As the year comes to a close, let’s look ahead and speculate which technology trends will shape the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry in 2019. What we will see are some existing products which have been generating momentum coming to fruition, as well as exciting new developments sure to make designing and constructing buildings more efficient, safe and fun! So, sit back and let’s look into the near future together.
1. Generative Design
So many things are emerging at the moment around generative design that should have a significant influence on the AEC industry in 2019. With commercial tools such as TestFit already on the scene and BILT 2019 adding a stream of sessions dedicated to Computational and Generative Design, things are going to get interesting real quick for the typical design firm!
For a succinct definition of generative design read Anthony Hauck’s LinkedIn article What is Generative Design? Anthony, who is also leading the new stream of GD sessions at BILT, is the president of Hypar, a web-based computation design platform. Here are how they describe this offering:
“The Hypar platform helps capture, explore, extend, and apply AEC expertise to accelerate the delivery of a better built environment.”
Here is an example of the UI and results within Hypar.
Office space layout optimization via the Hypar platform Image courtesy of Hypar, Inc. https://www.hypar.io/
Autodesk just released the next evolution of their generative design offering, called Project Refinery. Interestingly, this is a group Hauck used to oversee at Autodesk. These tools and workflows still require a relatively high level of expertise to implement, but the opportunity for the generalist architect/engineer/designer has the potential to explode in 2019.
2. Virtual Reality
For the AEC industry, 2019 will be the year of “no excuses” for those who are interested in VR, as costs continue to decline, and wires get cut. Using the reasonably priced Enscape software, a Vive/Oculus/Microsoft MR device and a computer capable of running Revit, the virtual AEC world can be yours.
Earlier this year we saw the next gen Vive Pro ($799USD) and Vive Wireless Adapter ($299USD) hit the streets. In addition to the original Oculus ($400USD) and the Oculus Go ($179USD), we are promised the “No PC, No wires, No limits”
Oculus Quest in 2019. Given the lower hardware costs and streamlined setup, we will even start to see VR headsets loaned or gifted to clients, particularly on larger projects. Watch for wireless VR to become a standard in AEC as the client experience is significantly better.
Seeing the value in Virtual Reality, the computer giant Dell created a marketing video highlighting an AEC firm’s use of VR in the AEC space; full disclosure, the video features myself and LHB, the firm I work for!
The sibling of VR is also poised to see expanded growth in 2019 as more AR devices are available along with the rumored release of the next generation Microsoft Hololens. As someone who has used the original Hololens on real projects with real clients, I can attest to the potential value this technology can have for AEC in 2019. Clients love the experience, which involves them walking around an existing space, untethered, looking at holograms of proposed content properly positioned and in the correct perspective.
LHB Construction Administrator Roger Purdy using the Microsoft Hololens with Trimble hardhat for Hololens Image courtesy LHB Corp. https://www.lhbcorp.com
With a growing interest in combining Building Information Modeling (BIM) with the Internet of things (IoT,) 2019 is ripe for implementation and new services offered by design firms. With voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, as well as access to sensors and automation tools such as Dynamo, we are sure to see some interesting developments in this area.
On this topic, you can read about the forward-thinking architecture and research firm KieranTimberlake’s use of over 400 sensors in their own office in Philadelphia in this AIA COTE Top Ten Plus article: Ortlieb’s Bottling House. I see some real possibilities in marrying the knowledge gained from this research and their new web-based post occupancy evaluation (POE) tool called ROAST. Comparing measured data such as temperature, sound level, etc. with individual comfort reports would be highly valuable.
KieranTimberlake used over 400 sensors in their new office. Image courtesy of KieranTimberlake
With costs continuing to drop for laser scanners and drones, 2019 will thrive in rich real-world data. More and more, we are hearing of smaller firms owning their own scanners and drones. The Leica BLK 360 has been very popular, as have been a number of drones. Even if owning is not in the cards for 2019, there are opportunities to rent the equipment or hire the service.
Combining scanned data in Revit/AutoCAD to accurately model new equipment, pipes/ducts or layout new spaces is huge in a time where we are keen on preserving existing building stock to be more sustainable. Not only that, but now these highly accurate models can take advantage of AR, just discussed above, to better inform clients of the validity and completeness of one’s design.
In addition to the hardware becoming more prevalent, keep an eye open for supporting software to become invaluable. For many, this is already the case, using tools such as ClearEdge to model from scan data, and to compare newly constructed elements with the design BIM to ensure accuracy and design intent.
Photogrammetry with proposed design overlay Image courtesy of Isthmus Engineering https://www.isthmusengineering.com
6. Robotic Exosuits
Due to its potential to reduce injury and loss of life from construction related activities, I want to name the forthcoming robotic exosuits as another trend for 2019. This, along with the already available wearable technology to monitor workers vitals and location with RFID and devices like Fitbit, the near future looks bright!
Exactly what is a robotic exosuit? Here is a quote from Jean Thilmany via Trimble’s blog Constructible:
“The exosuits are metal frameworks fitted with motorized muscles to multiply the wearer’s strength. Also called exoskeletons, the robotic suits’ metal framework somewhat mirrors the wearer’s internal skeletal structure.
Guardian XO robotic exosuit by Sarcos Image courtesy of Sarcos Corp. https://www.sarcos.com
Here is an exciting video that hints at the potential of this product being developed. To learn more about this actual product in development, check out this video:
The future of AEC looks promising in terms of technology and its ability to improve design, enhance presentations and protect construction workers in the field. And while Enscape does not have direct features or workflows for all of the topics covered, nor should they, we know they are certainly aware of them.
We all have an important role in leveraging this technology to the greatest extent possible to ensure a safer and more sustainable future!
Beside my six trends of 2019 – which additional trends to you have in mind? Please get in touch via twitter @enscape3d and @DanStine_MN.
Bio: Dan is an author, blogger, educator, design technologist and Wisconsin-registered architect. He is the Director of Design Technology at Lake | Flato architects in San Antonio, Texas. Connect with Dan on