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  • Sarah-Jane Kavanagh

Nine Technology Strategies that Architects can use in 2019

We collate insights and views on anticipated changes in the design profession from digital design leaders at tech-focused firms across the globe.


Track the Invisible and the Invaluable


Fred Perpall, FAIA – Chief Executive Officer, The Beck Group, Dallas


This year will see firms learn how to use data more effectively, particularly in accurately predicting the length of time a task takes. In the past, we have relied too much on gut instinct and leaps of faith when signing up for projects that may be possible to achieve.


At Beck, in-house applications have been developed to use historical data and BIM to advise clients on what is possible around design, cost, and duration. Course-correcting the schedule can be done before time and money becomes an issue.


Andrea Love, AIA – Principal and Director of Building Science, Payette, Boston


Architecture is on the brink of imbedding big data into its design processes, whether it is programmatic or performance data. Designers can now set up energy models to run thousands of simulation options overnight.


The challenge is how to investigate, present, and leverage data in order to extract the best value from it. This has led a number of firms to start hiring data scientists to better embrace and structure a coherent approach to data.


Adam Heisserer – Design Technologist, Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio, Texas


The Internet of Things is providing mobile devices and sensors for architects and designers to access an enhanced level of detail in post-occupancy studies of the spaces they design. Applications are advancing so fast that mobile phones have become inexpensive scanning and positioning devices.


Paired with sensors to map environments based on an individual’s experience, this functionality allows any designer to gather data about a built environment at a granular level and take note of post-occupancy measurements effectively.




Leveraging Existing Capabilities


Charlie Williams, AIA – Director of Inspire Design and associate principal, LPA, Irvine, Calif.


As designers transition out of the service economy and into the experience economy, every business will need to have a deep understanding of the data that informs client relationships and the design process.


To date, technology has presented a barrier to accessing this deep level of data. However, business intelligence tools are becoming more user-friendly whilst the general knowledge about how to leverage this data is becoming greater.


As business intelligence tools such as Tableau Desktop are maturing, firms of all sizes can use raw computing power to crunch through databases as complex as a SQL database.


Comparing vast pieces of data in a visually orientated way can empower companies to understand most functions of their business more deeply.


Hilda Espinal, AIA – Chief Technology Officer, CannonDesign, Chicago


This year will see the ability to fully harness generative design within common data environments, becoming a day-to-day democratized tool for designers to drive value.


Through the creation of smart buildings through the Internet of Things, the management of building performance, and more information on post-occupancy evaluations, we will have more data, understand more about our built environment, and design more outputs to respond to very specific needs and challenges.


Paul Audsley, Assoc. AIA – Chief Information Officer, NBBJ, Columbus, Ohio


Investors are now realizing the opportunities that technology can bring to the AEC industry. As complexity and sophistication rises, it becomes more important than ever to have appropriate interfaces between technologies.

A technology that works well in isolation will add little value when it fails to integrate with an established workflow. Solutions that provide integration and streamlined dataflow can increase the confidence in the output and the speed of delivery.


The firms that craft the most elegant connections between different technology tools, or the ones that boldly develop their own solutions, will be the ones who thrive.


John Haymaker, AIA – Director of Research, Perkins+Will, San Francisco


Today’s project teams face stringent and often-conflicting performance goals and constraints. The challenge for these teams lies in the integration of powerful computational tools to accurately and efficiently makes decisions.


At Perkins+Will, an open-source framework was published that aims to engage and guide project teams through design space construction and exploration methods. This has been built in collaboration with universities and internal project teams to understand a broad range of needs and requirements.


With this tool, project teams can formulate and make optimal design decisions with confidence.


Total Digital Transformation


Islay Burgess, AIA – Senior Associate and Digital Design Manager, Gensler, New York


This year we are seeing a fundamental shift in the knowledge base required to move the AEC industry forwards. There will be a minimum level of understanding that is required of everyone working on a project, including those who do not even use any software.


Digital transformation will require firms to seek purposeful pairings between experienced design members and those who are focused on technology. After a new method is deployed, we must be engaged in a cycle of continuous improvement to advance knowledge and skillsets.


The next leaders of architecture will need to be able to leverage coding, digital workflows, data architecture and digital fabrication. We must use our experience and education to input into the modernizing process for design.


Nathan Miller – Chief Executive Officer, Proving Ground, Omaha, Neb.


We know that many technologies with the potential to transform the industry have existed for quite a while. Yet the industry remains one of the least digitized because of skill gaps, wasteful processes, and old-school delivery models that fail to adopt technological process.


Architecture must therefore understand that it is not simply about having the latest digital tool, but more about enabling people, increasing knowledge, and driving behavior change at all levels of the organization. Instead of focusing on any particular technology, we need to focus on how we can actually take advantage of them.


From partnerships to workflows or training, the tools have been ready for a long time. Now the onus is on the business itself to transform.



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