details of all the work we create, our lack of sharing could make us obsolete. Consider a world where every standard of building code lives in a massive, shared data bank created by code experts, and a design is run through that system to identify and resolve code failures (see CodeComply.Ai as one example) or to ensure optimal life safety design. Or where your design ideas evolved through written or spoken prompts rather than your own hand (see Architizer’s 15 Top AI Tools for Architects and Designers and a tutorial in AI for design by 30X40 Design Workshop.) Imagine a computer system doing the design iterations by itself—yes, without an architect—to optimize energy efficiency, daylighting, fresh air infiltration and even to shape key design elements such as structure and façade configuration simply by assessing and selecting materials with the readiest supply chain availability? You won’t have to imagine for long. As you’ll see in the articles included in this issue, some of this tech is here now.
The last chapter of Phil Bernstein’s book, Machine Learning: Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2022), is titled "Value Proposition and Business Models". The overleaf to the chapter states:
Technological change in architecture has changed the processes, but not the value, of the architect’s services, while the business models of practice, which originated centuries ago, have remained stubbornly in place. As this next wave of new tools and capabilities wrought by intelligent machine automation becomes apparent, the profession has its best chance to break this cycle by revisiting and revising its value relationship to the broader building industry.
This sparked a level of excitement—maybe panic—in me that practitioners must grab on to this new wave of tech and take command of its power to reframe and grow the services we offer to clients and communities. I am far from a tech aficionado and surely not a traditional practitioner, but my hope is by sharing the insight I’ve gained from this issue’s writers, you too will have a better grasp of industry changing tech and be inspired to reimagine the practice of architecture before AI, or other industry leaders using AI, do it for us.
Industry-changing tech: An interview with Phil Bernstein
Interviewed by Rebecca W.E. Edmunds, AIA
Phil Bernstein, FAIA, RIBA, discusses the systems and conventions of professional practice that may get in the way of our ability to adapt to and flourish in the disruptive change of today’s technology.
The impact of emerging AI technologies on architecture
By Michael Schroeder, CCM, Partner at SGA
Michael discusses the exponential curve of technology that is weaving its threads into our professional lives and rewriting the rules of engagement across disciplines. AI integration holds the potential to reshape--and completely transform--architectural practice.
Future now: Additive manufacturing & construction
By Melodie Yashar, Vice President, Building Design & Performance, ICON
Melodie introduces readers to projects happening now in additive manufacturing--3D printing--in one of the most disruptive results of new computationally generated design possibilities, while inviting AIA members to envision new designs for accessible, beautiful and dignified 3D-printed homes.
Automation in practice: An abridged view of the future
By Nathan King, DDes, Autodesk Research, Virginia Tech CDR, Harvard, and UPenn
and Matthew Spremulli, Autodesk Research and University of Toronto
Nathan and Matthew tackle macro AEC challenges of population growth, inconsistency in the global supply chain, and competition for basic resources with automation’s ability to decrease production time, improve material efficiencies, enhance labor productivity, improve worker health and safety, reduce environmental impact, and enhance design opportunity.
Further reading and resources
- Machine Learning: Architecture in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Phil Bernstein, RIBA Publishing, 2022
- 15 Top AI Tools for Architects and Designers, Samantha Frew, Architizer
- Video: Using AI as a Design Tool in My Architecture Practice, 30X40 Design Workshop
- Why Virtual Design and Construction is the Future of Building, Structure
- Engineering a bridge that designs and builds itself, Autodesk Research
- Highly accessible platform technologies for vision-guided, closed-loop robotic assembly of unitized enclosure systems, Construction Robotics
- Matthew’s work at the University of Toronto: Selected Topics in Architecture: Generative Design Thinking & Workflows
Contribute to the Digest
The future issues of the Practice Management Digest are currently planned to cover topics such as human resources, cultivating culture in your firm, business basics, and research in practice. If you have other topics related to practice management that you’d like explored or any articles you would like us to consider for inclusion, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.