NEW YORK STATE TECHNOLOGY & ARCHITECTURE
In today’s rapidly evolving world, technology has revolutionized every industry, and architecture is no exception. The integration of technology in architecture has brought about remarkable advancements, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and sustainability in design and construction processes. However, it is crucial to examine the potential drawbacks, such as over-reliance on technology and the risk of losing the human touch in design. We invited experts and enthusiasts to share their experiences, research, ideas and opinions* as we delve into the impact and challenges of technology in architecture for our October issue of ARCHITECTURE New York State. * The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AIA New York State. Any content provided by our authors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
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Contents President’s Letter
Executive Vice President’s Letter
1. The Role of Technology in Architecture 6 Change: How the Integration of Space 2. Embracing and Technology Helps Create a Healthier Workplace 10 3. Generative AI: Reinventing the Business of Architecture 14 4. Training a Panacea: Responsible Use of AI in Architecture 18 of Two Realms: 5. Tales The Metaverse’s Duality in Architectural Expression 22 6. AI Can Do “Pretty” Screenshots…But NOT Architecture 24 Transformative Influence 7. The of AI on Architectural Design 28 8. AI: Panic & Confusion 32 The Blueprint of Tomorrow: Technology, 9. Time, Ethics in Times of Global Crises 36 Technology, 10. Cooperative Sustainability, and the Future of Design 40 Architecture: The Latest Trends in Digital Video 11. Media Systems, and the impact of their integration with Architecture 44 OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 3
PRESIDENT’S LETTER It has been nearly 10 months since I assumed the role of AIANYS President, and I’m incredibly proud of the progress we’ve made together during this time. Your trust in me to lead this esteemed organization has been both an honor and a humbling responsibility. I’ve witnessed profound changes throughout my career in architecture, driven by the evolving landscape of technology. Technology has been a catalyst for groundbreaking innovations in architecture, revolutionizing how we design, build, and inhabit spaces. From sustainable design advancements to the integration of digital tools into our daily workflow, we’ve positioned ourselves at the forefront of these transformative changes. The COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the importance of technology in architecture. Architects have risen to the challenge of reimagining spaces that prioritize health, safety, and well-being. Concepts like touchless interfaces, indoor air quality monitoring, and remote collaboration tools have become integral to our design considerations. As my term as AIANYS President nears its end, I want to reflect on the goals we continue to support and collectively embrace to advance the architectural industry in New York State: Promoting Technological Literacy: We continue to equip our members with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a tech-driven world. AIANYS will provide ongoing resources, training, and educational opportunities to ensure architects in New York State remain at the forefront of technological advancements. Fostering Innovation: We encourage collaboration and partnerships between architects, technology companies, startups, and research institutions. The industry should strive to foster innovation in architectural practice, addressing unique challenges facing our profession collectively. Sustainability through Technology: Our members champion sustainable design practices that leverage technology to create environmentally responsible buildings and communities. The architectural industry must conrtinue to play a significant role in addressing climate change through innovative design solutions. Digital Transformation: We embrace the digital transformation that accelerated during the pandemic. Architects should continue to adopt digital tools, from remote collaboration to virtual design charrettes, to enhance efficiency and adapt to evolving client needs. Advocacy for Ethical Tech Use: We advocate for ethical standards in the use of data, artificial intelligence, and emerging technologies within the field of architecture. The industry must ensure that technology is used responsibly and in a manner that upholds ethical principles. Diversity and Inclusion: AIA prioritizes diversity and inclusion in the architectural profession. Benefits of technological advancements should be accessible to all members of our community, regardless of background or identity. As we move forward, these industry-wide goals will continue to guide our efforts in shaping the future of architecture in our great state. Your continued engagement and support are vital in achieving these objectives. I look forward to the remaining time I have as your President and to the opportunities that lie ahead for AIANYS. Thank you for the privilege of serving in this role. Warm regards,
Paul McDonnell, AIA 2023 President | AIA New York State PAGE 4 | OCTOBER ‘23
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT’S LETTER I have lost count on the number of times members have asked me, where did the summer go? It happens every year: the schools come out of hiatus; the leaves turn and the final push to complete projects before the winter sets in is on. And then, there is the end of the President’s term as the new leadership starts to plan for an exciting year on how to best serve the New York State AIA member. The 2023 President, Paul McDonnell, has displayed an unwavering dedication to advancing our organization and nurturing the development of architects across our great state. As we approach the conclusion of his tenure, it is only fitting to celebrate the incredible milestones we have achieved together. One of the most notable accomplishments during Paul’s tenure has been the comprehensive governance review. While the review is not yet complete, the goal of the Governance Study Group is streamlining our organizational structure and enhancing its efficiency. Paul’s steadfast commitment to transparency and accountability has ensured that this process has been both thorough and collaborative, resulting in the move towards a more agile and responsive AIANYS. Furthermore, Paul’s vision and unwavering dedication have played a pivotal role in the creation of groundbreaking education programs that address the challenges of our communities. In November, we are hosting the Equity & Affordability in Housing Series; a six-part series that covers all aspects of Affordable Housing. A sampling of the series includes, “Beyond Four Walls: Housing Equity, Advocacy, and Economic Realities;” “Sustainability as a Path to Affordability: Economic, Environmental & Social Benefits;” “From the Architect’s View: The Challenges and Opportunities Implementing Sustainability in Housing;” “Creative Trends for Quality and Affordable Design in Housing: Infill & Adaptive Reuse Housing.” Click here to learn more and register. We cannot underestimate the profound changes we are seeing that technology has brought to the practice of architecture. From advanced design software and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to sustainable construction materials and smart building systems, technology has reshaped the way we envision, design, and construct our built environment. We are starting to gather our experts to provide you with resources to embrace technology. That is what make The American Institute of Architects so incredibly responsive to our members. The ability to be agile and forward moving, while not forgetting the deep rich history that makes AIA, “one of the one hundred associations that will save the world.” (American Society of Association Executives) I extend my deepest gratitude for your unwavering support of AIANYS, let us continue to work together in our mission to foster inclusive and vibrant communities. Sincerely,
Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE, Hon. AIA Executive Vice President | AIA New York State
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THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN ARCHITECTURE by Helen Mui, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Principal, Blair + Mui Dowd Architects
oday, technology can be found everywhere in architecture. It is not a question of whether to use it but what to use. With so many choices, it is often tempting to turn to technology at the first sign of a problem. But what did architects do when they had less options or worse, no options? Brunelleschi initially struggled to build the Duomo in Florence, Italy. He had to invent his own machines to lift the heavy masonry materials. Known as the largest dome in the world at the time, it kept collapsing on itself at first. So, he came up with a unique process of building it, including use of a double shell and an innovative herringbone brick pattern. By understanding the capabilities and limitations of the brick, he was able to create a pattern that strengthened the brick dome as it was enclosed. He did not compromise his design to suit the technology available at the time. He devised the technology he needed to build the design.
used to compare against target utilization rates in discussions with stakeholders to determine what is causing the variance. To evaluate utilization in more detail, new simulation software has been developed, based on process mapping software, to allow architects to test the performance of a proposed program and plan. These discrete-event simulation software require data entry of every step of the process map.
Most technology used in architecture today is computer technology, though there are some innovative tools used in construction that are more physical. We can look at 4 major types: analytical, production, collaboration, and prefabrication. During programming, architects can use analytical tools to evaluate space utilization and determine the optimal number of rooms for each function. Looking at historical data and anticipating future hires, a simple algebraic formula can be used to calculate past and future utilization rates. These are
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Request for and Issuance of Airline Ticket, Accessed Sept 17, 2023, <https://www.isixsigma.com/uncategorized/practical-guide-creating-better-looking-process-maps/>
Typical Architecture Ribbon from Autodesk Revit Version 2021.1.7
It requires time to enter all the necessary data depending on the size of the project. Then the model can run as a 3D video showing the avatar walking through the proposed plan. The result of the calculation is total amount of time it takes for the simulated processes to run. Adjustments to the plan or entered processes are required to test with fewer or more rooms. The analysis becomes about the software – how to adjust the settings or the processes to obtain the desired results. It does not provide explanations on why a proposed design is efficient or inefficient. So, it is important to remember the software is a tool for fostering discussions with the people that the software is simulating. The more architects understand how the space will be used and what it is that the users will do in the space, more useful the tool can become. In design phases, most current architects use some version of BIM (Building Information Modeling) software. They are useful 3D visualization tools. One of the more widely used ones is Autodesk Revit. The software allows the architect to virtually “build” a building by drawing “walls”, cutting in “doors”, and dropping in “equipment” all in 3D (see image of ribbon above). To start, those particular items are called “families” and must be defined - composition of a “wall”; sizes of “doors; how door frames wrap around walls; etc. No one I know creates these “families” from scratch for every project. Most architects copy “families” from previous models or download from the internet. Selecting components from a drop-down list result in a tendency to repeatedly copy design elements without analyzing whether they are suitable for another project, leading to errors. Instead, our day is spent dealing with notifications from the software when it does not accept how we’re trying to put components together, though they may work that way in real life. We now design to the tool, including its limitations. To properly use BIM, we must recognize these “families” are symbols of actual materials and products. The more accurate the symbol, the more accurate the design drawings. During construction, many contractors have been using online project management software as communication tools that allows them to send the design team RFI and shop drawings with the responses going directly to a predetermined list of contractors. While these tools save time previously spent on paperwork, architects now spend inbox space dealing with excess notifications. However, the emails and phone calls can not be entirely eliminated. If all RFIs can simply be answered with “see contract documents,” there would be no need for most RFIs to begin with. Often questions from the field are indications of new or insufficient information. To get to real
issue behind the question, discussions between contractor, owner, and design team must occur to ascertain the reasons, different perspectives, or misunderstandings behind the RFI or answer. We can even learn something new. Sometimes an early question can lead to realization of future construction issues. Completing the online response box with impractical responses simply to reduce our notifications is a lost opportunity. Through back-and-forth discussions, the team can actually collaborate and ensure the success of the project. Then the online RFI response can be a record of that successful problem-solving discussion. Construction schedules are shrinking every day. With less time and more supply chain delays, contractors are devising new fabrication and installation techniques. Many are being marketed as prefabrication. Most are prefabricated in the sense they are being built off site with entire ceilings or rooms being brought on site to be assembled in sections and connected to building utilities. To achieve this, they are built with subframes to support all the various components and attach to the building structure. Such prefabricated ceiling systems require sufficient above-ceiling dimension, a piece of information that is important to know early. Other ceiling systems are sold in small, modular components that are connected to each other and with blank tiles or equipment booms to provide various configurations. Price Industries have such a ceiling system for ORs that they market as “Ultrasuite®”
Operating Room Diffuser System with LED Lighting, Accessed Sept 18, 2023, <https://www.priceindustries.com/criticalenvironments/products/ ultrasuite>
OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 7
Their innovative modules are prefabricated and provide HVAC air as well as lighting, combining 2 trades into 1 modular component and reducing the amount of ductwork above. Understanding the detailed differences between the prefabrication options are critical in making the correct selection for each project and client. The trend in architectural technology is to encourage less human participation. Instead of saving us time to increase critical thinking and collaboration on our designs, it is leading to quiet studios with just the sound of computer mice clicking. It is unfortunate because what makes architecture so personal is because many people are heavily involved in designing and building it. Technology does have a role in architecture – as a tool. As with all tools, we need to understand how they really work. We should not design to the capability of the tool but rather harness the tool to achieve the design. And if need be, question whether it is the right tool. Look at the tool from different perspectives – how to use it in an effective manner ? Does it need to be modified? Select the right tool for the right use or as Brunelleschi discovered, invent a new tool if needed. Don’t buy it just because it is the latest technology and everyone else has it. l
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HELEN MUI, AIA, LEED AP BD+C Helen Mui is a Principal at Blair + Mui Dowd Architects specializing in the design and construction of institutional, education and healthcare facilities. She is a registered New York Architect, a LEED AP BD+C professional, and NCARB certified with over 23 years of experience. Her work includes programming studies, master planning, adaptive reuse, renovation, and new construction projects for academic medical centers, universities, and non-profit organizations. You can find Helen on LinkedIn.
