With the advent of IC, architecture is changing.
We get it. Architects don’t really like to give up control of their designs, not to other designers, and certainly not to a computer. So, when we started talking about “automating” the design/manufacture/build process, we got a little pushback. We’d like to debunk the myth that design has now become dystopian and assure you that by using a Kit-of-Parts, and an Industrialized Construction platform, architects will still have the freedom to design.
Three Key Challenges
Without the right tools, architects feel distracted from using their expertise to focus on important, value-added activities. All of this added time and money not just to the design phase, but across the entire chain.
Secondly, without automation, and data storage capabilities, the intellectual property created via the design process typically remained in the head of team members working on a project. In essence, that means IP is transient and firms are losing that knowledge and associated value when an employee leaves.
A Utopian Solution
All of these things have created the fear that dystopian design will be the outcome of automation or industrialization. But truthfully, using the right solution to automate some of the design practice actually helps inform good design.
Highly evolved Kits-of-Parts have all kinds of information wrapped around each part, like cost and predicted labor. With that, architects can freely, and efficiently, work within a set of constraints, without feeling handcuffed or unclear on what they can or can’t do. The end result? Architects know their designs are following rules, codes and constraints, and with access to so much more information earlier in the design stage, they can make better decisions to control for cost and mitigate risk.
Secondly, by managing data in the cloud, and in a BIM environment, it’s all connected, meaning time isn’t wasted searching for needed data. In this built-in data environment, designers get to be designers again. Imagine the freedom to explore different approaches and accurately cost them out, or use several different scenarios to come up with an even better design without delaying a project. Knowing that each part has a specific cost, and a specific amount of time required to assemble, it’s easy to predict actual labor costs. Even better? With the data captured in the system, IP stays with the company, even if employees come and go.
Finally, even with automation, or an Industrialized Construction approach, architecture is still hard. Experts become experts by practicing it for decades, and adding in some of their own voodoo science.
The concept of the more hours needed for a difficult project, the more valuable the architect or architectural firm is must also be debunked. With IC, maybe it’s time to move to a value-based billing structure, that rewards low risk projects being delivered on time and on, or under, budget.
With the advent of IC, architecture is changing. Having the right tools and the right data at hand will afford architects the time, and freedom, to create next generation spaces.
Mike Eggers, VP, Product & Innovation
Mike is a licensed architect in the state of California with over 15 years of experience with highly detailed and complex construction projects. His expertise in program management and product development, along with deploying integrated hardware, software and operations solutions at scale. Mike has a passion for solving architectural problems with an emphasis on scalability and repeatability of design. Follow Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.