In Venice Biennale 2015, the exhibition’s director Rem Koolhaas, Hon. FAIA predicted that “every architectural element is about to associate itself with data-driven technology.”

The trends in architectural design and construction have been ever-changing and ever-evolving. Here’s a brief timeline of how interconnected architectural design and technological advancements have been through centuries: 

In the 1900s- Darwin and D’arcy Thompsons’ works inspired architects to utilize aspects of nature and behavior in their designs, Louis Sullivan proposed the notion of “form follows function” and Frank Lloyd Wright emphasized the notion of organic architecture. 

Mid-20th century- architects increasingly used morphogenetic thinking in an analog way to compute form using parameters. 

In the mid-1970s and 80s- economic crisis and recession- architects began to modify how they practiced. The use of CAD as software to produce drawing completely transformed the architectural practice by the late 1990s. 

Late 20th and early 21st centuries- computational tools and software were developed further to incorporate physics engines to model real-world structural behavior. 

The rapid advancement in technology and science, innovations in software design and continual search for making the process of designing to construction more and more efficient led to different construction techniques in the past decade that are used in the world today and will be used in the future. Here are some of the trending elements in the architecture of the past decade: 

1. BIM- Building Information Modelling 

BIM uses a holistic process of creating and managing information for a built asset. It integrates structured, multi-disciplinary data to create a digital representation of an asset from its planning and design to construction and operations. 

It supports architects, engineers, and construction professionals to effectively plan, design, modify and manage buildings and their infrastructure. It enables better collaboration by allowing each expert to add his inputs into the same model- be it architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, or other consultants and review the project evolution and working results in real-time. It also optimizes the work and company processes by improving planning and increasing efficiency across the life-cycle of the construction. 

Cortesía de Gonzalo De la Parra

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BIM_©Cortesía de Gonzalo De la Parra

2. Big Data 

Big data helps in the evolution and advancements in construction technology through the collection of extremely large data sets that are used to uncover hidden trends, patterns in behavior, and unknown correlations to make more informed business decisions that serve as the basis for artificial intelligence and automation systems. 

Everything we use in our daily lives, from Internet searches and services, mobile phones, digital photographs, social media, and many other forms of digital communication tools – such as text messages, Skype, and emails produce data in large quantities that are stored in digital warehouses to analyze by experts and understand how humans interact with the environment and the possible measures that can be taken to modify user-experience. 

Big Data can be collected from several different sources like historical data, data from weather, traffic, community and business activity, geolocation, energy conservation, and so on that can be analyzed to pick out patterns and probabilities of construction risks, optimize phasing of construction activities, lower costs and ecological impact, improve logistics, etc., and can be fed into BIM to schedule maintenance activities when required. 

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Big Data_©Frost and Sullivan

3. Parametric Architecture 

Parametric architecture centers around the idea of free-form design concepts that comprise sweeping lines, curves and irregular shapes to give the building a certain character. One of the most important digital tools that were invented was Grasshopper, now a commonly used plug-in for Rhino. 

Patrick Schumacher coined the term “Parametricism” in 2008, calling it the great new style after Modernism. However, it was criticized for the overuse of expensive, insufficient production methods, wastage of huge money and resources, and the need for creating entirely bespoke production chains, but in recent years, the upcoming development in technology like virtual reality, augmented reality, etc., are creating new hope for the future of parametric design. 

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Zaha Hadid Architects’ Galaxy Soho complex in Beijing_©Hufton + Crow

4. Virtual Reality 

Virtual Reality is a method of creating an immersive experience of walking through a building or a design long before it has been built. It helps architects and designers to not only show the clients what they designed but also make them feel what they designed. 

It increases the scope of collaboration between teams as they can work together on a project without even being present at the location. It helps in improving the design and in the precise simulation of architectural or structural changes [BR] or automatic measurements through real-time design feedback. 

