Is AI the future of architecture?

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Is AI the future of architecture?

New research by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) reveals that 41 per cent of UK architects are already using artificial intelligence (AI) on at least the occasional project.

The RIBA AI report includes the findings of a survey asking architects how they are using and plan to use AI.

In the next two years, 54 per cent of architects expect their practice to use AI, and 57 per cent think it will improve efficiency in the design process.

However, this ambition this doesn’t yet seem to be matched by investment, as 69 per cent say their practice has not invested in AI research and development, and only 41 per cent expect their practice to invest.

With 70 per cent of the world’s population set to live in cities by 2050, AI has huge potential when it comes to sustainable urbanisation.

57 per cent of architects expect to use AI to carry out environmental sustainability analysis in the next two years.

And 49 per cent think better digital tools, including AI, are necessary to meet the increasingly complexity of buildings – which includes climate adaptations and smart building technology.

However, there are challenges ahead: 58 per cent of architects think AI increases the risk of their work being imitated.

Some worry about it taking their jobs, but opinion is mixed – 36 per cent of architects view AI as a threat to the profession, 34 per cent don’t see it that way and 30 per cent are neutral.

Architects who responded to the survey said:

“AI will become an inevitable part of our increasing need to become more efficient, whilst also simultaneously helping us to deal with ever greater complexities of design and construction.”

“We use AI to provide code for the automation of various aspects of project and document management, but still to a very limited degree.”

“We use virtual environments and digital twins to achieve a radical reduction in the carbon, energy, water, and waste footprints of costly physical construction.”

“AI can offer the opportunity for architects to work with more efficiency and remove some of the more tedious work. If harnessed, it can result in better work culture, fees and salaries.”

“Harness it, learn it, shape it and use it. It’s coming and be on the wave rather than behind it. It's just another tool to use to generate better architecture. It doesn't take away the vision of the designer but assists it.”

“AI cannot produce that blue sky moment the architect can.”

“Current GenAI models have been trained on unlicensed copyrighted data. People who use them might be liable for copyright infringement.”

“I generally don't think AI can replace our professional integrity nor creativity, but I believe AI can help us to advance our design much ‘quicker’ rather than ‘better.’ I believe we are still the driver and what comes out of AI can only be as good as what has been put in it.”

“There are no real regulations in place and the ethical risks are very significant, from intellectual property, design creativity, employment and potential risks on the built environment too (if things go wrong).”

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki said: “AI is the most disruptive tool of our time, and we cannot overstate its role in shaping the future of architecture – from the character of our cities to the quality of our built environment.

“Our findings show architects are curious and open-minded about AI, and some of us are true pioneers.

“By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and a culture of responsible innovation, we can harness the power of AI to create a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable built environment. There’s no turning back.

“RIBA’s new Expert Advisory Group on AI is building on the findings of this report to look at the broader ethical, professional, and competitive implications of the widespread integration of AI.”