Technology in Design & Build: The era of digitalisation is here

Nov 29, 2018 DesignBUILD News

Technology is playing an enormous role in the development of the design and construction industries in the modern world.

Titled ‘Technology in Design and Build: In the Face of the Digital Limelight’, this discussion piece taken from a seminar at DesignBUILD 2018 features experts from different sectors of the industry – existing and emerging – sharing their thoughts on the digitalisation of the industry, the adoption of new technology and the future of new technologies to come.

Virtual and augmented reality

Software like the popular AutoCAD has been used since 1982 to construct 3D models of building designs. But now, technology means that not only can we view digital models, but we can also take virtual tours through properties before construction begins.

Virtual reality devices like HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR and Oculus devices have made this technology accessible to the masses in 2018, with these headsets capable of plugging directly into home computers, tablets, phones and entertainment devices.

Paul Kouppas is the head of innovation at Auggd, a small software company, specialising in mixed and augmented reality, that has been working in the build environment space for about six years.

Previously working in medical illustration and virtual patient scenarios, Paul translated this technology over to the design and construction industries. During the panel at DesignBUILD, Mr Kouppas gave the audience a practical demo of the software, which can project a scaled structure using a mobile device or take you on a virtual tour of a full-sized construction project.

Both options include ‘hotspots’ where users can click to access BIM data and other information to get a tangible, visual representation of property that has yet to be constructed.

“Everybody is carrying a mobile phone or an iPad or a tablet, so we focus on those because it’s a good way to get the content out,” he said.

“In the past, it used to take many months to create a single experience, we can literally roll out many experiences in a couple of days (now). It’s been a big change.”

The changing shape of communication

The way we communicate has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. Skype video calling software was first launched in 2003, Facebook went live in an embryonic state in 2004, YouTube hit our screens in 2005 and then in 2007 we experienced the game changer – the launch of the first iPhone.

Since then technology has moved ahead in leaps and bounds with almost 17 million Australians now possessing smartphones capable of video conferencing, social media applications and a range of other communication methods to keep us all connected.

Tom Leyden is the global leader of IT at Woods Bagot – is a global architecture firm founded in Australia employing over 1,000 architects – and he spoke about how the design industry used this technology to better collaborate.

“When I started you were on the phone, but now it’s all about connecting to someone else, on a computer and sharing information,” he said.

“That means Skype, Webex or whatever it is today that enables people to talk really quickly and share their ideas.”

Using big data to deliver better outcomes

With so many people working, chatting, shopping and consuming their entertainment on mobile devices, big data has become a $42 billion USD industry in 2018.

To put data creation into perspective, 0.1 zetabytes of data was created in 2005 (where one zetabyte is equal to about one trillion Gigabytes). By 2020 it is anticipated that 47 zetabytes will be created annually.

That is a lot of information to crunch, but there is gold in the data – especially in the design and construction industries. When planning homes or entire estates, developers usually rely on traditional data from Census figures etc. The problem with that data is that is up to five years old and does not marry up to current stats like sale prices etc to work out the type of people in neighbourhoods and their lifestyle needs.

Jessica Christiansen-Franks is the co-Founder and CEO of Neighbourlytics, a Melbourne-based software company on the cutting edge of providing social data for neighbourhoods that is relevant to today.

Neighbourlytics taps into social media feeds to create a real snapshot of the types of people in your neighbourhood. It analyses live feeds of apps like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Instagram, Zomato and Yelp which are all geotagged and in real time.

One example Jessica used was Smith Street and Chapel Street in Melbourne if compared using the old model.

“You would be led to believe that they were the same place,” she said.

“They are actually very, very statistically similar. But anybody from Melbourne knows that Smith Street and Chapel Street are totally different.

“The personalities are totally different. The people might earn the same amount of money that live there, but as people and the things they want out of their life it is totally different.”

Jessica also cited examples of real estate agents feeding information to developers on whether to build playgrounds etc based on simple office demographics or assumed knowledge.

This is only one area where big data is being used to transform the design and construction industries. Mr Leyden said one of the great challenges in his firm – and others across all industries – was centred around big data and making it usable across the board.

“One of the areas we are investigating is augmenting our design or enhancing our design with really good quality data input,” he said.

“We’ve got great designers and they’ve got great ideas, but maybe until the last three or four years, they haven’t really been backing that design up with quality data. When we meet those two, great design with high-quality design, we’re getting amazing results.”

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