Some say it’s inevitable. Artificial Intelligence will be the way architects work in the future. Many are excited about this, and others are wary. How will AI affect your firm in the coming years?
Architects in and around New Orleans are already using technology to automate the quantifiable aspects of architecture. They are using applications that give them nearly instant access to building codes and zoning rules in our area.
But Artificial Intelligence does more. It doesn’t just automate a task via a clearinghouse of data; instead, it analyzes the data and spawns new solutions and ideas. It works much the same as the human mind when solving a problem. All you need is the data for the AI to process — And the better the data, the more you’ll benefit from AI solutions.
The most popular AI applications for architecture use text, audio, and images. But even drawings will be able to be used soon. These applications will need machine-readable data.
In the years to come, you’ll be able to tell your AI program that you want to design a building for a real estate firm with ten offices and handicap access. The AI software will generate tons of examples and narrow them down to the dozens that it thinks are the best. Then you can further narrow them down and develop your final design from there.
With AI and the appropriate data, you’ll be able to design more energy-efficient buildings by optimizing the effects of sun orientation, wind and window-to-wall area ratio.
Your clients will even be able to provide input. The software will be further developed into consumer products that will generate designs based on your clients’ preferences.
And further into the future, it’s possible that we’ll have industrial-size, autonomous 3D printers that could then build structures without the need for anyone to manage them—much as is being done in Mars Science City in Dubai, which simulates building on Mars.
It’s unclear when you’ll be able to use AI in these ways. This is because, as we said earlier, AI systems require data that is machine-readable. We need text, audio, and images that translate more easily to AI applications than the graphics we currently use that represent three-dimensional objects.
To expedite this, scientists are working to create alternative models of architecture like graphs for this purpose. But who knows how long this will take? It could be anywhere from years to decades before AI will be able to design buildings. However, the time will come when this happens.
As exciting as this sounds, some architects are concerned. Will their jobs be replaced by machines? We see this happening in manufacturing, distribution, hospitality and other fields. Could it be possible in architecture as well?
So far, automation hasn’t decreased the need for human labor. Instead, in spite of it, we’re all working more these days. And, because architecture is a creative endeavor, it will be more difficult to automate.
Architects will always be thought leaders in this sense. The computer will never replace good judgement and design decisions. So in the end, AI should be more beneficial than it will be harmful to the profession.
Just like with other forms of computing software today, AI will help you better compete with your larger counterparts. You’ll have access to the same technology they use. It will help you be more efficient and productive.
And, because you can now lease software on a monthly basis via the Cloud, you won’t have the capital outlays that you did in the past. Plus, you can write off your monthly subscriptions as an office expense rather than depreciating them as a capital expense.
This won’t happen all at once though. For these AI solutions to become cheaper, they will have to be more established and widely used. The large firms will use them first and then they’ll filter down to the smaller architecture practices.
The main challenge will be the quality and amount of data that you’ll need for AI and deep-learning systems to work as they should. However, many hope that architects will move towards sharing their data to benefit the profession as a whole. Some databases are already being used, but they’re not formatted or large enough for this type of sharing yet.
Your ultimate challenge will be in deciding how to use AI solutions in your architecture practice and when the benefits will outweigh the challenges. You’ll want them to improve the way you work and lower your costs, not raise them.
Some architects are already meeting with data scientists who focus on automation and AI so they can determine how to fit them into their practices. They are using tools like automated billing and AI-enabled risk assessment on construction sites. AI can help you evaluate your projects by analyzing data after a building is complete.
Plus, your daily tasks probably include data analysis and generating reports for your clients. There are AI software tools that can help you automate these tasks, but you’ll still need to review and verify your findings.
And, being human, we are all prone to misconceptions, biases and other errors. So in this respect, sophisticated AI capabilities can help to eliminate these human errors and help us gain insights.
When used judiciously, not only can AI free up your staff to take on other tasks and automate architecture processes, it can help you improve your operations and reduce costs. Architects who embrace the changes that are coming and gain AI expertise will ultimately be the winners in the industry.