7 Ways Technology Will Impact Architecture in 2014

The Future Is Digital, and Design Will Never Be the Same

January 6, 2014

Director of Communications, NBBJ


#1. 3D Printing will go mainstream — and will start to scale up.


Image courtesy Daily Mail

Thanks to the expiration of key patents, more players will enter the 3D printing market. Small printers like these that print mini-models will be joined by newer, cheaper in-home models. And while additive manufacturing is not about to replace mass manufacturing, it will expand into the high-end custom manufacturing space. For example, companies like Redeye in Minnesota are quietly running printers as big as minivans to crank out custom parts for companies like Airbus, Boeing, GE, Ford and Siemens.  With the rise of pre-fab in the architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry, we may begin to see room and infrastructure components 3D printed. Check out this experimental room built out of 3D-printed sand blocks. Is your own private palace coming soon?

#2.  While 3D sizes up, digital design tools will scale down buildings. Here come the mini pop-ups. 


Image courtesy Archdaily

Forget the dorm triple, mini pop-up homes can house students in tiny houses built for one, like these modules at Lund’s university campus in Sweden. The small spaces give universities the option to quickly adapt student housing to any number of registered students, can be moved around and are easy to build on the fly. Other small pop-ups include: Inflatable concert halls, like this one from Anish Kapoor and Arata Isozaki; disaster relief shelters; and super-skinny buildings that fill the narrow gaps between buildings with micro-lofts. To see more concepts, check out Pop-Up City.

#3. Augmented reality will change how we make design decisions.


Image courtesy Business Insider

We’ve all seen Google Glass, but other types of augmented reality will start to come on strong.  How we shop, navigate cities and buildings will all be impacted by augmented reality. It will also be used as a tool to envision spaces before they are built. With it, clients can see what furniture, finishes and materials might look like in their spaces — and provide data to help them make better design decisions. An early experimenter, IKEA, has a new augmented reality product catalog coming out in 2014.

 #4. Computational design will graduate from buildings that look like alien spaceships to places that meet people’s needs.


Image courtesy NBBJ

While most firms use advanced modeling to generate progressive (or wacky) forms, firms will begin to develop parametric models and devise algorithms that make people’s experiences better and use less material.

#5.  The Intersection between Digital and Physical Means A/E/C Will Morph into A/E/C/T.

Architects are keeping relevant by joining forces with other disciplines, merging the fields of architecture, social science, neuroscience, technology, manufacturing and business. Two interesting new mash-ups:  Breakfast NY and Control Group.

#6.  The Internet of Things invades your home. Then it takes over your office.


Image courtesy Silicon Angle

The transition of once-inert objects into sensor-laden intelligent devices that can communicate with the other gadgets in our lives is well underway. In the consumer space, many products and services have already crossed over into the Internet of Things, including kitchen and home appliances, lighting and heating products.  Next, companies like Johnson Controls will begin to develop intelligent Building Monitoring Systems (BMS) — computer-based control system installed in buildings that controls and monitors systems such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems, and security systems. Their tools will help building managers do their jobs better by analyzing massive amounts of data and turning it into useful information. For example, different pieces of equipment will work together to find the most efficient way to heat or cool a facility without human intervention. Machines will diagnose their own need for maintenance, which will be scheduled automatically.

#7.  Speaking of data, Big Brother is watching you. Or are you watching Big Brother?


Image courtesy The Best Workplace

BMS data is also tracking your every move.  The upside: a more comfortable building that reduces its carbon footprint. The downside: a total lack of privacy in the workplace. A few enlightened COOs, like GitHub’s Scott Chacon, are letting their staff decide what to do with the data — literally giving power to the people.

Image courtesy of FormFiftyFive.

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