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OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 9
EMBRACING CHANGE: HOW THE INTEGRATION OF SPACE AND TECHNOLOGY HELPS CREATE A HEALTHIER WORKPLACE by Melissa Marsh, Founder and CEO, PLASTARC and Brian Coogan, Director, Digital Services, Ethos Engineering
Brian Coogan Melissa Marsh
here’s no denying it—new, innovative workplaces across the world are challenging our understanding of what the office can do and redefining contemporary work in the process. An emergent design philosophy, called human-centered design, is creating workplaces that can accommodate the fluctuating needs of individuals, teams, and entire organizations on a day-to-day basis and doing away with homogeneous, unchanging offices. Inspired by precedents set in retail, leisure, hospitality and science, which use feedback systems to create responsive systems, the human-cenPAGE 10 | OCTOBER ‘23
tered approach applies User Experience (UX) methodologies to various contexts, including the workplace. By equipping buildings with the correct technology foundation that can intelligently monitor and adapt to meet the workforce’s diverse expectations, human-centered design ensures that the users of a building—and therefore, the organization itself—can thrive everyday, no matter the context. It’s no coincidence that this design philosophy is gaining momentum right as hybrid work becomes the predominant paradigm for offices. In a world where workspace occupancy
often swings between 20% and 90% over the course of a single week, the office should be equipped to suit many different uses. The reinvention of the workplace as we know it necessitates a commensurate workspace evolution: employees, now recast as the discerning user, need compelling reasons to come into the office beyond compulsory attendance. The office must therefore appeal both to each individual’s unique multisensory preferences and to the diverse needs of the entire organization to ensure the office remains a valued hub for collaboration. Rather than fixating on traditional metrics like capacity and flow rate, designers must consider what inspires those who use their designs everyday. Without this insight, a friction between workflow and workplace becomes a source of daily distress, preventing the optimization of critical outcomes such as retention, recruitment, productivity, and workplace culture. Before going any further, it’s worth pointing out that a truly human-centered design is reliant on a smart building, which is not the same as a smart workplace. Smart technologies like space-booking systems, for instance, don’t require a building that can automatically adjust the temperature of a room according to whether or not that room is being used. Though smart workplaces are certainly a step in the right direction, their full potential can’t be realized until their virtual technologies have been fully integrated with the physical space’s Mechanical, Engineering, and Plumbing (MEP) systems. When equipped with an adaptive building automation calendar, the same space-booking system used in a smart workplace can automatically adjust a room’s temperature, ventilation, and lighting in anticipation of its scheduled occupancy and the
stated preferences of its occupants. The combination of smart building IT & OT technologies and human-centered design gives way to a fully responsive building, which facilitates communication between workers and activates those communications to make helpful, real-time adjustments. This alignment, though, is never reached in the blink of an eye. Before a fully responsive building can be designed, workers and leaders must be directly consulted to evaluate how a space should be designed to suit the very specific needs of the people who will use it. Through UX research, factors like occupancy levels, personal health, and workstyle preferences are studied to provide a sense of clarity that might not otherwise be reached. The organization, designers, and other stakeholders are able to settle on discrete project objectives and quantitative benchmarks that they can use to measure success moving forward. This, in turn, helps prevent costly reworks that come when a design fails to account for fundamental characteristics of the workplace it was supposed to serve. Paradoxically, the most impactful feature of human-centered design is in the fact that it’s never truly finished. While the space may be formally complete, the feedback process should always continue. This design philosophy, known as “future-proofing,” and the continuous “building tuning” gained from data analysis/insights, ensures that the building remains dynamic enough to adjust according to the evolving needs of an organization’s workforce. As building data, service data, and personal data are continuously (albeit, less intensively) monitored, leadership is able to deduce whether the design is achieving its original objectives, and if it’s not, what can be OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 11
human-centered design in their headquarters. Deloitte’s Amsterdam offices, for instance, use a smartphone app to help employees find parking spaces, desks, and even colleagues within the building. Sensors in the building track usage patterns and adjust lighting, temperature, and other factors to optimize energy use and enhance the working experience. The building, known as The Edge, has been fondly referred to as “the smartest building in the world,” and fosters a sense of discovery by preventing employees from falling into a rigid routine. done to optimize its results. Human-centered design is intended to be responsive, not prescriptive – as such, smart buildings intentionally leave plenty of room for adjustment. It should go without saying that this marks a major paradigm shift, and that relevant stakeholders are bound to face a few major obstacles as they move toward this sweeping and urgent evolution. Most notably, a complete integration of all building components demands that all contributors to the design and construction process, including designers, engineers, and contractors, implement their own thoughtful communication practices. In an industry that has long been made up of stakeholders who know how to work alongside each other but rarely see reason to work with each other, this is nothing short of a sea change. But a clear precedent has already been set – the WELL Building Standard and International Living Future Institute both offer frameworks that demonstrate how the alignment of diverse objectives in service of a holistic design can give way to a fully responsive building. The coalition of disparate stakeholders, once thought impossible, is aptly captured in the integration of all building components. In a responsive workplace, workers are more able to enjoy their surroundings and focus on the task at hand. We see how this system seamlessly aligns worker wellness with other key organizational priorities time and time again: in one example, the optimization of HVAC systems and lighting according to workers’ preferences also reduces operating costs and minimizes carbon emissions. A very basic but previously unattainable virtue – that a room’s electrical amenities should cater to the people who are using them, if there are people present – is suddenly within reach, thanks to smart building technologies. This may all sound extremely aspirational, but it’s important to note that countless international companies, including Google, Amazon, and Bloomberg, have already implemented PAGE 12 | OCTOBER ‘23
By activating human-centered design techniques, forward-thinking, responsive offices like these are inspiring change across industries. And while these innovative organizations are integrating technology and space to serve their workers’ needs, those companies that delay their workplace evolution are having a harder time attracting and retaining talent. The financial and logistical barriers may seem intimidating, but human-centered design – including its product and its product – is undoubtedly the new gold standard. l
Melissa Marsh, Founder and CEO, PLASTARC Melissa Marsh is the Founder and CEO of PLASTARC, a social science-based workplace consultancy. Melissa combines quantitative and qualitative social science research with architectural expertise. She advocates for evidence-based workplace interventions that make the built environment more people-centric, promoting both wellness and business success. Brian Coogan, Director, Digital Services, Ethos Engineering As a dedicated digital transformationist, Brian combines his passion for digital technologies with his experience, studies and learnings in UX and digital innovation to help organizations invest in the right technology. As the Director of Digital Services at Ethos Engineering, he works to deliver complex, integrated yet innovative ecosystems to enable data-driven environments within the built environment
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OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 13
GENERATIVE AI: REINVENTING THE BUSINESS OF ARCHITECTURE by Faizan Zaidi, Director of Design Technology, Spectorgroup
n the ever-evolving landscape of technological advancements, the intersection of artificial intelligence and architecture has begun to show signs of radically reshaping the foundations of the profession. As AI tools permeate deeper into our work lives, it’s an increasing possibility that Generative AI, with its remarkable potential, finds its place as an essential tool for architects and designers. When assessing the current status of Generative AI tools in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, however, it’s essential to contextualize their position within the broader framework of the Hype Cycle for emerging technologies. In 1995, Jackie Fenn developed a framework to chart the rise and adoption of technological trends over time. Hype Cycle embodies the idea that every emerging technology experiences a pattern of boom-and-bust before ultimately discovering practical applications that foster gradual growth. An illustrative example of this phenomenon is the late 1990s dot-com boom, characterized by a frenzy of internet adoption and subsequent market collapse, which led to the demise of many internet companies. However, from the infamous collapse emerged enduring giants like Amazon, Adobe, and eBay, which have fundamentally transformed various facets of our lives. In a similar vein, Generative AI in the architecture industry can currently be placed in the ‘Technology Trigger’ phase, where actual utility is difficult to distinguish from the overwhelming enthusiasm. While a plethora of AI-driven tools is making inroads into the industry, it can be challenging to discern long-term adoption trends amidst the current landscape.
