Real Estate Investor October 2020 October/November 2020 - Page 42



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ARCHITECTURE Dodge the 4IR bullet Will automation replace architecture? T he digital revolution of industries, including the real estate industry is having a huge impact on the world. In fact, it’s the platform that has enabled many professions to move online as swiftly as they have, as the globe navigates its way through Covid-19. Many real estate businesses are now starting to make profits again while getting familiar with the new normal. However, the savviest of businesses have been finding their way onto that platform for years. A World Economic Report on “The Future of Jobs” published in 2016, noted that while numerous employment fields were set to see a job loss of 7.1 million by this year thanks to automation (two-thirds of which were in offices), computer and mathematical fields could be set to gain 2 million jobs providing businesses in those fields were successfully able to embrace the new world order. While there are many sub industries within the real estate and property sector, it is notable too that these subindustries that include but not limited to engineering and architecture form part of the industries that are set to create more jobs in 2020. Pretty much the same boost the real estate sector adds on to the economy. Honing in on the field of architecture within the larger Built Environment, the question however still regularly arises: will digital solutions replace draughts people? Indeed, could automation eventually replace architects entirely? Landseer Collen, a director and an architect with BPAS Architects believes this will not happen if two simple factors are taken into consideration. He says if the profession acknowledges the critical role that automation will play in its field in the future, and if investments are made today in upskilling staff for the future across everything that the digital revolution can offer, then nothing of this sort might attack the architecture industry. “Many architectural firms will say, because they have been using CAD software for years, that they are already technologically advanced and that computers will never be able to do precisely what an architect can do in design and innovation. But the bottom line is that there is already artificial intelligence (AI) out there that can design a very basic habitable space. What the architect needs to do to stay relevant is to constantly be exceeding what the computer can do,” says Landseer. 36 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 SA Real Estate Investor Magazine Landseer further shared a story of how he and his wife got struck by the fast approaching 4IR at the airport. “We got to the airport in Helsinki and there were almost no airport staff around. For instance, you had to weigh your suitcase and bag it yourself. There was very little personal interaction. And I realised that if a first-world country was already at that stage of using technology eight years ago to reduce the possibility of human error, why aren’t we there yet as architects?” “The bottom line is we realised that if you think it can be done by a computer, it probably can, and if we’re not careful technology may just replace us in a few years’ time with AI and algorithms. We therefore re-envisaged our entire business model around that concept.” Collen notes that In 2016, the practice began to look at its staff makeup to see who it could upskill, he says they have realised that they needed people who were more than just architects, draughts people or architectural technologists. And says that today the team is multi-skilled, with training constantly ongoing and with a peer-to-peer principle to teach each other. Unusual for architectural firm, the practice even has a marketing division which makes certain that the business continues to broaden the spectre of their interaction with clients and customers. Landseer’s brother Xander Collen is responsible for keeping up with the client engagement and seeing the void to fill in terms of tech innovations in their business. “Every business should have an ambassador or representative that ensures the client knows about the company,” Xander says. The long awaited fourth industrial revolution, often referred to as the 4IR is no longer coming, but has arrived. It has come to shake almost every sector and economies. It has come to give people a warning about comfortability. It has come to reiterate the need for an amped mind and an attitude that is not sleepy. It has come to shake, for better or for worse, depending on what you make it, the economy of the country. With this will come social fright in communities of the world, fright from the unknown ways to the new normal, especially at the time where the pandemic is a threat and among our lives. SOURCE BPAS ARCHITECTS SA Real Estate Investor Magazine OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2020 37