We’re all Doomed!

(or at least AI has nearly caught up with Architectural Design)

Time to be worried?
Not quite yet, says Cityzen Director John Smith

Recently I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition about Artificial Intelligence which highlighted its potential within architectural design (as well as other disciplines). Did I fear for my chosen profession? Maybe a little but ultimately I think there’s a long way to go until AI can really work on a practical level. 

The exhibition, called ‘S.O.S: Let’s share our dreams for more sustainable futures and healthier communities’  was the brainchild of Dr Poorang Piroozfar and Dr. Eric Farr and hosted by Brighton University. It demonstrated AI’s ability to generate visions of what a sustainable future might look like, and also showed that academically AI is at a point of understanding a wide array of inputs to generate images which do have merit. As an architectural designer, I (of course) went down the AI Rabbit hole to see how doomed we are!  The first AI I tried was Midjourney, an AI that creates images from contextual strings. The first simple word string I used below was; ‘Sustainable timber cabin in a forest with an electric car in the drive’ and it produced the image below:

Interestingly – since I first found Midjourney I have repeated my request and found that it has already learnt and improved its design. 

I then used a different scenario; ‘sustainable timber cabin in a desert with a pool and a tesla in the drive, with mountains in the background’ and it produced the following:

This is pretty impressive considering that only a few key words have been used. The potential is obviously enormous. I can see we are not far from being able to input building constraints to generate whole buildings, feed the AI the Current building regulations, the site topography and local planning policy, the employers requirements and some key materials info and it’ll do it all for us. I can then relax on a beach knowing the computer overlords are happy looking after our clients.

Although the images above are only 2D there already is a Revit plugin software plugin, which, for a small monthly fee, will take the 3D model then you can again give it a context string of text then it will map materials and put it in a context which is pretty amazing:

Below is a Revit sample model rendered pretty basically in Revit (Images from Veras by Evolve Labs):

These can also be tweaked to show various finishes and settings – as below:

This is just on the design side of what we do. There has been a great deal of media noise about AI text models such as ChatGPT and its ability to write contextual answers to questions or create copy. I went to ChatGPT and asked it to create some text about various things. Each answer took under 30 seconds, which was pretty mind-blowing.

I did find that the answers it came up with were very generic however. The more technical I got, the less satisfactory the answers were. As it’s AI, I’m sure it will learn, but for now I’m happy that it can’t provide the technical answers to complex topics such as UK Building Regulations.

I can see a time in the not too distant future where all the construction regulations and BS and EN Documents are in a system along with Products and Materials, then you just add the location, its constraints and the employers requirements, and it will design and create a building – then you just press buy it now! I will hopefully be retired by then though!

My First Job was as a draftsman at a structural engineers. My boss said Computers and CAD would never take off,  why did I want to do a course in that? Then the recession of 1990 hit and the practice closed and I walked straight into a CAD job. Since then I have thought ‘whatever is coming embrace it’ and ‘know what’s coming or get left behind’. We all need  to keep an eye on the future, it’s coming fast!

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