The Future of Architecture: Will AI Take Over the Industry?

There are fears that technology is advancing so rapidly that architects will be replaced in the nearest future. Also, the learning curve will be impossible for architects to overcome and Artificial intelligence (AI) will replace them.

However, experts are saying that it is highly unlikely and that it hasn’t been proven that AI can replace humans, especially designers. Regarding the unlikelihood of AI replacing designers, which is founded on AI’s limitations in cognitive capabilities such as judgement and emotions, Uber driverless cars have shown that AIs are getting better at handling complex tasks.

AI and Designers

The spread of the internet and advancement in technology has led to easy-to-use and do-it-yourself apps and automation.

Firms such as Facebook and Google have made various apps that conveniently bridge the gap between end-users and products, eliminating direct contact with graphics, web and software designers hitherto responsible for these jobs.

For instance, the Facebook page – the new small business homepage that gives a free and professional online presence to businesses as well as web design platforms such as WordPress and blogger that provides a free framework for web designs, has shown that the activities of AI can negatively impact other professionals.

It is thus clear that AI can take over from many professionals in any industry including the design industry by extension, architects.

AI and Architects

Looking specifically at the architect and his roles in the built environment. Evidently, there are few responsibilities architects carry out that can’t be replaced easily, especially those that involve human contacts such as coordination of other consultants, site supervision and meetings. However, his core responsibility which is architectural design can be largely taken over by AI. Even though several experts are of a contrary opinion, some believe that architectural design is the most difficult activity to automate because of AI’s limited purview into the nature and proclivity of human experiences.

Type and sources of Information used in architectural design

In my opinion, apart from these human experiences and influences, architects bring to design, design generally is about information processing. Most major components that control architectural design are information-driven. That is, they are determined by the amount of information the architect can gather. This information includes:

  • Those gotten from the client -contain the client’s needs and wants and even personality because this too can influence design.
  • Those gathered from the project site in the form of inventory and analysis… Google Maps/Earth is already filling this gap for AI to work with.
  • Those gathered from previous works are in the form of experiences and case studies. Though, some experts agree that experiences may be hard to access because of intellectual property concerns.
  • Those gathered from research, sometimes extracted from the Architects’ data, post-occupancy evaluation data and other sources.
  • Those gathered from city planning departments and building codes and regulations.
  • Those gathered from building materials manufacturers.
  • Those gathered from structural engineering.
  • Those gather from architectural theories and design. This will include architectural style and its peculiarity in different locations.

Synthesis and storage of architectural design

In the end, all this information is intelligently put together by a methodology or algorithm (what architects call “Concepts or Parti”) to create a suitable, workable and functional piece.

AI as we know is the simulation of the human intelligence process by machines utilizing a vast array of data to reach good decisions. Meaning that if good and sufficient information is available, AI may be able to also design.

However, the use of AI in architectural design may face challenges when applied to very big and complex projects but should conveniently handle smaller ones.

To a large extent, Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools have created a platform where most of this synthesized information can be stored in the course of design.

In the process of designing by AI, what is missing is the technological platform that retrieves, synchronizes and intelligently applies all this information before storing them in BIM software.

Also, the proper, detailed organization and sufficient accumulation of information in ways AI can make use of them are also lacking.

Today, architects are the “platforms” that synchronize this information in order to produce workable products but in the nearest future, AI will become these platforms.

Artificial intelligence is notable for its data analysis and application prowess – Its precision and efficiency are incomparable. Data is what machines learn from and in the AEC world, there is no shortage of opportunities to obtain it.

In summary

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are already becoming prevalent in a lot of industries, which suggests that in due time it will also spread to architecture.

However, experts believe that architectural design will be difficult to automate. In my opinion, automating design will require a framework of specific information gathering and dissemination in formats that can be read by AI.

Secondly, it will require algorithms that can intelligently synthesize and convert this data to architecture and lastly, a platform to store this design product.

Currently, Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools have provided the platform to hold architectural design.

The individual architect (one-man firm) will no longer exist several decades from today. You will have to choose between the Starchitects (celebrity architects) and the big corporations offering architectural services through AI.

Thus, we should prepare for a progressive erosion of what it means to be an architect as defined today.

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