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How Automation in the Construction Industry Will Unleash Creativity

Why Automation in the Construction Industry Will UNLEASH, Not Limit Creativity

Most construction professionals are already somewhat sold on the value of computers – but, when it comes to unlocking their full potential, they're only just scratching the surface.

The premise of computer-aided design (CAD), by definition, is to let computers to do what they're good at. In turn, it enables human experts to do their best work.

Computers automate things; they learn and obstinately enforce rules; they perform millions of calculations in an instant. Humans, meanwhile, are able to express innate creativity and come up with original ideas and concepts.

At least, that's the theory.

In reality, just look at the way most projects work. In most CAD software packages, you have to start every single project from scratch. There's a maddening amount of clicking, drawing and menu navigation – repetitive donkey-work that involves about as much creativity as peeling potatoes.

The consequences of this are significant. Human experts – architects, for example – are spending so long on these manual processes that there simply isn't time to be creative. They're given restrictive briefs by clients and asked to work in short time frames. This results in a huge amount of compromise when it comes to producing designs and models.

Still, many in the industry bristle at the idea of computer-generated or 'automated' designs. They're regarded as the antithesis of creativity. Computer aided design would surely result in projects that lack imagination and are underpinned by mere conformity to existing principles, right?

On paper, this is a compelling argument, but it misses an essential point:

True creativity cannot be achieved when creative people have to waste time on repetitive, mind-numbing tasks. These tasks could just as easily be done by computers.

This argument also assumes that, under the current, deeply-flawed model, architects are flooding every project with swathes of creativity and original, new ideas.

In reality, due to significant time pressures, the majority of architects are forced to repeat styles, ideas and concepts from previous projects or experience. But they'll still protest that automation in the construction industry will impede their creativity.

Does automation in the construction industry stop creativity?

It would be a mistake to assume that computers would only be able to come up with basic, functional designs. There's plenty of evidence that computers are able to learn the core 'rules' of different artistic styles. Pablo Picasso is famously quoted as saying, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." Even the most creative people and projects have their own sets of rules which - usually - will only be subtly changed or refined.

Let's take an example from the world of photography. There are AI-based applications that let you to upload a photo and then convert it into the style of various famous painters. The AI applies specific 'features' that characterise the style of each artist. What this means is that computers are now more than able to learn the 'rules' that characterise different design styles.

Going back to the construction industry, we can see how this applies to Building Information Modelling (BIM). Computers are increasingly able to crunch the numbers and create fully classified, fully costed BIM models in a matter of seconds. Kreo does not only just that, but also creates a full BIM model by defining key design criteria.

The onus will then fall on us human experts to do what we really should have been able to do all along: be creative! Use the solid, foundational starting point offered by that automated design model to actually experiment with shape, form and features. Meanwhile, you can accurately monitor and report how those experiments affect the overall cost and scheduling of actually building it.

Just think about how that could affect automation in the construction industry. What if, instead of spending weeks creating a model based on ideas from previous projects, you could simply enter parameters for a particular project? The human expert needs to tell the computer:

  • What needs to be built?
  • Where?
  • How many floors?
  • Over which dimensions?

From there, the computer can create a BIM model in seconds, including every necessary piece of information, for architects, engineers, and more.

Then it's easy to choose from styles and templates – before finessing the design with tweaks, experiments, and changes. From this starting point, the human expert can actually be creative, while assessing the impact on time and price with immediate feedback from the software.

Automation is already here

Automated design is already becoming a reality in other fields, notably in aircraft and car design. As much as it's being resisted with thinly-worn arguments around limitations on creativity, we believe not only that automated design is an inevitability. We believe it will have a truly transformative effect on the level of creativity involved in every construction project.

You can now witness automation in the construction industry with Kreo. Get ready for the shackles to come off!

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