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Hype Cycle: Each hype cycle drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s life cycle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gartner_ hype_cycle
Current State of Generative AI Looking strictly from the lens of technical prowess, even in its nascent stages, Generative AI tools are showing capabilities that were previously not available to architects and designers. Tools that have gained traction in the industry have been, for the most part, associated with the conceptual and planning phases of a project. The majority of these tools use a Language Learning Model (LLM,) which is trained from troves of existing data and visuals. With these tools, a text prompt of a vague
idea can transform sketches and concepts into formal design visuals, opening a wide landscape of design inspirations. This is particularly valuable during conceptual and preliminary design phases. Imagine an architect using a simple prompt, like “urban sanctuary,” and witnessing an AI system swiftly converting it into a series of visual concepts, acting as a wellspring of creativity and innovation.
Gartner’s Hype Cycles, of which there are about 100, provide an objective map that helps you understand the real risks and opportunities of a technological innovation, so you can smooth out the technology adoption process. We look at specific emerging technologies like, say, machine learning, as well as technology forecasting and management disciplines so you have the actionable, objective insight to make faster, smarter decisions. Credit: Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/en
Generative AI’s capabilities have also shown promising results in the initial planning and feasibility phase of a project. Currently, the task of generating test fits, massing and site feasibility studies is often marred by time and budget constraints, which limit the range of options explored. With Generative AI, architects can accelerate the creation of test fits and exponentially increase the variety of options generated. This is a game-changer, especially when considering different sites and their unique challenges. Suddenly, architects are equipped with a tool that not only streamlines the decision-making process but also unveils a multitude of design paths previously uncharted. Another use case, which has not seen tools developed around it yet but is the logical next step, is to transform 3D model coordination into an autonomous system — incorporating machine learning to coordinate models between the architect and various trades involved. By leveraging past Revit models and the lessons learned from them, firms can train their proprietary AI systems to make informed decisions during the coordination of future projects. This not only enhances efficiency but also serves as an early warning system, catching costly errors before they escalate into significant setbacks.
Rise & Impact of the Design Assist Tool Reviewing the potential use-cases of Generative AI, a distinct theme can be observed – the emergence of AI as a Design Assist tool, working in tandem with architects and designers to exponentially increase their ability to iterate and produce. Generative AI’s role as a design assistant holds immense potential, essentially cutting down the time required to
translate an idea/inspiration into a deliverable. AI becomes a collaborator, providing various iterations of original concepts envisioned by architecture firms, ultimately working with the design team to augment their creativity and efficiency. The impact of Generative AI will eventually, at a leadership level, force fundamental discussions around firm structure and organization. We are stepping into a technological era shift where, with the leverage of AI, the resources required to complete a task will need to be reevaluated. As AI tools weave themselves into the fabric of daily design workflows, architects will be compelled to revisit contracts and proposals. The efficiencies gained in various project phases will inevitably reshape fee structures, reflecting the newfound effectiveness brought about by AI integration. Without a doubt, the next facet of change management will be centered around the implementation of Generative AI. In the long run, AI tools exert a substantial influence on staff utilization and hiring practices,and the accelerated pace at which certain project tasks are completed prompts a reevaluation of team structure. Architects will eventually have the freedom to allocate more time to perfecting project designs, confident that AI is adeptly handling repetitive documentation tasks.
Impending Challenges However, this progress is not without its challenges. Over time, firms must grapple with the decision of training proprietary AI systems using their past projects’ data or purchasing off-the-shelf AI tools. The former option aligns with the firm’s design language but demands substantial investment in time and resources, whereas the latter discounts uniqueness and proprietary design language. Firms will also be required to continually audit their process to ensure they are delivering innovative and optimized solutions that meet potentially conflicting objectives, including aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability – something AI may initially struggle with. Human oversight will be required at every turn to fully understand and communicate the design intent and confirm it aligns with the client’s vision. Rapid evolution of Generative AI tools has also stirred legal complexities and ignited a host of copyright disputes. Many early developers trained their AI models by scouring the internet for data, operating under the assumption that all online information is fair game for use. This practice has recently led to a surge in copyright infringement claims, with AI models being trained using proprietary data without the original authors’ consent. In the context of the architecture industry, rendering and other showcased works, readily available on firms’ websites, have become vulnerable to unauthorized usage for AI model training. As Generative AI continues to mature and finds its place in mainstream industry practices, architecture firms will face the imperative task of revisiting their legal contracts and copyright protection clauses to safeguard their data and 3D models, which have now assumed a newfound significance as the essential fuel required to train AI models.
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Analyzing the Hype Cycle chart. It will be wise for most firms to let the Generative AI trend mature and reach the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ prior to making substantial business decisions, driven by this new technology. Though regardless of the trend, the embrace of Generative AI ushers in unprecedented opportunities for creativity and efficiency, revolutionizing how architects approach their craft. As AI tools continue to evolve and become more integral to the field, architects must navigate the balance between harnessing the potential of AI and preserving the unique human touch that defines architecture. l
Faizan Zaidi is the Director of Design Technology at Spectorgroup. Over the past decade, Faizan has specialized in developing tailored Design Technology and Building Information Modeling (BIM) strategies that fulfill the needs of projects at various stages of development. Faizan earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Spectorgroup is a multidisciplinary design practice with 50+ years of global expertise. Located in New York City and Miami, the firm places experience at the center of its process, connecting people to environments through design. Rooted in research, the firm partners with top developers, brokers and organizations, including Carlyle Group, Stagwell, and SpringHill Company, to create authentic and meaningful spaces that improve the way people interact with one another and the world around them. Spectorgroup’s portfolio spans market sectors, from commercial and mixed-use to retail, education and workplace. Visit www.spectorgroup.com to learn more.
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TRAINING A PANACEA: RESPONSIBLE USE OF AI IN ARCHITECTURE by Emily Fusilero, Designer at H2M Architects and Robert Nilsen, Designer at H2M Architects
rtificial intelligence (AI) stands as a testament to human ingenuity, yet like other tools sculpted by human hands, it’s not devoid of the imperfections and biases inherent to its creators. It’s essential to dissect and understand the very fabric of AI tools — the data and training they receive. Situated within the architecture and design disciplines, how such tools can be used to exacerbate or alleviate issues surrounding the built environment. Who crafts these sophisticated models, and from where does their training content originate? While they promise groundbreaking capabilities, these tools are only as unbiased as the data fed into them. For architects and designers to harness the transformative potential of AI responsibly amidst a multitude of controversies, one must approach it with a three-pronged panacea: a thorough understanding of its inner workings, a vigilant awareness of its biases, and a constant strive for impartiality.
While mainstream media often presents AI through a sensationalized lens, technologists and academics have underscored the urgency of fostering nuanced dialogue about its broader ramifications and potentialities.1 The emergence of AI-based tools in architecture further necessitates such conversation. Though our intent is not to present novel findings or prophesize on future trajectories, we seek to root our discourse in the present context. Acknowledging that design tools for the built environment have perpetuated disparities and disenfranchised certain communities, we aspire to queer their application amid AI’s early uses. PAGE 18 | OCTOBER ‘23
In the realm of architecture and design, the artificial intelligence mystique can be clarified by focusing on unsupervised machine learning and generative AI, which form the backbone of many tools in the industry. 2 3 Unsupervised learning can be best understood through a practical architectural example: Studying a diverse collection of building designs without labels or styles, and being tasked to identify any inherent patterns within the geometry. Analogously, unsupervised learning models uncover structure in data without any explicit labels, clustering them by seeming relation. The application and comparison process is mathematically grounded with optimization techniques: Loss functions and the like, to identify relationships between the data. By utilizing this training data and incorporating generative properties and models like GANs or generative adversarial networks, can reproduce new forms of data...that is, in the context of our previous example, generative models could create new building designs based on the patterns or themes they’ve learned.
Left: Real Image A; Right: Real Image B
Left: Fake Image B; Right: Fake Image A
Within the domain of generative models, a key principle involves the transformation of training data into latent representations. These high-level representations serve as compacted, abstracted encodings that encapsulate the fundamental characteristics of the data. Analogous to architectural design where foundational themes or motifs are distilled from a myriad of influences, generative models systematically categorize and encode salient patterns from their training data. The significance of this latent space becomes particularly pronounced when one examines the potential for interpolation within it. By methodically navigating and interpolating between discrete points in this space, one can derive transitional designs that synthesize distinct elements, thereby revealing innovative configurations. For example, in the context of creating a façade generator, this would emulate a stepped transition of a facade with windows to no windows, or from glass materiality to stone. This process offers a computational parallel to the architectural practice of merging foundational principles from diverse styles to conceive a singular, cohesive design, all underpinned by the model’s synthesized comprehension of the inherent data patterns.
fundamentally anchored to the input dataset. 6 Put succinctly, the artifact reflects the predispositions of its architect. Not unlike other technologies, AI has the ability to propagate such biases.
