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What Future Lies Ahead For Architects In The UK?

26 February 2019
Stephen Glands our consultant managing the role

Architects Jobs Are Changing - 10 Considerations Impacting Architecture Roles

Architects have been adapting what they do and how they do it for centuries, like other professional disciplines. Architect jobs have benefited from greater technology, and have faced the challenges of working with new building materials and changing demographics altering the needs of people and businesses.

The most sought-after architects are those who stay up to date with progress and ahead of the curve in the industry. They work more collaboratively, use existing and emerging technology, and have an in-depth understanding of the way the built world is evolving. This evolution is impressive and looks set to impact architects in ways that we would not have thought possible before the turn of the century. 

Here are 10 things that could impact how architecture evolves in the coming years. 

1. Collaboration will improve the architectural role 

We should expect that collaboration between specialisms will alter the shape of architectural teams. Architects will embrace the input of specialists such as social, economic and environmental scientists, as work on complicated projects is impacted by rapid demographic and technological change that reshapes how people live and work. 

2. Big data will shape cityscapes 

The potential for big data to shape placemaking and how cities operate is beginning to be realised. Cities such as Amsterdam are employing smart city technologies and methods to analyse big data and improve all facets of city life, from reducing traffic congestion to saving energy and improving public safety. Big data is becoming a big factor in architectural thinking, as architects strive to design the cities of the future, built to be functional, attractive and sustainable. 

3. Interconnectivity - Sharing Economy 

We hear much about the ‘sharing economy’ and the ‘gig economy’. There can be no doubt that these ideas in practicality have already had an enormous impact on the housing market. Shared spaces, amenities and communal areas are becoming the norm in apartment blocks, leading to smaller private living spaces.  

In the future, infrastructure will be designed around environmentally friendly driverless cars, and the interconnectivity that enables an increase in remote working. Instead of spaces designed for living, homes may necessarily need to be more transformative in nature, and adaptable to personal preferences and different uses throughout daily and weekly cycles. 

4. Cities Become More Vertical in Nature 

Each year multiple records are broken by buildings reaching skyward. As the world’s population continues to expand, it is likely that we will continue to see the creation of vertical cities. New ways and new technology to make better use of existing space will be found, and infrastructure design will evolve to enable cities to grow upwards rather than outwards. Will future buildings include public services, such as healthcare and education, and produce their own foods through development such as vertical farming? Is it possible that we could have vertical cities within cities – urban towers from which people have no need to leave? 

5. Designing for Sustainability 

Already we are seeing increasing emphasis on creating sustainable living. Architecture has a key part to play in our ability to reduce energy consumption and produce less waste. Architects are likely to design for even greater sustainability in the future than is being achieved today, considering construction materials, energy efficiency and location to minimise damage to the ecosystem. 

6. 3D Printers - The Builders of the Future 

Construction methods are changing rapidly. No sooner does it seem that modular design and build techniques will enter the mainstream as developers seek ways in which to build higher-quality buildings faster, than the concept of 3D-printed buildings become a reality. 

Construction may be the next industry to benefit from the almost wholesale evolution to robotic systemisation, following on from industries such as car manufacturing. Architects may need to evolve the way they design in order to assist building sites that are manned by robots and building processes that exist because of 3D printing.  

The evolution of 3D printing as a construction technique should also allow architects to create more interesting and organic designs, as the inhibition of cost will be eliminated (it is no more expensive to build a curved structure by 3D printing than it is to build a straight line). 

7. Virtual Reality - Immersive Architecture 

Virtual reality (VR) has really taken off in recent years, and it is likely to become a tool used widely by architects. It is not inconceivable that VR becomes the mainstream architectural design technique, allowing designers to create near real-life experiences for customers, planners and the public. This immersive technology should allow architects to engage others more fully, providing the sense of presence that is not possible when employing a more traditional approach. 

