Keep looking to the future

Could we be designing building using gaming technology such as Minecraft? It seems anything is possible…

One of my fascinations is looking for future trends and innovation. I am always excited by new technologies and how this can improve the things we do now. I’m not particularly intrigued by technology for the sake if it but more what change it can drive.

Obviously I have a particular interest in the built environment due to a career in construction and wanting to be an architect from the age of four. Recently we have seen worlds collide with the real and virtual through the proliferation of the internet.

My fascination with Building Information Modelling (BIM) is largely based on a drive to find better ways of doing the things we have done for so many years with little improvement.

The beginning of any new year is when you reflect and look ahead to see what technology may impact on what we are doing now. A recent article on suggested that we would not be using traditional software packages to design buildings and is more likely to use gaming technology to design buildings using programs such as Minecraft.

Emerging generations will influence the development of hardware and software. The days of desktop PC and laptops are numbered. They only survive today because people like me are used to using them. Emerging generations are born with an iPad in hand and are far more comfortable manipulating geometry this way rather than using a pencil on paper.

We only have to look at the advances in digital animation and the quality of the images generated by filmmakers such as Pixar to understand where technology could take construction. Software is becoming increasingly powerful and hardware is reducing in price making progress very possible.

Coupled with the advances in software and hardware is the advancement in 3D printing. Every day a new machine is released. The latest I have seen is a machine which can print carbon fibre.

It is not unrealistic to imagine large scale printers producing full size components for buildings in the future. This is likely to increase building performance as tolerances improve but will also significantly reduce waste.

The link between businesses, urban environments and the internet is also a fascinating area. Business is now multi channel with the most successful retailers being those who have responded quickly and understood the changing profile of the high street.

Companies such as John Lewis have a strong online presence with a complementary in store offer. When this is developed together with an online community it can be very powerful.

For example Urban Outfitters has a strong retail presence online but have also built a community online. The shops and online offer are aligned and interrelate. It has taken this concept to the next level at a 6.5 acre site in Devon Yard Philadelphia where it is developing an Urban Outfitters lifestyle based environment with not only a retail offer but a coffee shop, restaurant and even a boutique hotel. This is the ultimate link of a brand between virtual and physical environments.

IKEA is developing a car-free friendly neighbourhood in London.

There is no doubt the lines are blurring between the real and the virtual and it is clear that these are most effective when the support on another.