February 10, 2020

Is artificial intelligence the future of design reviews?


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Artificial Intelligence is the biggest buzzword going around in recent times.

Unlike other technological revolutions, AI has the power to impact each and every one of us, by transcending human-made barriers. No wonder so much has been said about the positives as well as negatives of AI!

However, one question that seems to elude even the sharpest of minds is, “Will AI affect the land development industry as much as others?” After all, the success of any land development is to deliver high-quality design for customers.

Back in 2013, a University of Oxford research study predicted that there was less than a two per cent chance of architecture being automated. But things have changed significantly since then…

Today, AI has already made its way into several aspects of the design and creative review processes that precede the actual construction of buildings and structures. Having said that, it cannot be concluded that AI will take over the entire process, rendering design reviews redundant.

The benefits and limitations of Artificial Intelligence

Believe it or not, there are quite a few things that AI can do much better than you and I. These include handling multiple variables, generating variations, and dynamic personalization.

Did you know that IBM has developed an AI named Watson, which can diagnose lung cancer more accurately than human doctors? Or the fact that your Instagram feed is personalized by an AI, based on several factors? And that’s not all; I was amazed to know that an algorithm created 7 million packaging versions in the “Nutella Unica” project.

This just goes to show that AI has unparalleled potential, which already exceeds the capability of human intelligence in specific tasks. And if appropriately developed, AI could very well be better than us at nearly everything. Why not everything? Read on to find out...

Although AI has progressed considerably in the last decade, it is far from perfect. There are a few aspects of human intelligence that AI struggles with, such as understanding nuances, creating original content, and filtering biases.

These downsides stem from the fact that AI relies mostly on large data sets and preset algorithms. Whether it is neural networks, machine learning, or any other AI component, the result is mainly driven by the volume and quality of input data. Understandably, these limitations restrict the extent to which AI may replace designers.

Can software programs replace design reviewers?

Yes, and no! Yes, AI will replace the design reviewers of today. And no, it will not take over the design review process in its entirety. In other words, you need to adapt and evolve to ensure that AI becomes your most reliable ally and not your enemy in the future.

But how do you do that? Well, if you take a cue from some top-notch developers, you could rely on software programs to review and approve designs. And that’s not all; some of these programs are equipped to deliver a centralized platform for tracking land inventory. For instance, LotWork and StreetScape are two of the best, most user-friendly programs out there.

If you are skeptical of anything that’s AI-related, let me take you through the plethora of benefits that will likely arise from using these software programs. Design review is not all about maintaining creativity and high-quality design—there are some recurring, mundane aspects related to paperwork or documentation.

Think of these programs as you outsource partners for those repetitive tasks. Architects often use past designs and construction data for new projects. AI can analyze and interpret tons of past data in a matter of seconds and make practical recommendations.

So, you are essentially left with more time to focus on the business, sales and construction. To cut a long story short, centralizing operations will lead to increased productivity and reduced costs.

But like everything else, there is a flip side to this too. As good as these software programs are, they aren’t flawless. Here’s some feedback from home builders who have been using these programs for a while:

  • There’s a limited scope of discussing designs because of the lack of phone conversations.
  • Complete reliance on emails for communication can be a bottleneck for expediting a specific potential sale.
  • Any aspect that is relevant on a case-by-case basis, such as design concessions, cannot be dealt with effectively.
  • The program’s reviewer may be in another state or province and is thereby unfamiliar with your local market and styles.
  • The tangible and physical components of the review process, like a quick inspection, post-construction evaluation, and site context, will not be possible.
  • The reviewer and builder will not be able to meet in person for in-depth discussions.

What Nadi has to offer?

Nadi has bridged the gap between human-centric design firms and fully automated software programs for design review. We offer innovative housing solutions, green infrastructure, and a host of urban design services. And we use automation to make the most of every step in the design and review process.

In the case of Bridgwater Neighborhoods, we provided landscape detailing, infrastructure planning, and architectural guidelines. When it comes to architectural or design guidelines, there can be multiple interpretations and subjective opinions. That’s why we kept a direct line of communication to facilitate the clarifications of those guidelines.

Final words

Architectural design is more or less immune to a complete takeover by AI for now. The quantitative elements in the design production and review process should be automated completely. And one of the biggest challenges for designers is adapting to the new software programs and automation.

On the other hand, qualitative elements in the design production and review process will continue to be human-centric, based on a more intuitive and creative approach. So, the architectural/design review process is one of those rare fields that require a delicate balance between AI and human intelligence.

And on that note, I will sign off. Till next time!