In history, there have always been generational shifts in how architects work and often, new technology helps inspire new ways of working. In the 1980s we went from paper and pen to CAD and then from CAD to BIM. With AI tools like Spacemaker, the role of the architect will change once again. Sweco Architects has been using Spacemaker for early-phase planning and design for six months now and there’s no doubt that it’s positively impacted how they work.
Sweco Architects decided five years ago that they wanted to be at the forefront of digitalization in the industry, partly for their own purposes but for the rather sluggish construction industry as a whole. “For such a large player as Sweco Architects, it is reasonable and natural that we take a leading role and are part of driving development. For our own sake, but also to enable smaller companies that may not have our resources,” says Anders Neregård, head of digitalization at Sweco Architects.
There were several reasons why the choice fell on Spacemaker when they wanted to digitalize their work in the early stages.
“On one hand, we are first and foremost architects and consultants and don’t have the opportunity to drive the development of tools in the same way as companies like Spacemaker. And partly we had looked at Spacemaker for a long time when Sweco in Norway was part of the development of certain analysis tools in Spacemaker,” says Anders Neregård.
The early phase in urban and real estate development is one that differs somewhat from other phases. There’s much uncertainty during this time and it’s more about conditions and opportunities rather than focusing on details. This means that you rarely want to invest large resources in each project. The key words for early stages are instead efficiency and to produce as good a basis as possible based on limited resources. “When we work with early stages, we can not drag out processes and spend time and resources on comprehensive analyses, but at the same time we want the best basis for decision-making as possible. With digitalization, we get the opportunity to do just that, to produce data in an efficient way. And it is important that we do this, because we can influence the projects very significantly in the early stages,” explains Anders Neregård.
In addition to analysis functions, the Spacemaker tool also has the option of generative design that can generate a number of solutions and proposals based on various given parameters such as conditions for daylight or noise, but also the degree of exploitation and neighborhood structures. This affects what the process looks like, but also the architect’s role and tasks. “Where we previously perhaps produced three proposals, today we let the tool generate 50. Then the architect’s role is to filter and choose – it differs from how we worked before,” continues Anders Neregård.
Johan Bengtsson, an urban developer and architect at Sweco Architects who has started working with Spacemaker adds: “Spacemaker is a very intuitive and graphical tool where you constantly get feedback in a way that has previously been a little more complicated. Where we have previously sent out proposals for analysis, we receive feedback directly and this facilitates in one’s own process but also in communication with the customer.”
Anders Wester is an architect and responsible for sales of Spacemaker in Sweden. He sees that AI and generative design will not replace the architect, but that the new technology will no doubt affect the professional role. “We have taken technological leaps in the past that have affected how we worked, from CAD to BIM and 3D tools. So there’s no doubt that AI and generative design will also have an impact,” says Anders. He believes that the working method will change, but also what customers and customers demand in the early stages. “Customers will want to work more iteratively as communication becomes easier and the new opportunities for faster analyses will create a demand for more diverse and faster deliveries.”
With Spacemaker in place in Sweco Architects’ digital toolbox, the practice has found another piece of the puzzle to help them digitize the entire urban planning process. A development that will in no way stop but, on the contrary, take new steps forward towards the next generational change for how architects work.
See more of Spacemaker x Sweco here: