Artificial intelligence, machine learning are buzz words in 2017. Countless articles detail the massive and promising changes it will bring.
And indeed the changes are very fast. AI is being used in more and more professional domains in very practical applications. Journalists have now AI based bot writers. Policemen have AI based tools to help them in their criminal investigation…
But what artificial intelligence applications are currently developed for Architects? And what are the possible applications can we imagine in the near future.
Designing a building is a complex operation, but is also made of many simple and repetitive tasks that make our daily work as an architect. Just naming a few example of this “dummy” tasks:
- offsetting this array of posts of 50cm because a constraint changed
- checking a roofing slopes so that water get evacuated properly
- Checking that no elements overlap another
What if we were assisted at least for those tasks by a AI based bot?
Let’s imagine the possible uses of Artificial Intelligence in the field of architecture and specifically in the context of the generalisation of BIM-Building Information Model- in Architecture. Indeed BIM bring standardisation and colabaration to a new level. It provide an unified IFC export language and attach semantics to 3D models that help go further in what a machine can do.
What is Artificial Intelligence AI
Articial intelligence for Architecture Design
AI based model checker
BIM model checking is the operation of verifying a 3D BIM model to detect defects :
clash detection : geometric collision between incompatible elements of construction
fulfilment of legislation for example accessibility by disabled peoples
BIM Syntax checking : a wall should be categorised as wall…
Some existing softwares are specialised in those operations. they allow to periodically check a 3d model against a list of user defined rules.
As far as I know they are not yet powered by AI but it seems sensible that more of more model checker softwares take advantage of AI for their tasks.
What AI can do ?
AI can learn from a database of many BIM models to detect automatically good and bad patterns. How to tell the AI that a pattern is good? Well perhaps asking the experts when in doubt it is was is called supervised learning. If a false clash detection is detected, the system will improve to learn from its errors
Those quality checking tasks are quite good to be automated. It remove some unpleasing work that machine are good at. It guaranty a final better quality and less uncertainties and risks in the site work phase.
AI based construction solutions suggestions
AI based architectural design helper
Architects, designers are proud to be creative people. And when talking about artificial intelligence, one fear that often arise is that the machine can take that very part of the job they like most : the creative part.
But we can also take more positively the rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence in the fields of creativity. It will allow to create new smart design tools that will rapidly overpass the old “non natural” softwares like Autocad, Revit… with which we used to communicate to create our architecture design.
That is exactly the viewpoint that Patrick Hebron in the excellent article Rethinking Design Tools in the Age of Machine Learning explained in full details.
He explained why old existing profesional softwares for creative peoples force creators to understand a non natural way of thinking (multi level menu system, many complicated features that need to be learned…) to achieve what he want.And if he do not want such complexity he is forced to use general public softwares. This last type of softwares is simpler, but force the user to produce a predefined type of work and disallow exploring new possibilities.
AI based creative tools and architecture softwares will overcome these limitations by allowing to explore easily the infinite possibilities while keeping the user interface quite simple and natural.
He categorize 3 differents approach that AI based creative software could empower.
Design through exploration
When designing a space, an object, a web site… we often have 2-3 constraints that need to be defined and have major impact on the final design. For example the angle of the slope of a roof, the width / Heigh ratio of a glass (as illustrated in Patrick Hebron article), or the size of the screen in web design.
Often we use our intuition to preselect a sensible starting point for this dimensions…[Work in progress]
Design by description
Artificial intelligence for Urbanism and Cities
Artificial intelligence for Construction
Drone base robotic
A team of MIT and more and more people interest in using drones to build architecture.
Managing a network of autonomous drones that can work together is challenging but thanks AI it could be possible. Also the drones need to carry more weight that today, to be able to be used in real construction construction site.
Artificial intelligence for Housing
It is probably the most know usage of Artificial intelligence for broad public. Everyone has heard about devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home. If not we recommend you read recent Wired article on artificial intelligence at home comparing the two devices.
All these IOT (Internet of Things) devices use AI to understand the house habitants and control the whole house system (sounds, heating…) with the voice. Of course when no order is given to them, they can optimize the system. For example Google Nest sensor or Netatmo french equivalent can monitor thanks to a cam, the presence of user and predict their next arrivals to switch off the heating when needed sparing lot’s of energy. By the way the energy and money saving is one of their key commercial argument.
The house is a complex system that everyone has an experience with. Many things can be optimised, many automations can be imagine, to increase even more the level of confort and interactivity of the space.
The domotic the IOT for house ancestor is dead, like minitel french internet ancestor, or like first mobile phones. Indeed its approach was too narrow, too technical and was lacking of the unifying power of the platforms and of the ease of use brought by Artificial Intelligence.