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The Transformative Influence of AI on Architectural Design

Dity Ayalon AIA, SARA (Founder & CEO, ArkDesign.AI)

Published on October 30, 2023

We would like to thank the AIA New York State for this comprehensive report on the fusion of architecture and technology and for inviting us to write an overview of the impact of AI on architectural design.

When the idea of creating an AI tool to assist architects in their traditionally labor-intensive tasks first surfaced, there was a lingering apprehension. Would architects resist the intrusion of AI, fearing job displacement and a loss of their unique creative touch? Surprisingly, the reality has been quite the opposite. Last year, when we introduced our first AI-driven product to the market, we were met not with resistance but with overwhelming demand. Architects eagerly embraced the opportunity to delegate repetitive and tedious tasks to AI systems, freeing up their time and energy for more creative endeavors, and striving to make their small-margin business more profitable.

In today’s architectural landscape, despite the lingering concerns and fears associated with AI, many architects are proactively acquiring the skills needed to work synergistically with this evolving technology. The ability to seamlessly integrate AI into architectural workflows is becoming an increasingly sought-after skill. Just as architecture has transitioned through technological paradigms, from hand-drawing to CAD and BIM, those who adapt to these advancements gain a substantial advantage.

With the rise of AI and the emergence of advanced language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and text-to-image tools such as DALL-E and Midjourney, architects are reevaluating their everyday tasks. Questions arise about which aspects of the industry and design process can or should be automated and the potential opportunities and risks involved.

Early Adopters Lead the Way

Credit: Fischer+Makooi Architects

Fariba Makooi, the principal of NYC architecture firm Fischer Makooi, is among the early adopters of AI design tools. Fischer Makooi Architects are one of the leading firms in NY for multi-family and collaborates with real estate clients to expedite feasibility studies and initial designs using AI. Fariba testifies to designing a 4-story, 52-unit mixed-use development project in New York City within an hour, including all area tables and calculations. Compare this to the days a traditional hand-iteration would take. AI empowers architects to explore and build upon a multitude of design options and feasibility studies in less than an hour, revolutionizing the design process and enabling more effective idea expression while optimizing the design for their clients.

Generative design tools are now accessible to industry professionals for a modest subscription fee, reshaping the architectural landscape’s perspective on AI. AI offers architects a “superpower,” enhancing creativity and productivity in freeing more time for the manual design processes. As AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney become available to the general public, architectural firms are experimenting with them for both design and administrative purposes.

Credit: Fischer + Makooi Architects

Furthermore, AI demonstrates its potential by predicting materials, automatically updating building information models (BIM), and handling tasks like drafting, meeting scheduling, and project management. However, the role of architects is far from obsolete. They remain essential in reviewing, selecting, and customizing AI-generated outputs to align with project context and specific goals, enriching architectural design by saving time on tedious tasks and dedicating more hours to the creative human aspect.

Challenges and Opportunities

Yet, AI for architectural design faces several challenges. Instances of AI-generated false outputs, such as those seen with ChatGPT, necessitate the implementation of stringent safeguards. Professional liability still rests primarily with human architects, given the complexity of design decisions. As technology increasingly pervades the industry, the responsibility for thorough due diligence and understanding potential pitfalls remains on architects’ shoulders, requiring heightened attention and human supervision.

Copyright issues are another unresolved concern. Who owns the copyrights generated by AI – the tech company or the human architect who inserted the input and generated the design? AI has the potential to level the playing field among architects of varying experience levels. Junior architects can learn and design faster with AI assistance, while saving senior architects time and tedious work, enabling them to benefit from more complex AI-generated designs crafted to their specifications.

Redefining the Architectural Design Process

Architects and their clients are starting to understand that the current architectural design process is manual, complex, expensive, labor-intensive, multi-tool-based, and driven by complex regulatory requirements. The manual work of the architect takes weeks, and the outcome is a single, suboptimal design. Humans can optimize only so much, whereas AI could automate and optimize many aspects and stages of the process, resulting in time and cost savings and being more profitable not only for architects and their clients but also for the environment through space and air rights optimization.

Credit: Perkins Eastman Architects

Abe Naparstek, Former EVP at Brookfield and partner at G&S Investors in NYC, sees a huge potential for real estate developers if their architects use AI. “Real estate developers spend countless hours making critical investment decisions based on incomplete information. AI used by their architects would help inform those decisions in a quick, efficient manner, saving critical time spent.”

In the near future, AI is poised to generate highly accurate, regulation-compliant architectural designs. This will enable architects to make informed decisions based on precise financial projections and proformas. AI unlocks architects’ creative potential, boosting productivity while ensuring designs are optimized and compliant with industry standards.

Undoubtedly, the integration of computational tools offers vast possibilities and applications for generative design. These tools enable us to work with greater precision and awareness, optimizing resources and emphasizing critical decision-making. As the architectural world continues to evolve in tandem with AI advancements, architects who embrace these technologies are best positioned to shape the future of their profession and deliver innovative, efficient, and aesthetical designs.

Credit: Perkins Eastman Architects

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