- Article by Peter Verwer
“Hey Siri, please design a 20,000-square metre, six-star Green Star suburban office building that delivers an annualised 18 percent total investment return (and wins design awards).”
What will the architecture and design professions look like in 2025?
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) took a stab at this question in 2011, but instead of looking 15 years ahead, RIBA took a snapshot of the early 2000s and projected a few minutes into the future.
RIBA’s navel gazing missed all the big trends and all the positives for design professionals because it focused on the supply-side of services while ignoring monumental shifts in demand.
Sure, RIBA mentions Asia (a competitive threat), technology (BIM) and supply chains (architects could do more to build networks).
However, it spurned the bigger picture – the renaissance of cities in an urbanising world, shape-shifting demographics, and the impact of changing consumer and work habits driven by connectivity, along with more demanding expectations about corporate behaviour.
These drivers are changing the styles of cities in which we live and the rate at which cities are built.
These trends are also fostering new investment asset classes, all of which is great news for the professionals who design cities.
More built environment will be conceived, constructed and rebuilt during the next three decades than in the past century.
The downside for those for those who prefer progress in digestible chunks, is that the tempo of technological change and enterprise disruption will never be this slow again. From here on, everything gets more hectic and all-consuming as transformational drivers, turbocharged by digital networks, converge.
At their most basic, the disrupters relevant to architects and designers are:
- automation and robotics – new ways of assembling things
- nano- and bio-technologies – new building blocks for making and running things
- the internet of spaces– new ways of sensing, discovering and recording things
- quantum computing and artificial intelligence – new ways of analysing, predicting and optimising things
- immersive technologies and digital twins – new ways of seeing, simulating and experimenting with potential realities, and
- digitalisation – new ways of storing, manipulating and networking information to drive what some call a fourth industrial revolution.
We already glimpse the genesis of a new age in the rise of proptech, fintech, contech and regtech* (to name a few).
Asia is the world’s leading test bed for these technologies, as rapid urbanisation motivates governments and markets to leapfrog old approaches in the search for sustainable prosperity.
Asia is also at the vanguard of the ‘industrial internet’, which gives smaller firms access to pioneering productivity tools and service platforms at economical prices – the innovation revolution is no longer the preserve of the big end of town.
At this stage, AI can’t design an optimal investment building, but that day is coming. The pregnant question is whether AI will be a tool for designers or replace them.
Several Australian property investors are forming consortiums to get closer to the start-ups hatching transformational technologies. There are plenty of opportunities for architectural firms to ride this wave rather than paddle in a disruptive riptide.
Peter Verwer will explore technology and demand trends in Asia and outline seven critical enterprise strategies for Australian architecture and design firms as a keynote speaker at The Business of Architecture and Design (BoAD) conference in Sydney on 11 November 2019. Book now.
* property, finance, construction and regulatory technology.