Big Data In Architecture: Here's How It's Changing The Way Firms Deliver Projects

Posted by Deltek on September 14, 2018

Big data in architecture

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There are many highly innovative buildings around the world that are vanguards of new technology. Consider Foster+Partners’ Apple Campus 2 at Cupertino, USA, which blends carbon-neutral smarts, connections with nature, and health and wellness facilities, for the enjoyment of staff. Or the Powerhouse Kjørbo project, just outside Oslo in Norway, designed by Snøhetta as the world’s first ‘energy positive building’.

But how many architecture firms have grappled with the new frontier of Big Data? Do you and your colleagues understand the opportunities it unlocks, in this new ‘connected economy’?

Today, nearly everything is connected via smartphones, the Internet and the Internet of Things, a transformation that is set to continue. Big Data – a tech-industry term for the world’s growing collection of statistics, figures and reports, which is growing exponentially – has limitless capacity to provide foresight into a future we couldn’t have imagined.

It’s no overstatement to suggest that, in architecture, Big Data will influence everything in the delivery chain, from decisions about where to position a flagship tenant in a new mall; to the best way to optimise energy performance in new office towers.

But how can architecture firms begin to grapple with such a big and amorphous concept?


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Big Data 101

Virtual Reality Architecture

Many firms first dip their toe in the Big Data ocean via BIM, or Building Information Modelling. Clients and building managers love the rich sets of information that govern all facets of a building’s operations, from security systems to HVAC control; energy and water consumption to asset and facilities management.

BIM is a great introduction to Big Data because it’s easy to see and comprehend the impact of digital information, and its ability to transform the way architects work. Extensions of BIM include Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) tools, which make it easier for clients to understand just how their new building will look, feel and function.

But the uptake of VR/AR technologies is lagging, according to Deltek’s research. The report ‘Insight to Action – The future of the professional services industry’ found that only 13% of architecture firms are looking to invest in VR/AR Building Information Modelling, compared to 18% of professional services firms globally.



'in architecture, Big Data will influence everything in the delivery chain'



And fewer practices have investigated other Big Data frontlines too, such as Project Information Management (PIM) software. PIM can help to streamline the storage of the plethora of data generated by today’s projects and it provides analytical tools to mine that data, to steer critical business decisions such as human resourcing and project planning.

Again, take-up is slow, with only 38% of global architecture firms using an information management solution compared to 46% of professional services firms generally.

But, Deltek’s research also found that one third of architecture firms identified ‘clear document version control’ as a Top 5 project management goals for the next 12 months, meaning that take-up of PIM is likely to accelerate in the short term.

PIM As Both Magnifying Glass And Telescope

Architecture firms can use Big Data and PIM solutions to increase project visibility – at macro and micro levels – to improve practice sustainability and profitability.

PIM solutions can be customised to meet the needs of each client, with architecture firms usually opting for functions such as drawing and document management; version control; distribution of information; storage; and retrieval.

Most Deltek clients report that – after adopting PIM – they reduce double-handling of Big Data, which frees up precious time for more important tasks.



'Architecture firms can use Big Data and PIM solutions to increase project visibility'



What Big Data Solutions Will Benefit Your Future Clients?

So far, most of the uptake of Big Data solutions in architecture firms has been driven by client demand, across three main stages, including: 

  • Project data – including greater visibility across projects and within individual projects; 
  • Design data – including BIM and the delivery of models and datasets on a project, instead of just drawings; and
  • Building data – especially for complex projects that push the boundaries of smart or sustainable design, or both.

If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to consider your firm’s Big Data needs. How might you store, analyse and utilise data about your clients and projects to improve client service and guide future decisions?

And how might Big Data alter the way you engage with new design technologies, or materials, or your library and archive?

First Things First

Project Information Management In Architecture

Before you rush headlong into this exciting new era, it’s important to establish solid foundations.

First, ensure you have the right skills in your practice – people who can assess Big Data offerings and determine which tools are most relevant for your business now, and into the future.

Then, make sure you fully understand your clients’ expectations. Client needs should be at the forefront of any decisions you make about where to invest in technological solutions for your practice.

Big Data is already transforming the way some architecture firms practice, across business development, design and project management activities. While Big Data solutions may seem daunting at first, if they are implemented in line with your business objectives and strategy, they can help position your firm to evolve and thrive in this new ‘connected economy’.


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