While computers and digital technologies havechanged almost every aspect of society, they have only begun to impactarchitecture and building. While manufacturing, industrial productdesign, medicine, entertainment and many other areas that design andproduce products have been revolutionized, the impact on construction has been small. We still rely on hand labor, working from drafted drawings, generating schedules and work plans in traditional means. 3D modeling has been used primarily as a rendering tool, not as the actual representation of the project. We believe this is in the process of changing. Design tools based on 3D parametric modeling are slowly gaining the sophistication needed tosupport design, and to incorporate design automation practices withoutlimiting design. Downstream users, especially systems sub-contractors,are already doing 3D shop models of their work, for steel or precastconcrete fabrication, for curtainwalls, for interiors, for mechanical systems. Soon major components of the building industry will be evolving to take advantage of the potential benefits of integrated, 3D parametric modeling, what has come to be termed Building Information Models (BIM).

  • The development of such capabilities requires further research to realize, and to realize well, and opens theopportunities for many new directions of innovation. A new period ofresearch opportunities are being initiated. These include such efforts as:
  • development of architectural detailing routines thatsupport styles of detailing that can be easily customized;
  • development of connection theory, allowing modules rangingfrom a piece of mechanical equipment to a prefabricated bathroom, to beinterfaced with the rest of the building;
  • development of new drawing representations to be used byconstruction and erection crews, eliminating the general purpose, butdifficult to read current standards for construction documents;
  • new ways to assess and evaluate buildings, regardinghealth, flexibility, and other factors; new representations thatintegrate architectural design and the construction process, so thatdesign teams work out how a building is to be constructed as they design it;

and many new IT technologies for makingbuildings more responsive, adaptable, and healthful. The newrepresentation of buildings and their components are partially beingdriven by the potential to use automated fabrication technology to makebuilding components. The opportunities for custom designed and automatically fabricated building products have hardly been explored. At the same time, these new methods open the door for new aesthetictheories, supporting both analysis and form generation, that allow usto interpret built form in new ways. The program supports interests associated with the application of computation to historical analysisand criticism. The program attempts to balance interests in thedevelopment of new technologies with a parallel exploration of theirsocial impacts, costs and benefits.

Last updated: October 21, 2003