We looked at how these companies are innovating the design processes in the built environment, and ultimately re-designing architecture. Our DesignTech report identified key technological innovations across a number of areas.
Re-designing architecture for a better world
Working with Dark Matter Labs, Open Systems Lab and the Center for Spatial Technologies, Connected Places Catapult undertook a three-month collaborative research study reviewing 76 companies across architecture, engineering and construction (AEC).
1. Business models
A move towards platform consultancy models based on particular specialisations, using browser or software subscriptions to offer specific services to a larger number of clients. There is also an AEC version of what the software industry would call a full-stack service. Integrating the supply chain of design and construction, approaching the design of a building more like you would a product. This takes advantage of increasingly accurate and efficient offsite construction. Some companies are going one step further and interweaving the design of space across the full life cycle of a building.
2. Intellectual property
As complex design and legal knowledge move into automated services online, the ability to replicate and share that knowledge becomes exponential. Which is great because it makes design services more accessible and affordable, and opens up a much wider market for those services to cater to, like direct development by SMEs or self-builders.
3. Disciplinary boundaries
As digitisation starts to optimise both the workflow and supply chains throughout the construction process, the traditional place of design (after the brief and before planning) shifts from being a single step in the process to something that applies to each stage in the building lifecycle. Part of what allows this shift is increased automation of repetitive tasks within the design process, from drafting to regulatory compliance.
It concludes by highlighting how the professions of architecture and engineering were invented to sit within an industrial 20th-century society as a source of trustable and objective knowledge of how we improve the built environment. Gaining a license was open to everyone who could pass their exams and was willing to sign up to use their knowledge to the benefit of all society. That knowledge has always been expensive to acquire and hard to share, and as a result still largely in the hands of experts. This means professional services were mostly done to people, rather than with them.
Designtech offers the chance to flip this on its head. Open design, data and automation make shareable design expertise possible – to radically reduce the barriers to entry for all. Yet the benefits from the efficiency they create depend entirely on who builds and owns the digital infrastructure for doing so.