So, let me start off by saying this article will not be a rundown of hottest technology to hit the architecture scene. True, things like holographic design, big data, virtual reality, the use of scanning, digital photography, and drones to create models of existing conditions, and 3D printing are revolutionising both the way projects are moved from concept to construction as well as the speed with which that happens.
But, there is a far greater revolution happening within the architecture industry that is not getting the attention it deserves. Some of these disruptive technologies are breaking and remaking business models and ultimately redefining the concepts of service and value in architecture. The most significant change is happening within- on an organisational level.
Time for a New Perspective
It’s well known that the architecture industry as a whole is notoriously slow when it comes to the adaptation of new, transformative technologies. While many firms in the architecture industry try to position themselves as the avant-garde in design, some of those same practices are quite conspicuously cumbersome.
There is actually a deep issue at play over here. Interwoven within the very fabric of the industry is an outdated mentality that affects all but the most forward-thinking firms: that the architect sits at the centre of the project. This may have been the case thirty years ago when the architecture practice was responsible for translating the client’s needs into a design that would then be given over to the associated engineering and construction firms.
But, times have changed.
Now the architect is getting pushed aside… pushed by a growing field of engineering and construction companies that offer architecture services… pushed by technological advances that aid in the design process, but at the same time can make the architect and his or her expertise obsolete… pushed by clients who now demand a more comprehensive and complex service, yet do not want to pay more for it.
It’s not that architects and their practices are no longer needed, but their approach must change: from project director to consultant, from leader to facilitator.
The firms that recognise this trend and go along with it, instead of fighting it or denying that it even exists, are the ones that will continue to thrive.
Using Technology to Transform the Architecture Practice
Today, the forefront of innovation in architecture lies within the organisational structure and day to day operations of the architecture practice. This is where technology is playing the most pivotal role.
For example, an assortment of mobile and cloud-based solutions are starting to replace conventional communication such as email. This one small change can dramatically foster collaboration, enhance communication between members of an extended design team, and allow architecture firms to make decisions based on client feedback.
In the last few years there has been the growing adoption of building information modelling (BIM). BIM has enabled architecture firms and their partners to better collaborate on project design details, determine constructability, and ultimately avoid many of the deficiencies in architectural design that often crop up as construction begins.
Current and past project data is also migrating to cloud-based storage creating a repository of information that can be instantly accessed on demand, re-examined, and even re-used by future design teams.
Such tools are game changers primarily because they redefine the role architects play in the design process. In the end, architects may find themselves once again in the centre of projects, but as facilitators not dictators.