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New tools for designing complex buildings simplify the task_©Daniel McCullough

5. Augmented Reality 

Augmented Reality is a method of visualization used for retrofitting or adding digital elements in a live view. It is synonymous with mixed reality and computer-aided reality. With AR, an architect can render animated 3D visualization of their 2D drawings in their workspace itself. It also allows users to virtually see through the walls of a building from its exterior. 

Augmented Reality is used to present new projects, solve on-site challenges in construction and enhance promotional materials. It saves time and budget by making the construction process more efficient. It also helps to showcase the environmental and social impacts of the project visually and understand the project in a detailed manner. 

Moreover, by incorporating BIM with augmented reality, the models can help to accurately determine the dimensions, the labor hours, and the materials needed thereby making the construction process more efficient. Augview, a mobile product from Augmented Technology, uses map views from google maps to let users see hidden underground cables or layers.

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©Building Design & Construction

6. 3D Printing 

3D printing is a method of creating a 3-dimensional object from a 2D drawing, building it layer by layer. It can create 3D architectural models for full-scale buildings in today’s time. 

It helps to create materials for fabrication on-site for immediate use. It has the potential to create objects to such detail that it saves costs and reduces material wastage as any structural issues can be resolved before the construction begins. It helps to realize the spatial relationships between the key elements in design and make the clients visualize what the design would look like. It benefits the interior design industry as well to create more complex furnishings or detailed parts much faster. 

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First 3d printed apartment building in Germany_©PERI GMBH

7. Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is made up of physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software, processing abilities, and technologies that can all share and exchange data with each other over the internet and be controlled from a central platform. It paves way for a smarter, more efficient, and safer way of working. 

Smart machinery can be used to perform repetitive tasks or made smart enough to maintain itself. It can help reduce paper-heavy tasks and save a huge amount of time by tracking footfall on-site and applications used to keep a check on the workers in and out times. It can also help to identify the dangerous areas on site and keep the workers safe by using geolocation. 

Heavy construction equipment is being outfitted with sensors, which can be remotely monitored for key indicators of potential maintenance issues like temperature fluctuations, excessive vibrations, etc. When abnormal patterns are detected, alerts can trigger maintenance workers to intervene early, before critical equipment fails.

By using BIM with IoT, once the building is ready,  data can be collected by the IoT sensors and integrated into BIM. This data can help model things like energy usage patterns, temperature trends, or people’s movement throughout a building. The output from these models can then be analyzed to improve future buildings projects. 

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Internet of things_©World Construction Today

8. Robots 

Robots have often meant different things to different people, but they have been a part of our cultural consciousness for a long time. It was first described as “artificial people”. Robotic systems are flexible and can be created to solve a wide range of architectural problems.  

Robots use less time to finish tasks and can work 24×7 without being exhausted. They can work meticulously and help to keep a consistent quality of construction. They can reduce the risk of injury to human workers as they can perform the more dangerous tasks with ease. 

Some other advantages of using Robots in construction are they help to produce accurate 3D models, create construction parts, better assembly of pieces on-site, keep an account of the materials expansion or any mathematical errors that can take place during construction, and help to make the building more sustainable. 

Architects are already beginning to explore how Robots can be used for more than just basic modeling, construction, assembly, on-site troubleshooting, and energy efficiency. They are likely to play a significant role in the construction industry in the future than they do today. 

Architects use Robots to build beautiful structures_©Gramazio & Kohler

From the above examples it is evident how interconnected architecture and construction industry is with the advancement in technology and engineering. It is the collaboration and equal participation of experts from different fields that makes the creation of something revolutionary possible. As mentioned earlier, the trends are constantly changing and ever-evolving- so the quicker we adapt to the changes, the better it is for us to work more and more efficiently.


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Shaymi Shah is a published author and an architectural content writer by profession. Through keen observation about architecture and life around her, she weaves narratives through her writing as she wants to make people, even outside the fraternity, realize the importance and fundamental need of design in our daily lives.