Ergo, the significance of these applications for creativity within the architectural design industry is clear. These models allow us to augment our conception of design by providing a novel means of conceptualizing similarity or difference. 4 In addition, the introduction of generative properties to reproduce these conceptions enables a plethora of opportunities for designers beyond the built environment. Yet, it is imperative to acknowledge that these applications are tools, and as such, are indistinguishable from the inherent dispositions of their creators. Although enshrouded by complexity and frameworks distant from common understanding, these tools require a level of scrutiny and criticality akin to that demanded by historical technological advancements and innovations. As discussed by professor and academic researcher, Joanna Zylinska, “The roots of AI can be traced back to Aristotle’s work on formal logic: more specifically, the syllogism, i.e. a form of deductive reasoning that allows one to reach a conclusion derived from a number of statements with an assumed truth-value.” 5 This relates to the explicit responsibility of humans’ critical thought in developing the rules and training of a ‘non-human’ mode of machine learning– that is, the framework of an AI model’s agency to think and produce. Taking the CycleGAN as an illustrative case, when specific training elements are employed to generate a novel image, the resultant comprehension of textures, rules, and inherent biases are
In utilizing AI as an instrument for augmenting or reshaping the built environment, it becomes indispensable to grapple with the historical and sociopolitical dimensions of architectural practice. Elements of architecture have historically manifested and perpetuated systemic biases. The concept of disentanglement, wherein intertwined factors of variation in the data are separated into distinct and interpretable variables, offers a promising avenue to examine and mitigate these biases. By achieving a high degree of disentanglement, one can isolate and inspect specific biases or patterns, offering both a clearer understanding of the data’s underlying structures and an effective means to address and mitigate any unwarranted biases present. In combination, when integrating into machine learning applications, careful consideration of training material can alleviate issues of perpetuating systemic prejudices. Therefore, these elements of architectural history must be responsibly utilized as references to avoid the unintentional implementation of these discriminatory elements. Uninformed incorporation risks echoing long-standing forms of oppression. By combining the power of AI with a holistic education of the built environment, architects have the responsibility and ability for xeno-solidarity– to extend empathy and consideration for the other– a concept introduced in a new wave of twenty-first century feminism: Xenofeminism. As discussed in Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation, “Serious risks are built into these tools; they are prone to imbalance, abuse, and exploitation of the weak. Rather than pretending to risk nothing, XF advocates the necessary assembly of techno-political interfaces responsive to these risks”. 7 8 Awareness and responsible utilization of these tools by architects and designers can aid in our process for a more productive, unbiased, and accessible future in the built environment that is thoughtfully inclusive to all identities in our society regardless of race, class, gender, or ability. Increasingly, designers must operate simultaneously at multiple scales (such as the urban, architecture and the built environment, objects, things and bodies) and often contradictory perspectives (including human as well as nonhuman stakeholders)—to remake the collaborative, peer-produced, open-source city.9 Our responsibility as designers in the twenty-first century OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 19
has now moved beyond the necessity for program, form, and function and has extended into the realm of the politics of identity and inclusivity as a result of research, advocacy, and acceptance of diversity within the discipline. The collaboration between AI and architectural design presents both unprecedented opportunities with inherent risks and challenges. The use of AI technology in the future of the built environment requires an ethical grounding of commitment to inclusivity, understanding, and historical context as aligned with xeno-solidarity and new wave Xenofeminist theory. For who and what does AI benefit? What positive and negative elements of human intervention can it discern? In the words of Joanna Zylinska, “Who and what can’t it see?” l
8 Xenofeminism seeks to confront the responsibilities as a collective agent
capable of moving between different levels of political, material, and conceptual organization. Laboria Cuboniks, theorists of Xenofeminism elaborates further that “Xenofeminism constructs a feminism adapted to these realities: a future in which the realization of gender justice and feminist emancipation contribute to a universalist politics assembled from the needs of every human, cutting across race, ability, economic standing, and geographical position.” Intervention in materiality is equally as important as intervention in digital and cultural. Laboria Cuboniks, Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation, 2018, 3. 9 Forlano connects these theories and the networking of hybrid entities,
issues, and infrastructures that make up the urban fabric and happenings of a city. Rather, designers can operate as mediators of these forces and advocate for less visible nonhuman stakeholders. Cities worldwide are currently rushing to build sensor networks capable of tracking systems and human behavior. Laura Forlano, Decentering the Human in the Design of Collaborative Cities, 2016, 48.
1 For mainstream media examples, see “‘I am, in fact, a person’: can artificial
intelligence ever be sentient?” by Amelia Tait at The Guardian, 2022, or “Conversing with a self-aware AI” by Craig Thomler on Linkedin News, 2021, or “No, Artificial Intelligence Isn’t “Alive”…Yet. But It Will Be” by Sam Westwood on Icon, undated. For examples within the ML / AI discourse, see “Sparks of Artificial General Intelligence: Early experiments with GPT-4” in arXiv:2303.12712, Cornell University, by Bubeck et. al, 2023. 2 For example, see “Getfloorplan” (https://getfloorplan.com/), an AI tool
that generates detailed 2D and 3D floor plans with 360 degree virtual tours, and “AI Room Planner” (https://airoomplanner.com/), an application that generates interior design concepts with staged furniture and different room styles, and “ARCHITEChTURES” (https://architechtures.com/en/), a generative AI-powered building design platform. 3 Image-to-image technology (unsupervised learning) is used to allow user
engagement for a VR Art Museum, built with Stable Diffusion Image-to-Image pipeline. Harvard Graduate School of Design, by Robert Nilsen, 2022-23. 4 Carter and Nielsen, Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Human Intelli-
gence, 2017. Proposed that new devices for creativity should augment human ability to create. 5 Joanna Zylinska, AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams, 2020. 6 CycleGAN, a high-level generative adversarial network, is a machine learning
tool to create simulated images. The final output from this computational training was the result of selected images from the new terrain, generated by the texture mapping of rhizomorphic mycelium, and the satellite image of a selected site in East London. The new terrain informed the cycleGAN machine learning tool of areas that are textured for urban development, shadows for greenspace, and a flat surface for the formation of water bodies. The site image provided was a source for the cycleGAN to understand the graphic representation of urban density, green areas, and waterbodies. Selected training images from these two sources were carefully curated. After training through hundreds of epochs, the final image was realized. The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, by Emly Fusilero, 2022. 7 Solidarity between individuals can be made to be more inclusive, xeno-
solidarity, a philosophical theory proposed by Helen Hester. She addresses the ways that the binary and heteronormative collective thinking can further hinder the progression of the individual’s ability to extend what she refers to as “care and hospitality” to those whose identities we may deem to be considered “other”.
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Emily Fusilero, Designer at H2M Architects Emily received her Masters of Architecture in Urban Design with distinction from The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London where was awarded the prestigious B-Pro Thesis Prize. She graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture and a Minor in Fine Arts with a focus in glassblowing and casting from the University of Miami. Emily’s creative process delves into the intersectionality of the human experience in the various scales of design aiming to create a diverse, inclusive space in the built environment. Robert Nilsen, Designer at H2M Architects Robert received his Master’s of Design Studies with a focus in urbanism, landscape, and ecology from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Architecture with distinction from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he received the Norman Waxman Memorial award and the Alpha Rho Chi medal. In his free time, he enjoys programming VR/AR applications, digital design, and integrating the latest ML tech. H2M is a multi-disciplined professional consulting and design firm. With a long history of client service, we consistently meet tough architectural, engineering, and environmental challenges head on. From treatment facilities to firehouses, from land surveying to road reconstruction, and from site assessment to remediation, our firm has helped design and build many communities.
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Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY Exterior Projector Housing Totems Deep textured in Rigidized® Metals’ pattern 5WL®, then custom cut and backlit to depict Charles Burchfield paintings.
OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 21
TALES OF TWO REALMS: THE METAVERSE’S DUALITY IN ARCHITECTURAL EXPRESSION by Ayesha Nathani, Assoc. AIA
y 2050, the Metaverse has transcended its as soon as myth popularity and ended up being a quintessential part of ordinary life. And it has grown into a sprawling digital panorama, where human beings can seamlessly move, socialize, paint, and create in virtual realms. This infinite virtual area was not restrained to screens; Meanwhile, human beings’s senses were overshadowed through superior VR/AR technology. As the Metaverse has grown to be a ubiquitous truth, it is beginning to have a profound impact on industries, none greater obviously than the construction enterprise.
Sustainable utopias: With environmental worries rising in the real international, architects have located solace within the metaverse to create sustainable, eco-friendly paradises around the place. Alex has led initiatives demonstrating how inexperienced structure may be accomplished, and inspiring actual-world packages.
Let’s get to know about Alex, an ambitious younger architect who has seen structures slowly trade because of the sunrise of the Metaverse. He has become fascinated by the idea of growing virtual products that would capture the emotions of users. Metaverse has furnished a clean canvas for architectural studies, allowing architects to transcend physical limitations and push their innovative limits.
Experiential Architecture: In the metaverse, space became not constrained to its physical dimensions. Architects centered on developing immersive, multi-sensory studies that transcended the digital and real worlds. Buildings became interactive art installations, wherein visitors ought to manage and participate in the layout.
Positive Influence: Infinite Creation: There have been no limits to matter or gravity within the metaverse. Architects like Alex could lay out gravity-loose buildings, floating cities, or underwater shrines. They can test with marvelous shapes, colorings, and lights that wouldn’t be feasible inside the actual international. The metaverse became a realm where imagination had no limits.
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Global Collaboration: The metaverse dissolved geographical boundaries, allowing architects from around the arena to collaborate effects. This led to a diverse alternate of ideas, go-cultural designs, and harmonious amalgamations of architectural patterns.