8. Mixed Reality 

Mixed reality technology allows architects to see a 3D model superimposed into an existing space. This removes the need to convert drawings into an imagined reality, enabling the architect to reconcile design to the physical space with accuracy which could not be achieved otherwise. This is the technology that will help to redefine how existing buildings are refurbished and redesigned for evolution of use. It should reduce errors and scope creep on largescale projects, therefore reducing build time and costs overruns. 

9. Augmented Reality (AR) in Architecture 

Augmented reality allows a person with a smartphone or tablet to examine the exterior of an unbuilt building. You can zoom in and out and explore the proposed building as if it were a model sitting on a desk in front of you. It is possible to capture images of the design and share with remote colleagues. The collaborative qualities of AR utilising smartphone technology take cooperation to a new level. 

10. AI and Generative Design 

As well as informing design and allowing architects to explore designs in greater depth, technological advance is also providing new ways to design buildings. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to create computer generated designs. With AI, computers use machine learning to develop parameters, understand constraints and interpret design goals. Once these are processed, AI can then produce an optimal design or multiple designs to be considered. 

Generative design harnesses the vision of the architect and massive computing power. This allows the architect to present many design options, without the need to redraw each. Each iteration of design can be looped back into the design processor, with the building effectively co-designing itself as computers machine learn from each redesign. Factors that have been limiters in the past (e.g. software, materials, or construction processes) no longer inhibit design.  

Generative design is likely to be used increasingly on internal design – in creating optimal use of space in kitchens and bathrooms, for example – but is likely to extend beyond this to building design. Instead of building a building, property developers will create a shape that has been modelled by parameters and constraints. Perhaps the only limit on design is the constraint of construction itself – the materials and processes used. 3D-printed buildings remove the constraint of build process capability, which leaves only the constraint of available materials. Could we be entering a world in which Architect jobs seamlessly meld with computers, designing vertical cities that are printed by gigantic robots? 

Will Architects Jobs Exist in 2025? 

In 2011, the RIBA published a report titled ‘The Future for Architects’. In it, the RIBA questioned whether mid-sized architect practices would have disappeared, work in the UK would all but have dried up, and if there would be ‘no more architects’? In projecting what the world of architecture would be like in 2025, it projected the evolution of the industry by asking: 

  • Who will design our built environment in 2025? 
  • What role might those trained in architecture have in 2025? 
  • How might practice change by 2025? 
It suggested that the term ‘architect’ was restrictive, and should be expended to include the more diverse work undertaken including lighting design, product design, industrial design, interior design, installation design, branding and community consultation.  It also highlighted the need for architects to navigate changes in the profession, especially by improving financial literacy and to embrace the need for a commercial approach. 

In the report, Dickon Robinson, Chair of Building Futures, wrote: 
“Architects are not alone in needing to respond to the impact of a globalising economy. However, in the face of a continuing erosion of traditional architectural skills to other players, the profession seems peculiarly vulnerable to a nostalgic backward glance at a bygone age in which the architect was the undisputed boss.” 

As a testament to how fast the pace of change in technology has occurred in recent years, and the extent to which its impacts may now be seen in evolution of the role of the architect in the world in 2025, the 2011 RIBA report had not one mention of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mixed reality or virtual reality. What it did highlight though was:  “The increasing use of technology to meet client demands for better, faster, integrated design and delivery service” 

“A significant feeling that the more senior members of a small practice are increasingly pulling away from technology, relying on the younger members to keep up to date” 

The world of architecture is certainly changing. However, just halfway to 2025 from the date of the RIBA report, it is clear that technology is playing a far bigger role than envisaged in 2011. For architects who are tech savvy and embrace the role of innovation within the industry, the future of architecture looks very promising.  

Whether you are a UK national or EU national looking for a fantastic architect career move in the UK or overseas, our reach is second to none. Your next challenge, the next Architect job you take with compensation to match your drive and ability in a market that looks set to take off, could be closer than you think. For a confidential consultation to explore the opportunities available now and prepare for the potential explosion of opportunities approaching, contact Macdonald & Company today. 
What Future Lies Ahead For Architects In The UK?

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