Architecture represents the practice and the product of drafting, designing, and erecting buildings and other structures. The process dates back to the prehistoric era of humankind and has an immeasurable cultural and historical significance. And, besides its primal use of providing shelter, architecture slowly evolved to be considered a work of art. Additionally, architectural technology brings social change and is among the driving forces behind industrialization, modernization, and growing population management. With that said, let’s first analyze what architecture technology encapsulates.
What is architecture technology?
We’re reluctant to give you a single definition of architecture technology so we’ll provide three:
- Architectural technology represents the capability of analyzing, evaluating, and incorporating factors in architectural design to produce effective technological solutions that fulfill requirements in fabricating/manufacturing, performance, and goods or service acquisition.
- Architectural technology represents technical proficiency and planning utilized in the integration and application of building technologies in the process of design and construction.
- Building technology is a discipline that relates to the analysis and study of buildings and their planning, optimization, performance, construction, and standardization.
Examples of architecture technology
Now that you have a grasp of what the term means, let’s get into some architecture technology examples:
Building information modeling (BIM)
We’ll begin with the most evident product of architecture technology. BIM or Building information modeling is the process of generating and managing a digital depiction of the physical and practical attributes of places or buildings.
This technology is the driving force behind modern city planning and is used by individuals, businesses, and government agencies. Besides allowing simultaneous collaboration, it infiltrates every part of the process, from planning and designing to operating, building, and maintaining infrastructure.
This ranges from facilities themselves to the implementation of transportation infrastructure, water, electricity, gas, communication technology, refuse collection and division, and more. The following are pivotal building blocks of BIM:
Computer-aided design (CAD)
Computer-aided Design (CAD), also known as CADD (Computer-aided design and drafting) is the utilization of computers or workstations to assist in making, modifying, analyzing, and optimizing designs. This form of architectural technology provides multiple benefits over creating designs by hand:
- It boosts the productivity of the designer and increases the design quality
- Vector graphics-based designs can be manipulated without quality loss
- A digital drawing can convey additional data such as materials, scaling, aspect ratio, tolerances, and other processes
- CAD can suggest changes in materials, structure, building methods, and modifications that fit the building code or specifications
- It improves documentation: comprehensiveness, storage, protection (patent applications, backups), printing, converting, etc.
- Designs can be used for machining or other manufacturing operations directly
- Designers can use or combine CAD with EDA (electronic design automation), MDA (mechanical design automation), computational geometry, etc.
3D modeling represents creating a 3-dimensional representation of the scaling, perspective, rendering, dimensions, and illustration of a surface or object. It does so using computer software and utilizes the power of a GPU (Graphics processing unit). Furthermore, 3D models can be created manually, through physical object scanning, or algorithmically, using Boolean operators, known as procedural modeling.
Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is the most common form of 3D printing nowadays and uses a thermoplastic material as a filament. This is particularly useful in building visual or functional prototypes or parts of larger objects. However, 3D printing is transitioning into industrial production. That’s because it can fabricate complex geometry and shapes impossible to create manually.
As such, it can, for example, strengthen or lighten objects by using hollow segments or internal trusses. Additionally, via generative design technology, AI algorithms can mimic the functionality of organisms in nature and allow 3D printers to faithfully duplicate natural creations.
Using VR (Virtual Reality) headsets saves a lot of time, effort, and money by creating a virtual environment in front of the users’ eyes. Not only does it allow designers to collaborate on architectural projects, but it either reduces the need for making physical prototypes or eliminates them. Moreover, it eliminates the need for trial and error and on-the-fly corrections, which plagued architecture for centuries.
Augmented Reality and holograms
Augmented Reality has similar benefits to Virtual Reality, but works oppositely. Instead of generating an environment, Augmented Reality uses the existing one and then adds computer-generated elements in layers.
For example, scientists have already figured out a way to make “touchable holograms“. Once a user touches a virtual 3D object e.g., it emits ultrasonic radiation pressure and gives realistic feedback. This technology, combined with 3D texturing technology, can revolutionize architecture forever.
We touched on smart homes and buildings when we discussed how technology makes us lazy. But while that often has a negative connotation, smart home technology also provides a massive environmental impact. Through a direct link with the Internet of Things (IoT), building technology provides superior, cheaper, more comfortable, energy-efficient, and sustainable alternatives to planning, creating designs, and construction.
Application of architecture technology
These are a few areas of architecture technology applications:
By applying BIM, CAD, 3D modeling, VR, and AR, we can simulate various architectural processes. With that, we save time, effort, money, and most importantly, human lives. Computers can simulate layout, position, landscaping, lighting, and weather effects, and predict stresses and structural deformations at various points in time. This helps engineers and architects work out the kinks in the proposed design, and ensure strength, safety, and stability are optimized to the highest degree.
