How does Artificial Intelligence fit into an architecture practice?

When it come to talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Architecture & Engineering it’s an elephant in the room – there’s anxiety around it taking jobs and confusion about how we can apply it. We’re misplacing our energy in fearing how AI will clash with our work, rather than focusing on how we can use it to improve how we work.

Our work is becoming increasingly digital. The physical information including drawing we referenced, communications we send, even the existing conditions of a site are now stored digitally. On top of that we are creating more digital information. From our large more complex 3D models of our projects that carry more information in them to the energy analysis we perform on them to the data we can collect about how they were constructed. And this doesn’t even touch on the data we are creating about how our business operates.

This data is mounting into an ever increasing pile of stuff. Useful stuff, but without the ability to search through it and find the information we want, it’s just stuff. In fact, it’s getting to the point that no person at our firm could even possibly sort through it because it would just take too long. Or even if you could find it, comparing it to find correlations between it goes beyond our capacity.

This is where computers can help us. And yes, they are doing something that a human could be doing, but would we ever say to someone in the firm right now “Can you search across all the projects we have done in the last 5 years and identify the top 3 healthcare projects done with a private sector clients that have the similar square footage and departmental layout as this new project and check if we used this product in the mechanical rooms?” … No we would not. However, if you could ask a computer to do it? Or something very similar would you?

This is about addressing the things we want to do but cannot. Does this mean that we will continue to use computers only for new tasks? No, because the same system that can find you that information would be able to tackle simple manual tasks that we do have people do today. The way our smartphones perform all sorts of automated tasks that we use to do manually, and we don’t suddenly find ourselves with tons of free time on our hands, but find other things to do with our time. As we apply this to our community, we will take the repetitive tasks away from people that they don’t want to do allowing them to focus more on producing the great projects we do.

That is what AI could be doing for us today and to ignore it because we don’t want to automate someone out of a job, is dismissing a super power that could give us not more information, but knowledge. Knowledge that can make us smarter, faster, and better than our competition. Or at least keeping up with the others that are already looking at this, because whether we like it or not others are already exploring their data and AI strategies. And we need to start now.

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