Real estate minute: Building design—will AI replace my Architect?


A very long time ago in Bethlehem, farmers had to till the land using their bare hands, hoes and cutlasses. Then came wheels, tractors and other machine aids that made life easier and production faster. Same could be said of the construction industry where excavators and loaders complemented processes and construction. Then computers emerged and have even since taken productivity to higher levels like business intelligence modelling (BIM) and robot-enabled assembly for instance.

The point here is that machines and humans have had mutually beneficial relationships since time, but for some reason, justified or not, humans have lived in fear of machines or computers taking their jobs away. Indeed, some of the fears may be justified as some bank branches for instance have been completely automated, removing the human intervention completely.

In today’s exciting age of technology, Artificial Intelligence has been getting great buzz and is almost the new trendy “genie” that can make all your dreams come true.


Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and act like humans be it perceiving, reasoning, learning, interacting with an environment, problem solving, or even creativity. AI is also changing the world of architecture. Architecture, simply put, is the art of designing structures and spaces.

AI’s influence on architecture has been rapid. From generating design options to optimizing building performance, AI algorithms can assist in the design process by generating 3D models, creating simulations, and even predicting the environmental impact of a building. At this point, you may think, who needs architects and their expensive professional fees, right? Indeed, there have been a few alarmists and “calmists” and I quote. In 2019, New York-based designer Sebastian Errazuriz caused a stir with his claim that 90 per cent of architects could lose their jobs to machines. Phillip Bernstein, associate dean and professor adjunct at the Yale School of Architecture, who has authored a book on architecture and AI, however disagrees.

“I have been around long enough to see multiple waves of technological change in the industry and this argument happens every single time,” Bernstein told Dezeen.

“It happened during CAD [computer-aided design], it happened during BIM [building information modelling], and now it’s happening with AI,” he added. “We somehow always seem to survive these things.”


Instead of feeling a sense of despair or threatened by AI, architects can actually leverage AI and enhance their work. While AI has shown that it has the capacity to generate designs entirely by itself through an application like NightCafe which generates quick conceptual drawings in the record time, as well as algorithms analysing material properties to make accurate material recommendations, AI has also shown some marked limitations. AI lacks the creativity and intuition which architects possess naturally. Designing a building is more that lines, data and aesthetics. There is also nuance required for optimum functionality and efficiency. These aspects require the human intervention, which AI cannot replicate. A marriage of convenience where both parties complement each other for excellent delivery is really the way to go.

AI can thus be leveraged to streamline workflow while exploring design options via data led decisions and algorithms. Architects can then rather concentrate on their unique strengths and abilities of creativity and conceptual side of their profession. It’s a win-win, the architects will survive and you will still need them or not?




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