Negative Impact: Loss of Physical Connection: As people immersed themselves within the metaverse, they regularly distanced themselves from the real global. Public areas and physical structures misplaced their attraction, leading to a decline in actual international social interaction and a developing experience of isolation. Digital Divide: Not everyone had the same access to the metaverse due to monetary disparities. This led to a virtual divide in which the wealthy loved the breathtaking virtual
architecture even as the much less lucky were left in the back of inside the crumbling bodily world. Architectural Identity Crisis: The metaverse’s countless opportunities brought about a saturation of architectural styles, making it tough to become aware of and maintain cultural identities in design. The architecture inside the actual globe started to lose its uniqueness because the metaverse homogenized global design developments.
they infused existence into the city by weaving a story that blended past and present, digital and physical. They transformed antique homes into virtual artwork installations, in which passersby ought to interact with holographic artworks. The project, as soon as entire, breathed new existence into the city. Visitors flocked from all around the international to revel in the harmonious mixture of records and technology. The augmented reality reports added returned an experience of wonder and appreciation for the town’s bodily spaces, reminding humans of the splendor that lay past the metaverse. As Alex stood at the heart of the revitalized city, he contemplated the impact of the metaverse on architecture. While the virtual realm has opened unparalleled avenues for creativity, it has also delivered challenges that architects need to cope with. By integrating the metaverse thoughtfully with the bodily world, they may create a harmonious coexistence that enriches human experiences.
Environmental Concerns: While the metaverse presented opportunities for sustainable structure, it additionally demanded huge strength intake to assist its infrastructure. The servers required to maintain the digital world took a toll on the surroundings, mainly due to debates on the sustainability of the metaverse itself. One day, as Alex became engrossed in designing a virtual sanctuary, he was given an uncommon request. The city council of a small coastal town approached him to revitalize their community, which had fallen into disarray as humans had been more and more attracted to the allure of the metaverse. The city had come to be a mere shell of its former self, with corporations ultimately down, public areas deserted, and a palpable sense of despair in the air. Intrigued by using the mission, Alex for my part visited the town to assess the scenario. As he walked through the quiet streets, he found out the magnitude of the project ahead. He observed the abandoned shops, the fading murals on the partitions, and the deserted parks that once resonated with existence. Alex felt an emotional connection with the location; he understood that actual global architecture needed rejuvenation. He proposed a completely unique method that would combine the metaverse’s attraction with the essence of the bodily global. Alex envisioned an augmented fact enjoy where the city’s historical landmarks and public spaces would be better with virtual overlays. Visitors could discover the metropolis’s wealthy history via immersive digital tours and interaction in interactive reports that commemorate the unique cultural history.
The metaverse had indeed changed the definition of “space.” It is now not restricted to the bodily dimensions of a building or the boundaries of the Earth. Space now encompassed the realms of the virtual and the augmented, blurring the strains between what turned into actual and what became imagined. Architects had the obligation to navigate this new frontier with care, acknowledging the ability and the perils it brought. The adventure of the metaverse and structure had simply begun. As Alex continued his architectural ventures, he knew that the balance between the virtual and real-world could continue to be a continuous exploration. It became a story of evolution, a tale of the way human creativity adapted to the ever-changing panorama of the metaverse, shaping areas that would redefine the way we perceive and engage with our world. l
Ayesha Nathani, Assoc. AIA An architectural designer who recently graduated from Pratt Institute’s prestigious Master of Architecture program in 2023. With a strong foundation in architectural studies, Ayesha has always had a passion for transforming spaces and creating innovative structures. Ayesha’s design philosophy is deeply rooted in sustainability and the fusion of cultural influences into architectural creations. Her design research project, which focused on sustainable housing solutions for LA’s low-income housing problems, received critical acclaim and reflects their commitment to addressing real-world challenges through innovative design.
To enforce his imagination and prescience, Alex collaborated with local artists, historians, and urban planners. Together,
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AI CAN DO “PRETTY” SCREENSHOTS…BUT NOT ARCHITECTURE by Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM, Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC
here’s no avoiding it. Regardless of your career, if you spend a minute anywhere on the internet, you are constantly bombarded with the planet’s newest obsession…Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Every profession is engaging in this discussion, and of course the world of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) is no exception. How could it not be worth discussing? Not since the introduction of BIM has our industry been curious. Many of us do not see AI as the “magic solution” that some have tried to promote it to be, however. But what I feel is necessary for discussion here is not simply a (justified) fear of mass unemployment, but the concern of an entity that can cause immense damage to our profession if not dealt with properly. Any member of any industry could have written the previous paragraph. However, where AEC differs from any other field is the LITERAL threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the occupants of our buildings. There is no sugar coating it… when mistakes are made in AEC, structures can kill people. Not focusing solely on safety, Architects synthesize solutions that account for everything the project needs. | Taking the human touch out of Architecture would lead to a very bleak world. Remember, there is a HUGE difference between a “legal and functioning” building, and true Architecture.
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AI advocates will mention that AI can help us be efficient and spend more time on “important” tasks. But, I offer this question, does anyone know a single firm that doesn’t make money from billable hours? I didn’t think so. Making this utopia of being able to work half-time unattainable, either clients are going to charge us EVEN LESS for the same output, or we’ll need more work to account for this increased output at much lower quality, which is going to require more rework and editing anyways, so not much benefit gained.
The Life of an Architect I want to discuss a selection of the tasks Architects perform for clients, and why the arguments that “AI can do task X, so Architects don’t have to focus on that” are not valid. This list is pared down for brevity. Proposals, invoicing, paperwork Often boasted as AI’s true calling, many professionals have begun loudly disagreeing with this. Every document created with AI reads the same and is lackluster to say the least, neither of which are great adjectives for a proposal meant to win work. Many keep championing the fact that AI will remove “tedious jobs.” Forgetting, that there are millions of people who feed and house their family with jobs some people arbitrarily view as “tedious.” Regarding proposals, and invoicing, etc., those that work on these every day have developed the skill to quickly produce QUALITY work, which will always outweigh the benefit of
saving a salary on the budget to produce uniform and bland “output.” Not to mention the lost value of client work that will not be won if your marketing and proposals are churned out with bland AI. Sketches and Schematic Design work It’s a sad truth that we have never received the proper amount of compensation for this portion to begin with, but now this is even further under attack with many starting to believe the lie that AI can do this. We are never hired to sketch whatever we want, and we are never given a blank check to build anything. We are hired to solve problems specific to a client and their site, which goes WELL beyond those initial sketches and designs. AI can make for some great clickbait posts online, but it can’t use critical thinking to incorporate the few hundred criteria a client brings to a project. Details and Construction Documents
compile this information. This will fail, not only because the code repeatedly updates and changes, (as well as varies wildly between states, cities, villages, etc.) but because the building code is dynamic. It has many areas of subjectivity, and areas of interpretation. That interpretation needs to come from licensed professionals, not algorithms. Nothing beats experience and knowledge, which does not exist anywhere else; therefore, AI cannot steal it and utilize that information. This also presents a paradox; many groups need to review our projects for compliance. But if we have less people producing much worse projects, than any time or labor that could be saved, unfortunately will be for nought as more people will have to spend much more time reviewing these projects and then coordinating with Architects to bring them to compliance…Unless of course people want this review process to be handed to AI as well…which truly marks the end of safe buildings.
A truly terrifying discussion that some have had, is the use of AI to generate construction details and documents. These details and drawings are not simply lines on paper. They will inform how a building is constructed, which will soon have occupants. AI simply scours the internet to answer questions. When designing a structural system, AI will find no shortage of bad information online…but AI won’t know that and will quickly grab answers and place them in its very poorly completed drawings.
What Can We Do?
Some may concede that construction drawings shouldn’t be trusted to an advanced “Google search machine,” but will still argue that many of us use standard details and AI could save us time there. No Architect has ever been able to “copy and paste” a detail. Every project has unique issues that always require tailoring documents and details. Even with millions of details, conditions and parameters programmed, this is still an issue. AI can’t think, and therefore it can’t piece these parameters together.
Advocate for Regulation
Building Codes The Building Code is not a one-page checklist, spanning over a dozen books, and thousands of pages, it’s not an easily digestible set of regulations. Yet advocates will promise that AI can
Architects, Engineers, and Contractors CANNOT be replaced by AI…but when the public believes they can, that becomes just as dangerous. Hopefully you are asking the same question I always do, that being “What CAN we do about this?” Luckily, I feel there is a lot, and they are much simpler than “storm the server rooms to stop Skynet.”
Right now, it seems that only the writers and actors are taking on this task, but WE ALL have a dog in this fight. I will say that we have more at stake and need to act accordingly.
Outreach and Education
Most do not truly know what Architect’s do. I know we all chase those billable hours, but we need to do better about sharing our industry with others.
Better Understanding of Copyright Law for Architects I think many in this industry could use more information on this subject, using precedents, learning opportunities, etc. OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 25
Avoid the Generation and Hyping up of Clickbait AI Images
As a sole practitioner, I absolutely understand the necessity of marketing and getting content engagement. But these AI posts, while great for getting clicks and shares, are absolutely painting the image that we just make pretty pictures and AI can replace us…despite the hundreds of other things we do daily.
Formal Review Process
If AI is truly unstoppable, then a formal review process is necessary for everything produced. Very similar to the Chain of Custody model that law enforcement must use for evidence; we will need to prove professionals looked and reviewed and edited everything that is spit out by AI applications. AIA, ICC, and municipalities are going to need to formalize this process soon.
Many have taken comfort with the mentality that “It will be a long time until we have to worry about our jobs being taken by AI.” I will argue that we cannot remain inactive and let the next few generations struggle with this, but also the sobering realization that the public has been mesmerized by this new technology, and they do not share this same mentality.
