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Trending toward Tomorrow’s Architecture

Monday, July 7, 2014

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From crowdsourcing, biomimicry and social innovation, to building performance demands and design with purpose, a tumult of new trends is creating a new era in global architecture.

“Even for an era marked by an accelerating pace of change, we seem to be approaching an hour of profound transformation in the design and construction industries,” reported Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, and Robert Ivy, FAIA, in the 2014 AIA Foresight Report from the American Institute of Architects.

Crowdsourcing is one way to bring new technologies to the forefront. Scott and Julie Brusaw used that technique for their Solar Roadways prototype, eventually attracting government funding as well.

The new report outlines a variety of financial, social, practical, technical and even philosophical trends that are remaking the world of design and construction.

The areas of transformation fall into four categories: Operating Environment, Firm Strategies (The Business of Architecture), Professional Practice, and Design with Purpose.

Operating Environment

While U.S. firms are optimistic about economic recovery, the outlook for growth is slow. This means that the growth in architecture will also be slow, even though the flow of goods, services and finance is one and half times higher now than they were in 1990.

McKinsey Global Institute predicts “that in 10 years global flows could triple, powered by rising prosperity in the emerging world and by the spread of the Internet and digital technologies.”

Global real estate investment is also predicted to rise 11 percent in 2014-2015.

Firm Strategies (The Business of Architecture)

“The firm of the future is constantly evolving and will be one that is seen as innovative and visionary where that vision creates a competitive edge,” AIA President Owen Leslie, of Acquilano Leslie, said in the report.

"The firm of the future will also leverage technology in creating and communicating design, and it will be truly committed to sustainability which will become a mainstream requirement"

Evolution is the name of the game if firms want to stay competitive, the report said.

While it's easy to attract top talent, retention can be difficult to retain that talent. Still, architecture firms will continue to grapple with every area of staffing: attracting, motivating and retaining talent.

Other factors that firms will contend with:

  • Pricing. Clients are accustomed to paying less because of the poor economy;

  • Marketing. This will become an integral piece of the puzzle as consumers have more access to more information. If this trend continues, buildings and spaces could become a more deeply integrated part of the “decision journey” to a purchase.

  • Healthcare. “Consumer-driven growth in healthcare services is capitalizing on patient preference by making care accessible in non-traditional environments,” said HOK's Alicia Wachtel. This means that health clinics could start popping up in retail environments, for example.

  • Engagement. “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals,” said author Kevin Kruse. If employees aren’t motivated, they won’t do excellent work, and this will have financial consequences to organizations.

According to Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report: “30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70 percent) are not reaching their full potential.”

Professional Practice

Dus Architects

3D mobile capture could change the way architects work and conceive building ideas.

Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing have exploded into the mainstream and are likely to remain there.

Sites like Betaville and Stickyworld give designers a place to test out ideas and allow for massive collaboration. On the funding side, Neighborland and Spacehive allow for the possibility of “crowdfunding a city” by donating to projects that will improve communities.

This means big “disruptive” changes in the design process, like mobile 3D capture. This will allow architects to use iPad software and cloud computing to render a 3D capture of any environment. Matterpoint CEO Bill Brown predicts that all future all cell phone photos could have a 3D component.

Design with Purpose

The Bullitt Foundation

The Bullitt Center in Seattle uses photovoltaic panels to produce 230,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

The U.S. produces 170 million tons of construction and demolition waste per year. These same buildings consume nearly 50 percent of all energy produced in the U.S.

That is changing, the report said. It cited Seattle's Bullitt Center, which is not only green, but practically self-sustaining.

The 50,000-square-foot building features a 56,000 gallon rainwater cistern and photovoltaic roof panels that can produce 230,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

The report highlights the importance of more buildings like the Bullitt, with architects the centerpiece for making that happen.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Annual report; Color + Design; Technology

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