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4 Game-changing Tech Trends at the RSP DARC

Innovations in technology have always been a game changer in the building design industry. It might be easier to follow a trend than to be a trend setter. Whatever the case may be, it is critical for creative firms to be on the leading edge and remain relevant. There is always a risk of choosing the wrong tools; making substantial investments of resources and seeing it all go down the drain. On the other hand, there are substantial rewards awaiting the pioneers who see the opportunity and catch the wave at the right time!

The following are the waves we, at RSP DARC, are currently exploring and the enquiry is into why one should care about them.

Integrated Mobile Technology for Collaboration

The Trend: The Cloud. Most of us already actively use it, from emails, to online shopping, to paying bills, to online banking and are familiar with its advantages and disadvantages (particularly if you are paranoid about the security for your data). The idea is to make data available such that it can be accessed from anywhere, with different devices and by different people simultaneously.

The Tech: There are tools already in the market for the building design industry, such as Autodesk’s BIM 360 , that combine mobile technology with efficient cloud-based collaboration, allowing much more than multiple teams to work together on the same data (represented as a 3d model), to make design decisions, cross reference with site conditions, collaborating with multiple vendors. Previously, this part of the workflow would usually entail multiple copies of the same drawing in different formats with a prayer that all modifications are accounted for or that somebody is aware which the most current version is. Cloud data management allows for different teams to work directly on one common data source that remains current and available at all times, at any location (depending on connectivity) – thereby avoiding communication oversights to a great extent, avoiding redundancies, avoiding large hardware resource overheads.

In the Pipeline: What if we could also use the cloud to go beyond just storing design data? What if the cloud can become an expanding repository of all the experiences of every team member (the tacit knowledge), across the board, collected over the years! That could drastically reduce the repetition of mistakes that can be unintentional but costly and quickening the decision making processes at every stage of design and execution. We call our tacit knowledge management tool RSP K-Link, where wetware meets digital ware. The knowledge gathered here goes into the RSPedia for future reference.

3D Printing

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The Trend: Physical models are powerful tools to communicate our design ideas to clients. Producing them is a key process for anyone working in our industry. 3D printing technologies are revolutionizing the way we do it, translating the bytes of information to tactile physical models with ever growing precision, quality, shrinking cost and within shorter time lines. Originally, design firms adopted 3D printing to ease the creation of their scale models. To allow for quick study of variations, options and to explore more complex forms that was difficult to realise with traditional methods.

The Tech: The 3D printer (regardless of which type you actually prefer) in an internationaldesign studio is becoming standard these days (we call ours Wall-E, and it’s become pretty much an integral part of the team). It allows for plastic and spatial experimentation to a level that would otherwise only be available with a much larger crew, a wider range of tools, and a lot more office space.

In the Pipeline: Scale is the next barrier to be broken. Small plastic or epoxy 3D printed components are starting to become commonplace, but something like the Contour Crafting system uses a fast drying concrete mix instead of plastic and it is installed on the building site instead of your desktop. The next step is to explore how entire buildings can be printed and making that a reality.

Virtual Reality

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The Trend: 3D models and renderings have been commonly used by architects to show future building projects and design capabilities to potential clients. Virtual reality (VR) has provided us an almost magical way to have an immersive experience of the 3D models; experiencing the scale and volume without moving a brick – during design and post.

The Tech: VR headsets have become affordable to almost anyone from designers to clients to customers – requiring nothing more than a head gear and your every day smart-phone. The familiar industry software products now have inbuilt capabilities to produce the content for the VR engine which includes serious performance boosts in real-time rendering technology.

In the Pipeline: Augmented reality (AR) is the real time superimposition of a computer generated image of an object on top of the image of the real world as you are experiencing it – Now, the virtual object is perceived to be an integral part of the existing reality. This takes away the guess work in ascertaining how a design will actually exist in the real world, relieving everyone from the designer to the end-user of the burden of imagination.  And since it is virtual, “what if” design scenarios are much easier to manipulate rather than with physical models. Conflicts between design and real world situation can be detected immediately and resolved on site. Augmented reality is slated to become one of the biggest influences, in the upcoming years, within the building design industry.

Parametrics 

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The Trend: Computer generated design based on layer upon layer of rules or parameters which influence each other with every change.  This is a moving away from a preconceived form or spatial arrangement of the building program and an allowing for the rules, requirements and constraints to generate the design – resulting in some unique solutions that wouldn’t have been otherwise imagined.

The Tech: The misconceptions here are that “the computer does all the work” and that it is only useful for psychedelic forms which are not practical in the current market. Embracing the Parametric design methodology entails rigorous processes of defining rules, translating them to algorithms that the software can work on and produce usable results, ironing out conflict with multiple rules and fine tuning the processes such that it works with the available computing power..all of it is a time consuming preparation process. But the results are definitely worth it! – On account of flexibility, speed and future learning. Rhino3D and Grasshopper is still our weapon of choice, and it allows for multiple plug-ins that expand its capabilities immensely. But there is a wide range of options, and nowadays all the major BIM software developers have compatible graphical programming environment available for their platforms.

In the Pipeline: Genetic Algorithm Design (GAD) is the natural next step. It is not a new concept (it’s been studied since the late nineties), but the questions we’re asking ourselves is what if we could identify the rules and parameters that, together, define a certain slice Indian reality? What if we could encode them? What if we could let those rules loose inside an evolutionary loop and ultimately settling on the most appropriate solution out of clearly defined and digitally tested future scenarios – survival of the fittest? What new possibilities will the future reveal?