Automation is a concept where human efforts or inputs are reduced due to a permutation combination of software and hardware. The use of technology or machines helps in reducing human intervention. In today’s world, automation is rapidly gaining a place in human life, even in minimal tasks. But we must find a balance between making life automated and doing things independently.
Architecture is a field where since the 20th Century, we have seen a lot of evolution with automation. From computational design to robots being used in construction, there are a lot of developments experienced. Let us get into the details of automation in architecture to understand the concept better.
History of Automation
It dates back to the end of the 19th Century when Warren Johnson invented the 1st building automation system that was a thermostat. It was used to sense and regulate the temperature of a physical system, and when the temperature starts to fall, it activates a light, letting people know that more coal needs to be shovelled in the furnace. Since then, automation has evolved in layers, levelling up each time.
During the 20th Century, building automation growth has seen a lot of developments, remarkably noticed in the Seagram building by Mies van der Rohe. During these times, systems like thermostats and centralized building control systems like sensors for heat, smoke, and light intensities were upgraded and popularized. The advancements involved the use of digitalization and technologies. Soon the concept of Smart buildings emerged, which is the use of technology for systematic and reasonable use of resources, creating a comfortable environment for the occupants. Back then, it was a good show to attract customers to invest in the projects.
Along with time, the concept of Smart building developed. Today, Smart building has their systems linked to each other. It helps them coordinate and operate as per the needs of the user of the building. Building management systems involve air-conditioning of the rooms, lighting, security cameras, ventilation, etc., and they work together by sharing information to automate various processes. Also, these days, the use of AI is incorporated. AI helps notice abnormal patterns in the systems and lets the operator know the issues so they can take necessary actions to manage them.
A building can be smart even before these systems are in place, even before they are constructed. With the help of developed methods for designing, 3D modeling that helps in understanding the good and bad impacts of the building, and construction techniques, a building can be finalized and made in a way that it could be smart. The new-age softwares allow the architects to use their imagination in the most artistic form, and the advanced construction techniques also allow them to be constructed on a live scale.
In earlier times, sketching and designing were done on paper and with the help of handmade models. It did help in understanding the ideation of the building, but a few other factors, like carbon footprints, were discussed and finalized based on assumptions.
In today’s time and age, the digitization method has become a prime way to understand the outcome of the proposed building. Computation design methods help in understanding, and solving problems related to the design and also reduce the load of the repetitive process of designing. It also opens up the possibilities of creativity and complex designs. These methods allow architects to understand the working and the impact of the designed building in real-time situations using basic criteria such as weather, sun exposure, context, etc. Martin Henriksen, Computational Development Lead, Europe, says “he is looking for “augmented intelligence over artificial intelligence” solutions. There is a need for tools that enhance and support the design and decision-making processes” and most architects agree with his point of view.
Since the time construction existed, it has been done manually. We have seen times when the labourers did intricate designs with their hands. It took them weeks and months to complete the structure they were building. The outcome was beautiful and is standing strong on their grounds. But with time, the complexities of design increased, and so did the evolution of the construction industry.
The use of machinery has been in existence for quite some time. But we can see the developments in the construction industry with the different techniques coming into the picture. These automation techniques help provide less risk to human life. Also, it helps in reducing the possibility of human errors. Automation in construction can be divided into three manners, first is the automation of physical tasks done on-site like robots layering the bricks, second is the automation of standard construction like 3-D printing of buildings or their components, and third is the digitization of designs, although it is part of smart designing, the outcome of it helps in bringing efficiency in on-site execution.
Involving robots in construction is the future of this industry. Robots would help ease so many things on-site. Humans tend to make mistakes when they are tired. Humans are not machines. Hence, robots can play a very good role in working 24/7 while making fewer to no errors in their tasks. This helps in reducing production and labor costs. Robots can also help in constructing complex designs planned by architects.
Having discussed automation in architecture, we can satisfactorily agree that the future of architecture looks bright. With the help of emerging technologies and types of machinery, the field of architecture has a lot of scope for creative designs and interesting construction. But as an architect the question of automation replacing architects is alarming. Although it is true that robots are machines and are handled by humans and creative thinking and critical decisions are still done by architects today and will be so for quite a long time, the growing technologies show that they have the power to dominate humans.
- (Delaqua, 2021)
- (Autodesk University, 2019)
- (Bell, 2021)
- (Lau, 2020)
- (Chui & Mischke, 2020)
- (Valencia, 2018)