Many people wonder whether artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to change architecture. The answer is "yes," and we'd argue that the change is happening as you read this article. AI is already making headway in the architectural processes and systems we've known and used for decades.
But what exactly is AI? Will it eventually make architects, designers, and construction workers obsolete? And what can the average architect do to start making the most out of AI in the design process?
We’ll answer all those questions - and more - below.
According to Britannica, "Artificial Intelligence" is simply a computer system that can perform tasks normally done by humans. It simulates reasoning, learning from experiences, problem-solving, and more.
AI is a powerful tool for architects, handling repetitive tasks and information processing at a blazing speed. Designers can also make decisions and solve problems much more quickly and easily.
As in every industry that welcomes AI into its fold, the biggest fear among circles in the construction industry is the possibility of AI completely replacing architects and designers.
Still, it's unlikely that AI will ever make architects obsolete. No matter how sophisticated it gets, it can never match an architect's ability to analyze situations, solve problems, and make decisions. Architects need to consider the unique needs and expectations of projects’ end-users – something that current AI can't do, and there are forces making sure it never crosses that line.
AI is bound to reduce overall project costs, which means projects will be breaking ground in greater numbers in the future. The need for skilled, experienced architects will similarly rise.
In the last several decades, we've seen computer-aided design (CAD) technology evolve in leaps and bounds, dramatically reducing the amount of time and work needed to bring architectural projects to life. With AI in the mix, architects can handle even more projects than ever before.
Here are five ways AI is bound to change how architects work in the near future:
Normally, architects spend weeks, months, or even years planning a project before any construction begins, in a series of meetings with the client where the design goes through one revision after another until it's finalized.
Moreover, architects need to closely check the design against building codes and zoning laws, which are optimally updated every three years. All of this adds up to a sizable chunk of time in the design process.
AI can reduce the time needed to arrive at a design to mere hours or even minutes. Architects will soon be able to plug into a huge, constantly-updated database of designs and codes, letting technology generate design variations for the client in real-time.
Modeling software has evolved in leaps and bounds in recent years, letting today's architects play with curved shapes and forms. If you've ever wondered how Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Santiago Calatrava came up with their wildest designs, they have AI to thank.
Modeling software like Grasshopper takes most of the guesswork, calculations, and trial-and-error out of the planning process, enabling architects to experiment and create more fantastical designs.
Just as AI will soon help architects and their clients come up with building designs right in the first meeting, it will also help urban planners. Professionals will be able to promptly design roads and city blocks using local codes, traffic patterns, and other important data updated in real-time.
Additionally, many believe smart cities are the future, as they're cleaner, more space-efficient, and better geared towards community and economic opportunity. AI makes all of this possible.
Planning and managing cities, towns, and urban regions is a complex undertaking, and it’s one that’s greatly benefiting from advancements in AI technology. Machine learning can automatically identify the most optimal routes for utilities, which then get updated in real-time as the urban design goes through revisions. This makes planning much less time- and labor-intensive.
Construction AI is a startup company in this space, and it specializes in automating the most repetitive and time-consuming tasks in planning large urban developments. It creates point clouds directly from vector PDFs that contain spot elevations, allowing for near-instant generations of site models without the need for user input.
Generative AI and today's collaborative software can reduce the planning phase to mere days - even for complex projects that involve multiple disciplines - leaving professionals involved with more time to complete other tasks.
AI is already being used to monitor the movement and interactions between workers, materials, and equipment on construction sites. It also alerts construction supervisors of potential safety and productivity issues as work goes on.
What's more, we're hearing about the potential for 3D printers to build houses and robots and droids being designed to perform dangerous or repetitive construction tasks on-site. Worth mentioning is the work of ICON, who built the first permitted 3D printed home in America and has been on the leading edge of the technology and its global applications.
Notably, it's unlikely that AI will replace the human workforce. The need for construction workers and skilled trades will continue to rise as new projects accelerate in number.
AI is here to stay, and the construction industry is quick on the uptake. Architects and builders are eager to find faster, more resource-efficient ways to handle projects, and emerging AI fits the bill.
One promising area of development is the pre-planning stage, which has traditionally taken weeks to years depending on the project’s complexity. Software like Maket allows architects to vastly accelerate the schematic design process, working on the design with the client in real-time and reducing months of planning to mere minutes.
Maket uses a vast, regularly-updated database of designs and codes, allowing the generation of well-designed, code-compliant building models on the spot. This lets architects meet clients and close deals anywhere in the country—right at the first meeting.
Maket’s voice input technology can receive verbal instructions from the architect and update the schematic model immediately. Clients can then make smarter, more certain decisions about their projects much sooner.
Learn more about how Maket can help you close more projects and simplify the planning process.