Reimagining the cities we live in with digital technologies

by Ofentse Sefolo
Reimagining the cities we live in with digital technologies

By Simon Bromfield, territory manager at Autodesk Africa

According to the United Nations, the 55% of the world’s population that lives in urban areas today will increase to 68% by 2050. As a result, there will be a direct impact on the demand for more resources, ranging from basic resources such as food and water to transport, housing and infrastructure.
In the face of these rising pressures, there is a clear opportunity for architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industries to rethink, rebuild and re-imagine the South African megacity of tomorrow.

Designing for density
In order to re-imagine the cities we live in, standard techniques and cumbersome construction practices need to be reassessed. Today, construction productivity remains low because of fragmentation and manual processes. Keeping up with the Joneses with standardised building methods is simply too expensive and time-consuming. Simply put, construction is about more than just simple building blocks; it is also about stakeholder collaboration. This is where technology plays a key role.

From work pipelines driven by sensors to estimates designed by algorithms, from printed buildings to big data-driven scheduling, from new forms of project funding to a new era of digitally-driven localism for our built environment, the implications for the industry are profound. The potential to transform so many facets of construction is up for grabs.

Simon Bromfield from Autodesk Africa

Building with BIM
Disrupting the construction industry will achieve much more than just tweak a process of increased productivity. It needs to also support sustainable and predictable margins, while providing greater resiliency across and throughout the sector, affording a degree of insulation from the extremes of the “boom and bust” cycle, the inefficiencies and uncertainties of discrete procurement, and rising levels of risk and complexity.

Importantly, technology should also foster of greater cooperation and collaboration between all stakeholders to deliver better outcomes for a built environment. Having the ability to step into a virtualised design world will automatically result in smarter cities.

A single, virtualised view on projects
Building Information Modelling (BIM) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives AEC professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and workflows by providing a single, virtualised view on a project.

Within South Africa, BIM and Autodesk solutions were deployed to design Menlyn Maine Central Square (MMCS) – a mixed-use development that forms part of the greater Menlyn Maine in Pretoria. The project consisted of a boutique shopping centre, commercial office building and hotel. Being such a large, fast-paced project, it served as a great development to make the case for BIM. On a grander scale, BIM can be used for broader scale city planning, project management, land surveying, road designing and structural design. This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning driven BIM come into play.

In the near future, ML-powered tools will provide precise methods of undertaking real-time field assessments, project costs and forecast demands.

Whatever the future of construction holds, the challenge will be for industries to not only increase density, but to also make cities more liveable, socially inclusive and sustainable. Collaboration will be key for the construction industry of tomorrow.

For more information, contact Autodesk University on www.AU-Africa.com.

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