Prefabrication is the practice of building and assembling elements of a structure at any location other than the building site. Afterward, transportation technology delivers the pieces to the site, where workers assemble them into a complete facility.
This practice, combined with lean manufacturing, helps establish optimal operating methods and costs. It also reduces production time and wages while boosting product quality, ensures adhering to the building code, eliminates production waste and unnecessary inventory, and introduces consistency and sustainability.
3D printing buildings or structures
Apis Cor, a San Francisco company manufactured a house in 2017 in only 24 hours. They used a mobile 3D printer based on a polar coordinate system, spent $10,000, and created 38 square meters of livable space. Furthermore, the concrete they used as filament can last 175 years. They had to install windows, plumbing, and electric wiring manually, although we don’t doubt robots can replace these jobs.
Impact of Technology on Architecture
A recent survey showed that almost 90% of European architecture firms believe that the use of digital tools and technology has actually increased productivity when it comes to architecture. It in itself signifies the impact technology already has on modern architecture.
Surely, technology has affected everything. In fact, the 21st century is what it is today due to the onset of tech. And architecture is just one sector where we can see the apparent impact of technology more clearly.
It impacts the architecture process from start to finish, be it design, planning, meeting investors and clients, or construction. It clearly enhances the durability of the construction and enhances the construction process considerably. As a testament to this fact, the global architectural technology market hopes to reach $7.8 billion in just four short years.
Another aspect where technology plays a huge role is construction materials, which are basic for architecture. The following video discusses new construction materials that have been introduced on the market and how they are shaping the future of architecture and construction.
Positive Impact of technology on architecture
Technology brings with itself some obvious and industry-defining advantages, which are discussed below:
Substantial increase in efficiency
In some of the most obvious ways, technology has increased the overall efficiency of the entire architectural process, from A to Z. It has not only impacted the designing and planning phases but also made the construction of said buildings much faster.
It has also led people to save time and minimize the possibility of mistakes. Designing and planning have also become more precise, allowing a lower margin for errors, and with enhanced materials, the construction process has also evolved.
Improved aesthetic sense and functionality
Yes, aesthetics can be subjective, which is why modern architecture adopts a zero-trust approach where they keep cosmetic modification to a minimum. But that doesn’t mean that the designs themselves are simple.
On the contrary, today’s architects can design much more elaborate and sophisticated buildings using CAD. They can further improve the design by adding practicality and function to it using building information modeling, yet another innovation in architecture. Thus, they can even address non-existing issues preemptively, by simply relying on a virtual construct.
Better safety and advanced protection
Lastly, we can conclude that technology has allowed architectures to be more safety-prone than they ever were. Since they can find hidden risks during the design process, they can effectively address any issues before they even crop up. Today, the buildings constructed are designed with multiple factors in mind.
They are designed with fire, flooding, earthquakes, and even air velocity and friction in mind. Architects can even add advanced protections to their designs quite easily using sophisticated design software.
Negative Impact of technology on architecture
Sadly, every coin has two sides, and architectural technology is not exempt from this finality. Here are some glaring drawbacks of technology in architecture:
Excessive dependence on technology
Sometimes, an overt reliance on technology can be counterproductive, as has been observed with architecture. Since modern architects have grown heavily reliant on software for design purposes, many have asked whether it will impact creativity or human innovation.
Computer-aided designs also have to face issues of aesthetics, which is highly subjective, and even with the advent of AI, it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. While many love the practicality of a zero-trust design, some experts, such as Frank Gehry, believe that modern architects have lost their love for their craft as their designs lack sense and seem to have no respect or humanity.
We should also take into account the finances of building and designing when talking about architecture. It is no secret that implementing highly advanced technology can be pretty expensive, especially when the scale is large.
Thus, smaller firms are unlikely to maintain any edge or even competitiveness, leading to a stale monopoly of ideas and practices. Following or adhering to the standards of advanced technology can also add to the maintenance costs of a building, which is another factor to consider when using technology.
Below is a table that explores both the positive and negative impact of technology on architecture:
|Design||Software like CAD allows architects to design intricate and sophisticated structures||Loss of aesthetics|
|Planning||Preemptively seek and solve hidden dangers||Using advanced technology can increase costs|
|Aesthetics||Unconventional and more practical designs||Overreliance on technology can impact aesthetic sense and produce homogenous designs|
|Construction||Techs like 3D printing and robots can help streamline the process||It can impact jobs and lead to expensive construction|
|Building performance||Highly practical with advanced safety precautions and energy efficiency||A lack of personalization as the designs are similar|