How to build faster, smarter, and better

Published 2019-07-15

Data driven design allows us to make better decisions for the business deal and for the future

Data is playing an increasingly central role in architecture and city development. Making design measurable provides insight into how it is performing, and this verified data makes it possible to ensure it is meeting the demands. Simultaneously, parametric design tools, robotisation, and 3D printing lead to brand new, endless possibilities. So, which role do people and emotions - fantasy, dreams, and creativity - play in the design process of the future. 

The new digital tools make it possible to handle a more significant amount of information in the design process than ever before. Designers, architects and other consultants are given new possibilities to generate different solutions and evaluate them systematically. Which, in turn, creates entirely new conditions for the developers allowing them to make decisions earlier on in the process - decisions that will be substantiated and more long-term. 

Ensuring and optimizing with data
Optimising the building's performance is nothing new; how much energy it consumes, how much daylight it gets, and how to optimise the square meters, but computerising the parameters leads to more time-efficient iterations.

During the sketching phase of a project, digital modelling can be used for trying out different urban spaces, volumes, and facades. Experienced specialists can examine and compare designs and shapes. Traffic and air flows and people's movement can be simulated to design well-functioning and attractive environments where people can thrive.

These new tools facilitate tackling larger and more complex projects since analysis and design can be carried out simultaneously. We get an instant indication of how the constructed space will behave and function. This also gives us a better opportunity to try out different scenarios and create high performing, unique buildings adapted to a specific location and its conditions.

Infinite design with new technology
But ensuring buildability and feasibility are just some of all new possibilities. In the future, the power of computers and precision will also be linked directly to production and manufacturing. Construction will, to a bigger extent become an industrial process, without making the design repetitive or predictable. Instead, combining human creativity and robotised automation increases the degree of precision in the design process, leading to a greater variation than ever before.

Parametric design is another excellent possibility that the future holds. It means the design is controlled by a number of parameters and limitations that are defined in a digital model. The data from the model can be used to create complex shapes or fulfil specific demands on daylight, green areas or views, but can also control how each component is industrially manufactured and later assembled at the construction site. The computer and human creativity work together to create architecture, but it is people - the end-users, who control the model's input and how the output is eventually used.

The digitalisation also affects the construction site. The first step is to digitalise the data in the factory to remove the need for paper sketches. This provides the construction workers with the right information at the right time and clear instructions to follow, for instance, an animation or film clip that demonstrates the task.

The introduction of robots and 3D printers that can print entire or parts of buildings is another possible development. If they are successful, it brings an entirely new level of precision and speed, which will impact how we design and build. Simultaneously, there is a reasonable scepticism, and inherent inertia in the development - many of the new methods are unproven, and the consequences in the construction industry are hard to foresee - but what speaks for the new atomised technology is the material saving, the economic profitability, and the architectural freedom.

Does data facilitate a more human architecture?
The advantages of a data-driven design are many, but so are the doubts. How do we integrate the human aspects when data is becoming a more central part in the design of a building? And how do we maintain the unique, original, and unexpected?

Well, it depends on what the vision is and what we want to achieve. We can evaluate and use the information in different ways, depending on what the end goal is. Because even though we are now getting access to scientifically verified data, we need to know where we are going and why.

It is for us - contractors, architects, consultants, and building contractors - to put forward the right questions and demands, but also to dare to dream big. Because what we build affects the surroundings for a long time to come and there are continually new aspects to consider. With supporting facts, we can ensure meeting future demands and find new ways to reach our goal without detours or retakes.

Primarily we get more and greater opportunities to discover the genuinely value-adding solutions to many of the significant challenges of society today.