By Chris Ruffo, Global Lead for Architecture and Engineering
Throughout the pandemic, architects, designers, and engineers have found new ways to collaborate remotely with their teams over the course of 2020. With an estimated 8,000 current building projects delayed in the US and Canada, many in the industry will be looking to ramp up efforts to adopt a hybrid approach to key workflows on a more permanent basis in 2021.
Let’s take a deeper look at the trends that will be top of mind for the AEC space this year.
Mobility Is the New ‘Norm’
The work-from-home mandate has impacted everyone – not just those in AEC, but each and every business with an office and a server room. One of the biggest trends that has emerged is the demand for mobile workstations. Even prior to the start of the pandemic, employees have voiced the desire for thinner, faster, lighter machines packed with the powerful GPUs needed to perform, collaborate, and render at the same speeds as in the office.
What will emerge in 2021 is the need for users and IT teams to further optimize the PC experience to truly meet the changing needs of employees and their respective workflows. Expect almost every architecture and manufacturing IT department to accelerate their road map for implementing virtualization solutions, which will allow users to connect from a workstation at home, or to a host workstation back in the office, in order to get the performance needed to run complex workflows.
Dramatic improvements in hardware performance, compute power, and graphics are driving more widespread adoption of technologies such as virtual and mixed reality as well as real-time rendering as reliable visualization tools. The collaborative nature of virtual- and mixed-reality technologies have become effective communications platforms for remote work. They allow design and engineering teams to come together in a virtual environment to walk through ideas or review prototypes in real time – a process that was not possible even a few years ago.
In addition, real-time rendering is making it possible for architects and engineers to see and make changes regardless of location. The rapid adoption of improved visualization tools means designers and architects can continue making decisions outside the confines of the office, while even improving on quality and efficiency.
AI and Smart Building
Tying all of these trends together, we’re seeing smarter, more automated and informed building processes emerge using new technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, IoT, and the development of digital twins. Accelerated by global pandemic and the reality of a more remote workforce, the adoption of digital twins enables a data-driven approach to decision making to help grow efficiencies in the way structures are designed, developed, and deployed.
In the future, AEC firms will look even more closely to manufacturers to better design, fabricate, maintain, and operate buildings and infrastructure. By using AI and digital twins to design, architects and planners can make structures (buildings, bridges, etc.) more automated, but also more adaptive. These technologies also allow the industry to monitor designs and connect building infrastructure with manufactured products through smart IoT.
There’s no denying that the global pandemic has forced the AEC industry to evolve and adopt new workflows. As architects, designers, and engineers have found new ways to collaborate remotely and remain productive, we expect many of the trends and technologies mentioned above to become the standard even once work returns to “normal.”