Architecture and technology have always been connected. Architecture and design are applied sciences that use research and development in technology to drive their work to new heights, creating buildings and products that are more interesting, responsible and useful.
The speed of technological advancement in today’s world is mind boggling. Everything people use and interact with on a day-to-day basis is being affected by breakthroughs in technology. This phenomenon can be seen by looking at the technology in an architect’s studio. Architects are doing more than designing and supervising the construction of buildings thanks to some new technology.
New technology is revolutionizing architectural design. The process and end results of the deployment of new technology are disrupting the AEC industry and heading in unexpected and exciting directions with a new generation of innovative architecture.
Architects today have access to data and analytics that allow them to focus more on innovation versus production while optimizing performance. The role and work of the architect continues to evolve. Technology will not be ignored, and tech savvy architects realize they are more likely to achieve long term and sustainable success than architects who resist embracing and deploying the latest technological innovations.
Here are a few of the latest revolutionary technologies in architecture.
Generative design simulates nature’s evolutionary approach to design and uses the power of computation to explore thousands of design options, rather than a single solution. Designers input design goals and specifications such as materials, manufacturing methods and budget into generative design software. The software then uses cloud computing to explore potential solutions and generates numerous design alternatives. It tests and learns what works and what does not work.
Architectural Apps and Cloud Services
Technology in architecture takes many forms. The smartphone is one form that is forever getting smarter and more indispensable. Architecture software developers will deploy apps for use during every project stage—from conception to completion—and architects are learning to rely on them to provide greater service to their clients.
Touchscreen technology allows architects to sketch directly into software that can be translated into 3D modeling apps. Building information modeling (BIM) saves time, increases transparency, enhances details, records revisions and encourages collaboration. Architects can streamline their processes, quickly iterate, explore and deliver solutions using visual scripting tools such as Grasshopper and Revit.
Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Realities
Virtual reality offers architects an exciting, dynamic way to collaborate with each other and present ideas to clients. Use of virtual reality technology in architecture is expected to grow as architecture firms, virtual reality companies and BIM software developers collaborate to create more seamless virtual reality workflows. Virtual reality allows clients to “walk” through projects before these are built and architects are leveraging this to engage clients in the design process.
Augmented reality use is accelerating due to advancements in products that facilitate a greater connection between the physical and digital realms of architectural design. Augmented reality applications allow users to overlay building plans, marketing materials and other 2D collateral on a 3D BIM model.
Mixed reality or hybrid reality merges real, physical environments and virtual, digital environments to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Clients can use mixed reality to see a physical location transformed with virtual architectural modifications and interact with those virtual elements in the physical space where they are.
Designers are making use of advancements in 3D printing and rapid prototyping to build better, more accurate design models to full scale representations of their work. It is anticipated that in the future entire buildings or installations will be the product of 3D printing.
3D Rendering and Architectural Visualization
Advancements in 3D modeling and 3D rendering technology are having a tremendous effect on the products people use and the buildings they inhabit. Rendering artists are able to produce clearer-than-real-life images pulled directly from the digital realm into a person’s vision. This is changing the way architects design in a manner that was impossible 10 years ago.
Modeling software and 3D rendering software such as Rhino, SketchUp, and Maya are revolutionizing the digital world, providing vital design information to architects, city planners and interior designers. Google Earth is becoming so detailed and comprehensive that users are able to pan and orbit around the globe in full 3D.
Architects will soon be able to fully construct 3D representations of their work and use VR to put their clients into the experience before the first brick is laid. The ability to do this has been available for quite some time now. However, it is now possible to actually put on a headset and envelop your senses with sound and space that will make the spaces and materials instantly relatable and understandable.
Drones have begun to be used by realtors, architects and designers to get people into real interior space before a building has been constructed. The crew will take a drone to an urban or rural job site and fly the drone around to capture the most interesting and important views via an on-board camera.
The architect can then take this image data and superimpose it into renderings for the project, giving prospective clients and buyers an accurate picture of what the living room will look like when viewing the cityscape beyond. It has become a valuable tool for 3d renderers who are looking to produce the most accurate design drawings outside of real life.
Architecture firms must harness emerging technologies and use them for strategic advantages to survive and thrive in this new digital world.
-Glenn Ebersole, Director of Business Development, JL Architects