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We need to act now. We need regulation, we need formalized review processes, we need to get ahead of every software designer looking to make a quick buck and educate our profession AND THE PUBLIC of the dangers and risks of AI in the AEC industry. l
Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” Formerly an Assistant Professor at Alfred State College, as well as serving as the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors, he is always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture. He hosts the New Books Network – Architecture podcast, is an NCARB Licensing Advisor and helps coach candidates taking the Architectural Registration Exam.
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THE TRANSFORMATIVE INFLUENCE OF AI ON ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN by Dity Ayalon, AIA, ArkDesign.AI
hen 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. PAGE 28 | OCTOBER ‘23
Early Adopters Lead the Way 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. 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
Courtesy of Fischer + Makooi Architects, Preliminary study for 4 stories, 52 units, Mixed-use development designed by Fischer + Makooi Architects using ArkDesign.AI
Courtesy of Perkins Eastman Architects, Preliminary study for 28 stories, 231 units Mixed-use tower by Perkins Eastman Architects using ArkDesign.AI
OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 29
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. 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. l
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ArkDesign The current pre-design process in architecture is slow, intricate, and costly, often resulting in less-than-optimal schematic designs. Ark, our AI solution, transforms this process. Ark takes zoning requirements and desired building parameters as input and swiftly generates multiple optimized design options. These designs are fully customizable by architects, and Ark also provides 3D massing models and automated detailed ROI analyses, including area tables. Our clients comprise renowned architectural firms in NYC and globally, such as Fischer Makooi Architects, Samuel Wieder, and Perkins Eastman. Ark consistently ranks among the top AI tools for architects in leading architectural and AI publications such as Archdaily and Architizer, garnering hundreds of monthly requests from architecture firms worldwide.
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AI: PANIC & CONFUSION by Keaton Reinhart, Assoc. AIA
is a fundamental misunderstanding of what AI could do for our profession. Throughout the rest of this writing, I will discuss a couple programs I came across at university, the questions that arose from my studies, and how these experiences have energized me more than ever to be in this profession.
Kaatsbaan Park Distorted Dome Pavilion by Keaton Reinhart – M.Arch Fall 2021
was sitting in my last final review of grad school this past spring. I groggily watched my peers present their work, excited for us all to be done, when a shockwave was sent throughout the room. One of my peers pointed to a board full of conceptual renderings and said, “These renderings were done by AI”. A hush fell over the room as some jurors scoffed while others were interested. This moment has stuck with me as I have begun a professional career because it was a perfect example of what AI has been doing to the architecture profession - causing panic and confusion! It is human nature to fear the unknown, and AI is widely unknown throughout the architecture profession. We are all concerned about losing our jobs to AI, but I believe this concern
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To avoid confusion, it will be helpful to define AI as it relates to architecture due to the lack of continuity of the definition. Using a combination of definitions from Autodesk and others, AI in architecture is based on computer programs and algorithms that analyze data inputs to generate outputs in the form of designs, models, renders, etc. Using this definition allows us to lump together terms like “computational design” and “generative design” under the AI umbrella. These terms can be debated on whether they are truly AI since the software is not learning or making any final choices without human assistance; however, the computation software is undoubtedly utilizing AI tools and methods. The first AI software I was introduced to was an image generating software called Midjourney. Midjourney creates images based on words you input into the software. For example, using my peer who shocked the jurors to explain this tool in practice, the student input the words “Northeast wetland planting design concepts”. Midjourney quickly created a multitude of renderings showcasing different wetland plant layouts. Software like Midjourney helps immensely during the early phases of a project and can save hours’ worth of time that previously was spent scouring the internet looking for
script. After completion, I could review all the form options that were structurally plausible and fit my design concept of a distorted dome. I will be the first to admit that these experiences I have shared leave much to be desired. Lots of questions arise when looking at a Midjourney render. Is there enough nuance between the Midjourney images based on the words you input? Does this hinder the design process? Or what about all the missing links that are in my computation that may cause form finding to be less experimental than one had hoped. Do the limits of your computation skills cause a limitation in the design thinking? Also, these Reclaiming Clarity: Treating Water with Lost Wetlands by Matthew Garczynski - CCNY MLA Spring 2023 design philosophy questions do not even touch on the design inspiration on a loose concept that was floating around practical questions of AI like the environmental cost of the AI in our heads - I know we all can relate to the late night google data centers and the large carbon footprint they have. searches of a collection of words like “architecture undulating These questions must be reckoned with as AI continues to white panels facade design”. Or manually creating concept grow, but this article is not attempting to find solutions or renders through tedious tasks done in software like Photoshop. grapple with these questions, but rather it exists to say that Another form of AI related design is computational design. Computational design uses algorithms and parameters to create design solutions through the computing process. A way to think of it is every step of a designer’s process is translated into a computer code. Believe me, it sounds scary; however, once you begin to experiment with computational design, you will see it is just another tool that can help designers make informed design decisions that otherwise would have been extremely time consuming.
My first experience with this type of design was early on in my graduate program using Rhino, grasshopper, and Galapagos. Many know the 3D modeling software Rhino and the visual coding companion software grasshopper, but Galapagos is a grasshopper plug-in that acts as an optimization tool. To explain this in practice, my school assignment was to design an outdoor pavilion that utilized the Galapagos plugin to create a form that met my design intent. I was interested in creating a pavilion with two offset arcs that would twist into a vertical axis at the dome’s apex. I began by creating a grasshopper script with the help of my professor and YouTube tutorials. Once satisfied with the general form, I added a heat map to the form that would show me what combination of radiuses and angles the two offset arcs could be without the structure of my pavilion failing. The greener the form, the more structurally stable, the redder is the latter. Finally, I connected my script into Galapagos. It started to run through every possible form outcome I could have based on my arc parameters in the
these questions never would have been formed for me if I did not interact with AI. AI in architecture is often considered as the boogeyman, here to eliminate the human designer from the equation, but the paradox is that architecture is so innately human as it has been a vessel for us to showcase culture, interact with one another, experience nature with other species, and so much more. AI will not be able to replace that architectural language that we all spend many years studying because it lacks the most important aspects of being an architect which is compassion, empathy, and humanity. To quote the 2020 AIA code of ethics, section E.S.1.5 “Members should employ their professional knowledge and skill to design buildings and spaces that will enhance and facilitate human dignity and the health, safety, and welfare of the individual and the public.” Architecture cannot lack humans because architecture would not exist without them. So, this now begs the question: where does AI fit into our profession without causing a fracture among the AI users and non-users? This question is impossible to answer if we remain ignorant of AI tools. This is a call for architecture education programs, firms, and clients to spend time experimenting with these programs to understand what we can utilize in practice, and more importantly, what we cannot. If we do not do this, then I fear that the architecture profession will become stagnant. Stuck in the past, spending countless hours on remedial tasks using decade old programs and practices while designing for a world that cannot afford to be stuck in the past. We canOCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 33
Kaatsbaan Park Distorted Dome Pavilion by Keaton Reinhart – M.Arch Fall 2021
not be too fearful of tools that can greatly help us design for a future that yields so many societal and environmental questions. I believe AI literacy will not remove humans from the equation, but rather help us to enhance our humanity. I feel it is appropriate to end on a Spock quote from the 1991 movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a series that has been asking many of these similar questions since the 1960s, “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.” l
Keaton is a young professional that is passionate about designing purposeful and equitable spaces for the people and communities who occupy them. Keaton believes design is at its best when a wide spectrum of disciplines are in sync to serve the public sphere, enhance culture, achieve community goals, address social and environmental injustices, and so much more. Keaton is a recent graduate from the City College of New York and holds a professional degree in urban planning (May 2019) and architecture (May 2023). Keaton has 5 years of professional experience as he worked during his time at university. Keaton’s professional work in the design field includes a wide range of projects from workplace design, large scale master plans, and community design charettes with organizations in Edgemere, Queens. Keaton’s professional work and education has allowed him to learn how to study a space at the macro and micro level, and utilize the software and data tools to help create and inform design interventions. Keaton strives to be a lifelong learner in the design field as he begins his professional career.
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THE BLUEPRINT OF TOMORROW: TECHNOLOGY, TIME, ETHICS IN TIMES OF GLOBAL CRISES by Alessandro Melis, PhD, Assoc. AIA, APA, ARB, RIBA, AoU, USERN, UK HEA Fellow, IDC Foundation Endowed Chair Professor, New York Institute of Technology
n today’s fast-paced, technologically-driven world, the fusion of technology and architecture has birthed innovations that were once mere dreams.
Transitioning between professional architectural practice and academia, a significant insight surfaced. It’s not that we lack technologies or new gadgets; indeed, our capabilities have reached such heights that we can achieve almost any design vision. The real challenge is time. Our focus should shift from simply creating the next big invention to implementing actionable steps addressing the mounting challenges we face. As we stand on the precipice of a rapidly changing paradigm, marked by environmental crises and socioeconomic inequalities, it becomes glaringly evident that time is of the essence. At this rate, we would need twelve times the amount of time, rather than the mere seven years left, to achieve the goals of the 2030 UN Agenda. The 2022 World Inequality Report underscores the interrelation of environmental crises with economic disparities. Yet, much of the architectural realm seems trapped in an Einsteinian conundrum: trying to solve today’s problems with the very instruments and approaches that created them. Architects, as the primary shapers of our urban landscapes, wield immense power over our ecological footprint—a responsibility that demands attention and action. While concerns about the ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are widespread, the spotlight should be on AI’s
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potential to transform architectural practice. By not utilizing AI’s potential, architects might inadvertently exacerbate the very challenges we aim to address. In a world where maintaining the status quo is untenable, it’s ironic that while many discuss the ethical aspects of AI, fewer architects contemplate the consequences of *not* leveraging AI to pave the way for a sustainable and fair future. Our goal should be more activism, aiming for revolutionary applications of existing technologies and art, rather than a reductionist interpretation of them. Furthermore, there’s a pressing need to reassess our definition of ‘technology’. Evolutionary biologists believe that our distinctions between arts, science, and technology are recent and arbitrary constructs. In reality, these domains represent varied facets of human creativity, a trait increasingly crucial in our times. Amid global crises, from environmental to political, we’re seeing the rise of modern polymaths—those juggling roles as artists, technologists, and architects. They represent the future of architecture, akin to the Leonardos of the past, but focused on conceptualizing ideas rather than just structures. We must adapt to avoid becoming obsolete in this rapidly evolving landscape. The upcoming generation of visionaries will adopt a refreshed perspective on nature—one where design doesn’t produce waste, echoing nature’s innate efficiency. They will advocate for innately ecological designs, realizing that simple sustainability isn’t enough given the magnitude of challenges ahead.
