Architects and AI: two in five practices already embracing the future

A new survey from the Royal Institute of British Architects discusses how artificial intelligence is poised to transform the profession. But more education and investment is required to make the leap

What is the future of the architectural profession? And how will access to artificial intelligence (AI) prove transformative for those working in the industry today?

The RIBA Artificial Intelligence Report 2024, the first survey of members by the Royal Institute of British Architecture on the use of AI, examines the ways in which architectural work has adapted over time and how it might continue to change.

The report touches on important issues such as the launch of Chat GPT, the role of digital twins in helping tackle the climate crisis, and the history and legacy of construction as an industry. It aims to situate the architectural profession in the context of technological shifts such as AutoCAD and BIM, but where could AI take architects in the future?

According to the RIBA survey, two out of five architectural practices have already utilised AI in their work, but few are using it very regularly or to its maximum capability. The survey suggests that competency with these tools is advancing and that uptake will rise over the next few years. However, 69 per cent say their practice has not invested in AI research and development, and only 41 per cent expect their practice to invest.

Practical knowledge

When it comes to learning, a solid foundation is emerging. Around half of those surveyed assessed themselves as having basic knowledge and awareness of AI, with 32 per cent having practical knowledge and only a small number reporting no knowledge.

Additionally, 47 per cent of architecture considered themselves digitally mature but largely willing to adopt technologies with proven capabilities rather than lead the way when it comes to experimentation. Only 11 per cent of those surveyed considered themselves leaders when it comes to adopting new technologies.

While the survey results suggest that the architectural profession has begun its journey towards AI adoption, only around 2 per cent of practices are utilising AI for all of their projects.

The benefits of AI tools are well understood, however: 43 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that AI tools make design processes more efficient, with 42 per cent of respondents stating that they sometimes used AI in the early ideation stages of designing.

Simplifying the process

The survey also explored architects’ views on how productivity, sustainability and collaboration might be affected by new technologies and found a high degree of support for new approaches amongst design professionals.

Increasingly, it is important that architects offer design solutions which can be built as efficiently as possible while minimising impacts on local health and environment. AI can simplify this process by offering real-time insights into the local climate, operational energy levels and even helping to support the generation of concepts.

Already, architects are using AI within the design process. But it is also clear that, for all the potential of new technology, the creativity and judgement of humans within the architectural profession will remain irreplaceable. As one respondent put it, ‘AI cannot produce that blue sky moment the architect can.’

Access the RIBA Artificial Intelligence Report 2024 here.

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