AI is Revolutionizing Architectural Technology
Top Take-Aways: Adapt and Thrive
CEO Eitan Tsarfati talks about why architects should view AI in architecture as an opportunity and use architectural technology to their benefit.
This is a summary of The Real Market with Chris Rising's podcast. Some of the text has been edited for this format.
Technology is Always Evolving. AI was Inevitable. As architects, we started our careers with pen and paper. The first big change was moving to AutoCAD and from there to Rapid. Being able to generate a 3D model and not manually, repeatedly draw every line (the same door or floor over and over) was a huge innovation.
At the time, the fear was “what would happen to all these people drawing by hand?” There have always been questions about the impact of technology on the workforce. Jobs have changed. Tools have changed the way people work and their behavior as an architect or a planner. It has saved time.
It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game I don’t see it as a way to say there are x amount of people in this industry – now there are layoffs and these people will have no jobs. There are always new technological developments that lead to new professions. Think about Instagram influencers or YouTubers. They didn’t exist a few years ago. I wouldn’t look at it as if people won’t have anything to do. It will be different. As an architect, I don’t think they need to be afraid of new architectural technologies taking their job away.
Men vs. Machine: Threat or Opportunity? In the last three to five years, machines have been able to think and learn about problems in a way they couldn’t before. It’s not just a new development in the architectural industry; it’s new in every industry. Machines have reached the place where they can make decisions about planning that we’d usually ask humans to take. Having said that, human expertise and insights will always be needed at some level.
Decisions Can Be Taught People do the same thing over and over again. We’ve learned a lot from how architects talk to engineers, or a customer talking to an architect. Think WeWork. You go into an office anywhere in the world and it pretty much looks the same. There are design rules. There are brand specifications that are similar in each one of the branches - regardless of geography. Decisions that people take in different parts of the world are pretty much the same decisions.
If you can track all the data — on each vertical -- in office and residential spaces — you will begin to better understand what kind of decisions were taken over and over again, and those that are similar to other decisions. You understand that there are decisions that the computer can actually handle on its own when given the proper parameters and AI model. So, basically, if you have the right infrastructure and you put the right data in place, the computer can make these repetitive decisions and generate the same output with increased efficiency.
Adapt or Die? There’s no question that AI in architectural design is going to change the way architects work. If you keep doing the same thing and not evolving, not developing yourself – then maybe the machine will replace you. A young architect will probably see things s/he’s doing today done by a machine tomorrow. Design documents are being generated, whether it’s a layout or a whole model of office space or residential buildings. Suddenly, you hit a button and you see the whole model generated.
It’s a kind of magic… that might be a little intimidating the first time you see it. But then you understand that humans still have a role in correcting requirements, to see where the machine is generating something which lacks the soft skills and insights of the experienced architect — the feel of a space, or the urban and cultural context. All these skills that architects are so good at without thinking about it. You can show an architect a design and say, “Something’s wrong here” — to add your human input to what the machine-generated.
Architects Will Always Have a Place at the Table
Five years from now, the general contractor (GC) will ask the architect to go over the plans to see that they have the human touch. Why do you need the human touch? Because you don’t want to build buildings for robots. You want to build buildings for humans. And the best planners are humans.
There are always edge cases (an extreme problem or situation) and issues that only the human mind can solve. That’s why I believe architects will have a place at the table – they just make better decisions. They’ll use the technology to avoid wasting time carrying out tedious repetitive tasks. The machine will be their best helper.
Your Next Partner Will Probably Be a Software Developer If you’re developing with technology, and you understand its power, you understand your future colleagues will be software developers. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be working with these people.
The machine will work right beside you and complete and complement your talent – you’ll actually find a way to nurture your skills and develop as an architect. Your human creativity will get better and better. These are the architects of tomorrow — the ones who take their human skills to the next level.
Get Familiar With New Technologies I’d highly recommend that architects learn a bit of coding, as it helps you get up to speed with new technologies. Steve Jobs is quoted saying learning code teaches you how to think. He’s the guy that brought the design to the front seat, in everything we do and everything we touch. Code is a part of our lives, and we need to get to know it much better to become part of the present and the future.
FOMO and the Market in Five Years The adoption of software in the construction planning industry will be 100x what it is today. Today, there’s a huge difference in the way companies see technology today compared with fifteen years ago. Many construction companies have a chief information officer and vice president of technology and innovation to recruit. They have FOMO – they are terrified of missing out.
Technology Allows You to Compete Today, the whole architectural planning industry is based on an hourly-based fee. There’s a reason for that. The more people you have, the larger projects you can handle. If you look at what happens when a small architecture firm receives a big project, they either need to hire fast or use freelancers, but they need people.
With the advances in technology in architecture, they don’t need more people. There’s an opportunity for the bigger companies that handle 50 projects per year to – now they can handle 500 projects. It’s a great opportunity for those ready to take it.
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