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Innovation and its Impact on Architecture and the Design Process

Architects and designers are in the business of providing innovative solutions for their clients and the end-users who will occupy the buildings or spaces they develop. Often a design challenge calls for a unique new product or methodology, so architects play a crucial role in driving innovation. Often these design challenges are posed by climate change, the need for eco-friendly building materials and the rise of smart technologies. When new products come on the market, the best designers research and evaluate them to consider how a product or process might be integrated into a new project and to predict its efficacy and durability.

Innovation meets design from many angles. From VR and other visualization options at the pre-planning and construction stage, to building for climate change, to the need to plan for and integrate the technology of tomorrow. Today there several emerging products that address problems and issues that architects are seeking to resolve.

New Building Materials

Many of the innovative products appearing on the market offer effective options in meeting clients’ end goals and may influence design choices. For example, “programmable” concrete, recycled cardboard or cigarette filters, mass timber, etc., are being explored as potential building materials of the future. Meanwhile, new products like air cleaning bricks, self-healing concrete, sun-powered paths, and photovoltaic glass (power-generating glass) are construction materials that do double duty since they are eco-friendly, while they may also reduce maintenance and energy costs in the long term. Modular and prefabricated building components, as well as the possibility of integrating 3D printing for construction materials on-site, are also likely to impact design in the near future.

Parkin’s in-house research group investigates new design methods and products frequently. A comprehensive research exercise is undertaken at the initiation of a project to give design teams a thorough understanding of the new materials and methods available. Testimonials are solicited from end-users to ensure theories for the use of the new products are realized. If new products are ready for market use, the group advises and guides a product’s potential use on active projects. New products, methods and materials are only adopted if they produce functional efficiencies, increased durability and/or reduce carbon footprint.

Integrating IoT Technology and Virtual Reality

It’s not just construction materials that are driving design innovation; robotic and digital technologies are also playing a role. Today, smart buildings can monitor themselves and indicate when maintenance is needed. Sensors can track energy usage, when waste needs to be collected, or if lightbulbs need to be replaced. Designers will more and more integrate smart technology when considering workflows, space usage and planning for the inevitable adoption of future technology.

Drones are also becoming a mainstay in construction pre-planning, site inspections, and progression reports. Building Information Modelling (BIM), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are used regularly at the planning and reporting stages. Parkin leverages virtual technologies to help clients fully understand and visualize designs. In the past, drawings and three-dimensional models were the best tools for conveying design ideas. Today VR can immerse clients into a virtual world where they can fully experience the proposed spaces. Once they’ve been virtually inside a space, clients can become better-informed members of the collaborative design process. Design decisions can be made with more confidence and there are fewer surprises when the design is realized. Immersive technology engages project stakeholders in the design process and helps to raise interest in the project and contribute to its successful conclusion.

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