Technology and automation in architecture and engineering have soared in recent years. They impact all aspects of practice including project management delivery, billing, invoicing and time tracking.
But not everyone in these industries has taken advantage of these emerging technologies. There’s a growing sense that if firms don’t incorporate artificial intelligence into their practice, they’ll get left behind.
Software companies are incorporating AI more quickly than the firms they service, which could leave architects and engineers out of key decisions on how the technology will influence practice.
Randy Deutsch, AIA, associate director for graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Architecture, has written three books on design technology in professional practice.
“We’re soon going to see super intelligence enter just about every sector, market, and field,” he says. “It would behoove A/E firms to know it has entered our field, and we have the opportunity now to do something about it, to look at ways it can actually improve what we’re doing and make us more profitable as practitioners as opposed to being victim to somebody else taking it and running with it.”
A/E Firms should see artificial intelligence as an opportunity—a tool to augment and improve practice, replacing mundane tasks—not as a threat to their jobs.
As founder and CEO of digital design agency Proving Ground, Nate Miller researches and develops data-driven software for the building industry.
“If you dig into the science behind artificial intelligence and research into machine learning, you may find highly futurist stuff,” he says. “But where it’s applied, it isn’t used as a replacement for human thinking or problem-solving. It’s meant to be an accelerator that positions the computer to handle certain things that a computer is really good at.”
In a time when the value of architects and engineers and their services is being questioned, practitioners need to think about the future and incorporating artificial intelligence for project management into their everyday workflow.
In doing so you’ll create efficiencies to cut down on wasted time, ultimately enhancing practice and adding value to your clients. Architects especially are known for being critical and creative, so why not cast an open eye to doing things in a technologically creative way?
What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?
Moving from the abstract to the actionable is always a challenge. When it comes to AI, it starts with data.
Artificial intelligence is the application of data (data is what machines learn from), and in the A/E world, there is no shortage of opportunities to obtain it. From billing analysis to project status updates on-the-go to knowing who your most efficient employees are, the opportunities are endless
There are long-term benefits to investing time and resources into data and automation for every A/E firms business. The opportunity to influence a new way to work is too big to ignore. Large firms, midsize firms, and software companies are leading the charge right now.
How Can Architecture and Engineering Firms Use Artificial Intelligence?
How can smaller firms, which make up the majority of the industry in the US, utilize AI in their work? If you’re a small firm, you don’t have a whole lot of time to dedicate to researching these topics but when you want to maintain a competitive advantage you should explore your options. You have to look inward at the way you’re working and seek an expert to help you.
Often times accounting and project management software companies will help you pick a solution that works best for your firm. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them.
Opportunities to automate mundane tasks are low-hanging fruit, and there are many simple ways to get started. The use of this technology every day is what will really help architects and engineers start to understand the benefit and in the short term, enhance their productivity.
The minute you start overlapping your current tools and new technology together, they become much more powerful.
“When you start tapping into the data you have available to you, you’re able to make higher uses of the tools, freeing you up to design more or, if you’re a business owner, to go after more work instead of spending all your time in documentation,” says Deutch.