8 Technological Marvels That Are the Future of Architecture and Construction

Architizer attended Autodesk University this week to experience the new tools transforming work-flows both in the studio and on the construction site

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

Autodesk University is one of the AEC industry’s most exciting conventions showcasing cutting-edge innovation in design and construction technology, so it was no surprise that some 10,000 people attended the 2016 event at the Venetian hotel and casino in Las Vegas this week. Architizer attended this unique learning event to experience the new tools transforming work-flows both in the studio and on the construction site, and we picked out some of the highlights that really illustrate how the future of architecture is shaping up. Check out these eight technological gems, and let us know which you think are most likely to change the way we design and build in the coming years …

Robotic Fabrication

Equipping a six-axis industrial robot with a specialized polymer extruder, Autodesk has developed software that enables complex structures to be fabricated with a fraction of the embodied energy of conventional systems. The high number of axes allows for an incredibly smooth additive process, producing curved forms with an amazing strength-to-weight ratio. A similar machine utilizing metal can create structures with high load-bearing capabilities for use in architecture — in fact, a futuristic footbridge constructed using this technology will emerge in the Netherlands this fall.

Desktop 3D Printing

3D printing is not such a novelty for architects anymore, but smaller firms have long struggled to justify purchasing high-cost, large-scale printers that have been the norm. Enter Form 2 by Formlabs, a high-end 3D printer that is small enough to sit on your desktop. The machine produces quality resin components and scale models using stereolithography (SLA) technology, and is available for $3,500, economical when compared to other professional-grade machines.

The Brick Bot

According to its makers, Construction Robotics, this Semi-Automated Mason machine (SAM) is destined to “revolutionize the masonry process.” Designed for assisting in the construction of large, linear stretches of brick façade, SAM100 is not intended to put masonry professionals out of business, but rather free them up to take on more bespoke details and other jobs around the site. Every brick has a corresponding number and location in the wall, and the machine uses mapping software to place each brick with incredible precision, allowing for the automated design of intricate patterns across the façade.

Generative Design

Taking center stage at this year’s AU, generative design revolves around the automated analysis of data to produce thousands of digital prototypes, each of which addresses the architect’s design brief in different ways. This iterative process is often equated with the more familiar concept of parametric architecture, but generative design has the potential to go much further, moving beyond formal parameters to factor in data pertaining to health, comfort, visual stimulation, atmosphere and even emotion. While many of the examples on show pertained to industrial design — like the car above — the applications for architecture are incredibly compelling. This is undoubtedly a specialism to watch in the coming years.

Via Gadget Match

Touchscreen Drafting

Make no mistake — Microsoft’s latest hardware launch will have caused heartbeats to race over at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. The Surface Studio is everything the newest iMac should have been for architects and engineers: a full touchscreen display that can be transformed into a digital drafting board with a smooth pivoting motion. Add to that the highly receptive stylus and the Dial — a slick cylindrical controller created especially for the Surface Studio — and you have a computer that could become the new staple for creative professionals.

Virtual Reality

There was an unprecedented number of virtual reality specialists on show at AU, including IrisVR and Autodesk’s own system, which utilizes the company’s powerful Stingray gaming engine in combination with hardware by Lenovo. The latest software has a dual-pronged functionality — as well as allowing clients to view projects in the most immersive way, the system also makes it possible for designers to manipulate their environment and design within the virtual space, opening up all manner of possibilities for collaboration between different design team members.

Via JBKnowledge

Ultra High-Res Aerial Photography

Architects hailed the moment when Google Earth Pro became free, as it opened up a whole new medium for site exploration and contextual analysis to help inform designs at the outset of a project. Now, Google’s competitors are stepping up the game: Nearmap offers more up-to-date imagery and full integration with CAD programs, as well as sliders that allow you to instantly see how a site has changed over the years. With the capability to produce aerial images at an extraordinary resolution, the app forms an invaluable tool for site planning, project development and marketing content.

Via Fortune

Site Scanning With Drones

It’s official: Drones are set to become the standard tool for site surveys. Companies such as Topcon and 3D Robotics have taken UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology to another level, capturing high-resolution photography to generate 3D models with an unprecedented level of detail. On show at AU, 3DR Site Scan allows architects and surveyors to easily capture existing site conditions and automatically import the data into applications such as Revit, Recap, Civil 3D and Infraworks 360.

All images and GIFs by Paul Keskeys at Autodesk University 2016 unless otherwise stated