This revolutionary shift is already taking shape. Emerging architects and students, the pioneers of tomorrow, are showcasing tantalizing hints of what the future holds. Examples of these resilient alternative futures can be seen in the partnership between the New York Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Design, coordinated by Dean Maria Perbellini, IDC Foundation, and several professionals who have developed radical proposals for new intersections between technology and architecture. Among these are internationally multi-awarded architectural prototype projects like:
Black Box: Photo Credit: J. Gokchepinar
Borboletta: A groundbreaking façade design using living organisms as sunscreen systems, reimagining our notions of integration and symbiosis. Slime mold farming was integrated into the interspace between two glass layers, whose environment, nutrition, and water provision were controlled by sensor and robotic actuators. The capsule with windows also protected two habitats for cricket farming environmentally. This design was first presented and awarded at the Buenos Aires Biennale in 2019. Architects who designed Borboletta included Eric Goldemberg from Monad Studio, Jorge Cereghetti from UADE, Heliopolis 21, Jumhur Gokchepinar, and Francesco Lipari. A subsequent upgrade of the façade system, known as “Black Box,” was showcased at the Venice Biennale 2021, with collaboration from Liam Stumbles.
Genoma: Photo Credit A. Avezzu’-La Biennale Venezia
Borboletta: Photo Credit: E. Goldemberg
Genoma: A structure that flawlessly combines nutrition and biohabitats, incorporating aeroponic systems and cricket farming, thereby marrying the organic with the architectural. Despite its sculptural appearance, this is a fully functional and anti-seismic structural system with “intrinsically” ecological columns and beams designed to bear more than 7,000 pounds
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Genoma: Photo Credit A. Avezzu’-La Biennale Venezia
per square feet. This prototype, also showcased at the Venice Biennale 2021, involved research and technology developed with the support of the IDC Foundation and also included the participation of Pnat, a multidisciplinary team of architects and botanists and Liam Stumbles.
Cyberwall: Photo Credit: Iris Group
system, produced by IRIS Group (the only industry actor in the field to invest in a hydrogen plant), is already available in the market. The NYIT team, with funds provided by the IDC Foundation, has already utilized this research in projects like the one at the Italian Consulate in Tenerife.
Cyberwall: Photo Credit: Iris Group
Cyberwall: More than just a façade, this epitomizes the pinnacle of innovation. It’s a ceramic surface that eradicates viruses (including formidable COVID strains) and mitigates pollution, representing the convergence of technology and altruism. This PAGE 38 | OCTOBER ‘23
Two Acrobats: This is a prime example of the opportunities arising from the convergence of a no-waste design approach that utilizes AI for the design development of an expansive habitat which can be tested and explored through Augmented Reality within the metaverse. With the research support of the IDC Foundation, this work was first presented at the prestigious Fuori Salone in Milan by designers Fadhil Fadhil (also an expert in Computational Technologies at NYIT) and Monica Battistoni. This project is an evolution of the AI-developed design of the Science Pavilion commissioned by the Italian Ministry (Directorate of Technology and Science) for the upcoming Science Festival in Edinburgh. In summation, the melding of technology and architecture goes beyond the mere construction of avant-garde edifices. It’s about forging a sustainable, inclusive realm and having
AI developed image – Midjourney based on design prompt by Dustin White and Emanuele Lisci, supported by NYIT and IDC Foundation.
Alessandro Melis (PhD, Ass. AIA, APA, ARB, RIBA, AoU, USERN, and UK HEA Fellow) holds the distinguished IDC Foundation Endowed Chair Professor position, marking the first Endowed Chair role at the New York Institute of Technology. He served as the curator of the Italian Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2021 and was honored as an ambassador of Italian Design from 20202022 in both New York and Washington by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before his current role, he held various esteemed positions, such as Director of the International Cluster for Sustainable Cities at the University of Portsmouth UK, Director of Postgraduate Engagement at the University of Auckland NZ, and Director of the Territorial Planning AI program at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. He also gained recognition as an honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh and has served as a visiting professor at Anhalt-Bauhaus Dessau and Politecnico Torino. Alessandro Melis’s significant contributions to research are evident through over 200 publications and numerous citations in reputable sources. He has been invited to deliver keynote speeches at esteemed institutions like the University of Cambridge, MoMA New York, UIA Copenhagen, the China Academy of Art, and TEDx. Two Acrobats: Photo Credit: Fadhil Fadhil
the courage to bring the vast world of possibilities offered by various disruptive technologies into real-world scale projects, overcoming the inertia of outdated practices. Not changing quickly would be more dangerous than not changing at all or accepting a slow ecological transition. As we navigate an unpredictable future, our collective expertise and resolve will be paramount in building a world our descendants will cherish. l
As the founding director of Heliopolis 21, an international architecture firm with a presence in Italy, England, the United States, Germany, and Mexico, Melis’s work has been extensively documented in various magazines such as World Architecture, Domus, Casabella, GA Documents, and Archdaily. His achievements are also captured in monographs, including the recent publications “Heliopolis 21” (Skira, 2022) and “Alessandro Melis: Utopic Real World” (D Editore, 2021). OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 39
COOPERATIVE TECHNOLOGY, SUSTAINABILITY, AND THE FUTURE OF DESIGN by Michael Ingui, AIA, NCARB, Certified Passive House Designer, on behalf of Passive House Accelerator
echnology is often considered in terms of tangible achievements: the lightbulb, the computer, the iPhone. However, technology is more than just disruptive products that create paradigmatic shifts in economies or radical breaks from traditional practices. Technology can also, more modestly, refer to the application of theoretical and practical knowledge to solve real-world problems. Viewed through this lens, reliance on technology within the world of architecture means reliance on others within our field. It ceases to be one or a series of potentially destructive instruments; instead, technology becomes a cooperative endeavor to solve not only granular problems within our field, but also the most daunting issue of our time: climate change. In addition to its capacity to solve huge problems, technological advances generate compound growth as innovation begets innovation. Advances quickly begin to snowball. In time, technologies and practices that were once considered too complex, too time-consuming, or too expensive become commonplace. Within the world of architecture, increasingly affordable technologies and standardized design solutions and techniques erode the need for compromises between efficiency and aesthetics. A case in point is the high-performance building market. Though the architecture, engineering, and construction industries are often considered resistant to change, the high-performance market is expanding as more developers and owners demand buildings that are more efficient and healthier than
Photo credit: Peter Peirce PAGE 40 | OCTOBER ‘23
as a Passive House—has more than tripled, but the important thing to note is that the lion’s share of this growth has occurred within the past few years. Just from 2021 to 2022, the amount of square footage of Phius certified projects doubled from 600,000 to 1.2 million. Another example is the growth of heat pumps, which are becoming increasingly commonplace in new construction and retrofits. Rather than relying on heating oil or natural gas, heat pumps run on electricity. When paired with onsite and renewable energy generation, these systems can drastically reduce operational carbon emissions. Electric and tankless water
Photo credit: Mike Tauber
heaters, which will rapidly become industry standard, will do the same for domestic hot water systems.
Photo credit: Adam Kane Macchia Photography
their predecessors. Simultaneously, energy codes are becoming more rigorous and local laws are making waste prohibitively expensive, leading more manufacturers of high-performance products to enter the market. As architects, we internalize these new codes and seek to maintain a high level of artistry, fueling demand for more variety in products. A clear indicator of the growth in the high-performance market is the surge in Passive House certification throughout North America. Passive House construction relies on five basic principles of continuous insulation, thermal-bridge-free detailing, airtight construction, high-performance fenestration, and mechanical ventilation to provide a continuous supply of fresh, filtered air to occupants. Applying these principles results in homes that are so well-insulated and efficient that they have minimal energy demands. In fact, these demands can oftentimes be supplied by onsite renewable sources. Since 2014, the annual number of projects certified by Phius—one of two organizations through which one can have a project certified
The market for high-performance windows has also seen tremendous growth, particularly in the state of New York. We have access to more than two dozen high-performance window companies today, and competition between them fosters a more dynamic marketplace. As a result, products are becoming more affordable, thermal and acoustic performances are improving, and design options are proliferating. Architects who want to use high-performance windows are no longer limited to just a few choices regarding configurations, dimensions, or materials. They no longer have to accept an austerity of aesthetics to achieve high levels of performance. Advances in materials science allow us to address the problems of embodied carbon in construction and how materials choices can affect occupant health. With respect to the former, this means using natural or recycled materials and developing technologies that allow us to manufacture them without the use of fossil fuels. With respect to the latter, it translates into opting for products that do not release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful chemicals during the beginning phase of their lifecycle (a process known as off-gassing). Embodied carbon-conscious products are the result of gradual technological improvements that will only accelerate as more companies strive to deliver healthier products. Approximately a decade ago, when Baxt Ingui Architects designed our first Passive House retrofit on a brownstone in Manhattan, all of this would have been unthinkable. It is not just
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Before (left) and After (right). Photo credit: Peter Peirce
because there were so few consumers who were familiar with Passive House building standards, or because of how relatively lax building codes around North America happened to be. Rather, the technologies simply were not available. Moreover, most builders were unfamiliar with the necessary products and did not want to work with them. Design teams and manufacturers were hesitant to fully embrace what was often seen as an immature market, and the lack of early adopters only compounded problems with access to materials and limited product options. Since no one asked for these kinds of products, there was no demand. Since there was no demand, there was a very limited (and typically prohibitively expensive) supply. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Within the last few years, cracks in this circular reasoning have formed as more people have become interested in the benefits of Passive House and high-performance construction. As more technical expertise is introduced to solve the problems associated with building high-performance structures, the rate at which problems are solved becomes exponential. Barriers to adoption are eroded as sourcing networks expand and architects, engineers, and tradespeople share knowledge. Techniques that were once considered esoteric become mainstream. Technologies that were once considered bleeding edge become standard.
