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Technologies transforming architecture

by Ofentse Sefolo
Technologies transforming architecture

These are exciting time to be an architect, with many promising new technologies available that will likely influence the industry in the next decade. We are about to see the industry completely transform with artificial intelligence, circadian lighting and augmented reality being just some of the technologies leading the change.

Artificial intelligence (AI) assistants help planning
Starting any project requires hours of research, understanding the design and construction of the current project and past projects. An artificial intelligence assistant, an application that understands voice commands and completes tasks, can make planning easier.

You can pick your design output, set constraints, input data relating to building occupants, zoning, building codes and disabled design; and the AI can create countless iterations of a design for you within minutes, providing recommendations and cost estimates. AI can create forms and structures not otherwise possible, and can provide solutions to a problem. It can also perform low-level tasks or build small models, so you are free to create.

Circadian lighting for better health
New lighting products to positively impact the body’s circadian rhythm (internal clock) are being launched, creating increased interest in technologies that supports health. The new lighting products are aligned with circadian rhythms, supporting a day-active and night-sleeping pattern.

This helps to regulate daily behaviours, and the timing of biological processes such as hormones that help control blood sugar and affect energy levels. It offers potential benefits of increased alertness during work hours and a better night’s sleep, and leads to improved productivity, memory and cognitive function, immune systems, metabolic function and mood. Regularly occupied buildings such as residences, schools, healthcare and assisted-living facilities may benefit from this lighting.

3D and 4D models predict real-time needs
With 4D printing, also known as 4D bioprinting, active origami or shape-morphing systems, a computer programme instructs a printer to lay down successive layers of material to create a 3D physical object. This type of printing uses the same technique that 3D printing uses, however the structure can transform over time when environmental stimuli or external energy such as temperature or light are applied to the structure.

By understanding how materials react when in contact with one another, you can create environments that shift and behave to help meet occupant real-time needs and long-term goals. The process needs a combination of a smart material and a source of energy for its activation such as a long strand of material like plastic that transforms into a predetermined shape such as a cube when submerged in water or heated.

4D printing uses the same technique as 3D printing, but the structures can transform over time due to external energy inputs such as temperature, light or other environmental stimuli being applied to the structure. You will be able to create environments that behave to meet occupant’s real-time needs and long-term goals.

Virtual reality brings designs to reality
Virtual reality (VR) is widely used by architects to present projects to clients. From initial design mock-up to collaboration and finishing touches, VR can transport users into an interactive 3D environment to explore a particular room, floor or building design. They can fully interact with a proposed model and can even open and close doors and windows, turn lights on and off and move objects around the room.

Placing a client into a virtual, detailed representation of a building design makes feedback more straightforward, as they can see what they like and dislike, so less time is spent revising designs. Real-time changes can take place in the virtual world and clients get a sense of specific aesthetic features such as colours, lighting and furniture.

Augmented reality places digital elements in reality
Augmented reality (AR) combines virtual architectural designs with the real construction site, adding digital elements to a live view of the real world using a device such as a smartphone, tablet, glasses or helmet. With an AR application, you can create a large-scale 3D environment to walk through with holograms and life-size products.

This makes a project clearer to clients and can include all layers of materials and installations. You can capture images of the design and share it with remote colleagues, comparing work in progress with the original design and improving the work flow. AR helps you manage and can even guide a project during construction, facilitating the process, reducing errors and simplifying inspection.

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