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Hello, everyone. Time for our weekly roundup of articles at the intersection of building information modeling (BIM); artificial intelligence (AI); and the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) space. Here goes:

Now that computational/generative design tools have made their way into the heart of mainstream architecture, what does that mean for the designers and architects? Far from making them obsolete, the minds behind Autodesk Project Fractal foresee a symbiotic relationship between human designer and computational program. As Architosh reports, the goal of generative design programs such as Project Fractal is optimization. Yet, while such programs are capable of generating multiple outcomes for any given set of parameters, the architect becomes the "curator" of these options, choosing the one that not only fits within predetermined designations, but which is also best suited to the architect's or designer's vision: "...what we learn from the Project Fractal demonstration is that architects serve the job of human guidance, editing the computational process – a process that involves visual script authorship much like how musicians work with chord arrangements to create a new song." Far from taking over the job of a designer, generative design systems offer an opportunity for architects to quickly extrapolate necessary design elements, leaving them free to explore new areas for design optimization, like those found at Autodesk's own new space at MaRS in Toronto.

The tasks of architects and designers merge with Project Fractal. (Source:Autodesk)

Aside from software with the ability to generate designs for entire buildings, the power of computational design can also be harnessed in the design of its parts. Also in Autodesk, Inventor 2016 can provide "shape optimisation for structural connections."This example details how the program moved from the simple design of an average support bracket and, using parameters set by the designer, output a design using 30% less material: "This form of optimisation becomes a necessity based on higher material costs and customer expectations." As with the bulk of BIM tools and processes, Inventor aids the designer in implementing the optimal path to reduced cost and increased efficiency.

Less material equals cooler design. (Source: Autodesk)

Although there exists a plethora of tools for managing BIM workflows, many projects, particularly large projects, experience a breakdown in communication when information must be shared across multiple environments. A new platform, AVAIL, seeks to minimize this breakdown and further streamline access to information relevant to both specific project parts as well as the project as a whole. With AVAIL, "Rather than requiring project managers to coordinate linked files manually, which can disrupt the files and existing workflows, AVAIL promises to provide a solution for easily organizing content that is already sitting on a firm's network – regardless of the size." All project participants, from architects to electrical contractors, can access relevant information without impacting the progress of other sectors.

AVAIL uses Revit to organize content, regardless of size. (Source:Engineering.com)

As arguments persist as to whether AI should be viewed as friend or foe, those in the AEC space (and some others) see the potential for AI as a boost to human endeavor, rather than its demise. One of the biggest fears about AI and automation is that they will disrupt the job market to such an extent that the human workforce will become obsolete. However, Tim O'Reilly has a different vision, one of collaboration and innovation. In a recent blog post, O'Reilly notes the various times in recent human history where fears of "the machines taking over" have led to new ideas, better methods, and most importantly, new jobs not previously even imagined: "This is the true opportunity of technology: it extends human capability. There is way too much handwringing about the possibility of technology eliminating human jobs, and way too little imagining new jobs that could only be done with the help of technology." Rather than focusing on what technology will eliminate, O'Reilly ponders the many possibilities of what it will enhance.

There's a long history of machines aiding the human workforce that we're losing vision of, and instead choosing fear. (Source: Medium)

The folks at UC Berkeley are always looking for ways to innovate, from English to engineering, and the Cal Marching Band is no exception. Hailed as one of the best in the country, the band recently turned to their engineering department for help finding the optimal way to change formation during a performance. See their intoxicating resultshere. Have a great week!

Now that's some enthusiasm! Make sure to check out the linked video above for all the marching band fun. (Source: Berkeley Engineering)

Tags: BIM Artificial Intelligence Architecture and Planning

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