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For architects, reliance on these technologies gives them more opportunities to create unique spaces that are no longer shackled to oversized mechanical systems. We are allowed to take back floor space from radiators, to reclaim basements from furnaces and boilers, to create rooftops that can serve as oases for residents rather than storage for bulky condenser units. Living spaces once again become used for living. Consequently, I look on the intersection of technology and architecture with a great deal of optimism. Advances in cooperative technologies allow us to make buildings that are healthier, as well as more efficient, sustainable, and responsive to the wants and needs of occupants. Ultimately, these kinds of advances will remove limitations in design and grant us the opportunity to create spaces that feel natural, comfortable, and human. l
Michael Ingui is a partner at Baxt Ingui Architects and the founder of Passive House Accelerator. The Accelerator is a catalyst for zero-carbon building and a collaborative media platform for practitioners, developers, and manufacturers working to create better buildings through Passive House design and construction.
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MEDIA ARCHITECTURE: THE LATEST TRENDS IN DIGITAL VIDEO SYSTEMS, AND THE IMPACT OF THEIR INTEGRATION WITH ARCHITECTURE. by Morgen Fleisig, RA, Principal Morgen Fleisig Architect
edia once had its place—in the TV room, the home theater, or the conference room. Video, now ubiquitous, must either be integrated artfully, or it suffocates our environment. As a surface finish, it is the essence of immateriality. When on, it can be anything and is frequently distracting, when off it is a void. It provides opportunities, though, not just for advertisement, news, and fast-paced narrative editing, but also for quiet contemplative art and the optimization of spatial character unique to the moods of its occupants and the times of the day. Some manufacturers have realized they are not just making video walls, but also a valuable cladding material. Understanding the nature of this material, architects and designers can demand more.
Architecturally integrated LED cabinets ready to accept video tile.
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LED Packages | Video tiles are composed of a matrix of packages containing light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which, though manufactured, have many non-uniform characteristics, like any natural material. Each color is grown as a semiconductor crystal on separate substrate layers. They are then cut and assembled in distinct configurations of red, green, and blue (RGB) to make “packages.” Warm and cool whites or ambers are added by the best manufacturers also working in the film and architectural lighting industries to achieve better fidelity to skin tones and a larger color space. The packages are graded, or “binned,” depending primarily on how well each of the component LEDs perform within their narrow wavelength band. High-quality tiles, and therefore more expensive ones, have more narrowly binned LEDs, and as a result, will play back video more faithfully.
Video mapped in software to LED tile in physical space.
LED Tiles | LED packages are integrated onto printed circuit
boards, or PCBs, that are typically rectangular or square, while some manufacturers can make any custom shape required. The packages are usually organized in a 90-degree matrix, with RGB LEDs arranged vertically like a stoplight. This allows the widest viewing angle from left to right when looking at the screen. If the display is more vertical than horizontal, towering above the viewer, it may be better to flip the packages sideways as they can occlude each other, shifting the screen color or causing speckled shadows. These shadows are less of a concern with newer Chip on Board (COB) tile in which the LEDs are wired and bonded directly to the PCBs and covered with epoxy, rather than packaged separately. There are other matrix arrangements as well to deal with these problems, and to integrate more complex four- and five-color packages. As video quality improves, the demand for tighter pixel-to-pixel spacing, or “pitch”, is growing. The rule of thumb for optimal pixel pitch is a viewing distance of 10 feet for every 1mm of pitch. A comfortable viewing distance may be half that but must be verified firsthand. These techniques lead to different finishes: when the LEDs are packaged separately, the tiles have an obvious “grain” to them, while the newer COB packages are significantly smoother. Some manufacturers are experimenting with additional layers of resins for deeper contrast and a finish range from highly polished to satin and flat.
MEP & Structural Integration | LED tiles generate heat which affects HVAC design, while better tiles convert more electricity into light. The architect must consider the LED cabinet temperature and ventilation to avoid component failure. All manufacturers are pushing toward thinner and lighter tiles and cabinets, but some are making bigger strides than others. This
has had a positive effect on reducing wall mass and structural support requirements. Whatever the substrate, it must not only support the load but also stringent deflection tolerances. Given tight pixel pitches, the smallest difference in spacing between tiles will result in a bright strip if too close, and a dark strip if too far away. Within limits, this can typically be corrected with the processor by dimming or brightening the edges.
Video Processing | LED packages are only as good as the processors, and there are not many processing manufacturers, so it is easy to compare the quality of each. It is important to know a client’s long-term vision for their video program. LED processors cannot simply be upgraded later—they are part of a system: the processor communicates with a receiver card built into each LED tile. What content will be displayed and what video software will be used? Will it have high dynamic range (HDR) with lots of detail in dark shadows? Which industry-standard color space will the content need to adhere to, and is it supported by the processor and LED? This is important for product and logo display and for any color-graded content. Framerate is also increasing: traditional video refreshed at nearly 30 frames per second, but as screens get larger and the content with it, the rate has to be increased to compensate for visible frame stutter. Some processors max out at 120 fps, while the best ones go much higher. Another key metric is “bit depth”—the number of bits used to define each pixel, and the higher the number, the more information processed—more color, gradients, and detail. The best receiver cards will communicate metrics back to the processor such as tile temperature and dead pixel locations. There are dead pixels in most displays, and if within an acceptable tolerance, they are invisible to most viewers. If the tile is overheating, high-quality processors can reduce brightness, initiate controlled shutdowns, and be tied into external control systems to call for air conditioning. Communication Infrastructure. All these features
drive up the required communication bandwidth. Different LED processing systems rely on different communication OCTOBER ‘23 | PAGE 45
Media Architecture: Storytelling and Iconography.
In conclusion, until very recently, storytelling and iconography in architecture were conveyed with sculpture, painting, and mosaic. It was fixed, static, unchanging. This has been replaced by a versatile dynamic surface material that can be made to convey any narrative, imitate any other material, or convey any mood or character. It is more expensive than the highest-quality finishes, and manufacturers are beginning to take note that what they are making is not simply the front end of a complex communication infrastructure but must also be considered a fine building material. Understanding its nature and capabilities, architects and designers will be in a better position to advocate for this innovation. l Content tested on site for continuity and color correction.
protocols. Some are proprietary, while the better ones rely on industry-standard internet protocols, delivering video over IP (VOIP). This allows installation by regular IT professionals, so the AV professionals can focus on their field of expertise. Proprietary systems may also limit distances between the video wall and processors, restricting the remote location of back ends.
Content Production. Before even beginning to integrate media and architecture, content expectations must be established. If the goal is normal rectangular content on a larger screen, the application is straightforward. If the screen shape does not match the content shape, the content is either cropped or “letterboxed” with a black strip top and bottom, and this can be handled by normal processors. For a more creative integration of video and architecture, the video needs to be mapped to the desired output shapes. It can quickly become hard to control where features land in these cases, and it is usually best to bring on custom content developers. They can produce either traditional “canned” content or “generative” software that draws new images with each frame. Both would be mapped to custom templates and could be triggered to change based on schedules, sensors, or other external data inputs.
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Morgen Fleisig has practiced architecture for more than thirty years, with a diverse portfolio including high-end residences, commercial lobbies, plazas, and amenities spaces, as well as institutions such as hospitals and museums. He served as Director of Technology + Production at ESI Design, and as a component of his practice, he now advises firms on the development of media architecture and consults with the visual technology manufacturer Megapixel (megapixelvr.com) on the architectural integration of their products. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Specify IAS Accredited Metal Building Contractors & Fabricators Accreditation Demonstrates Competence
Metal Building Systems AC 472
Metal Building Assembler AC 478
When you specify a metal building, it’s important to know that you are choosing both metal building system fabricators and metal building contractors that are competent and that you can trust to do the work. IAS has made this possible with the AC472 Metal Building Systems Inspection Accreditation Program and the AC478 Metal Building Assembler Inspection Accreditation Program. Find out more about using the accreditation programs to specify metal building contractors and fabricators on the IAS website (https://www.iasonline.org/): • Learn about the benefits of using accredited companies. • Get the list of accredited AC472 Metal Building Systems Fabricators • Get the list of accredited AC478 Metal Building Assemblers • Use the Specification Language Templates for accredited companies. (AC472)(AC478) • Read the Accreditation Criteria used to accredit companies. (AC472)(AC478) • Join the architects LinkedIn Group
These IAS accreditation programs are recognized by the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA) and the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA) as well as the International Code Council (ICC). The International Accreditation Service® (IAS), a subsidiary of the International Code Council (ICC), is an independent, nonprofit accreditation body, which accredits both metal building manufacturers and metal building contractors.
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OCTOBER ‘23 ARCHITECTURE NEW YORK STATE is a quarterly publication developed by AIA New York State, 50 State Street, Albany, NY 12207
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