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While computers and digital technologies have changed almost every aspect of society, they have only begun to impact architecture and building. While manufacturing, industrial product design, medicine, entertainment and many other areas that design and produce 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 to support design, and to incorporate design automation practices without limiting design. Downstream users, especially systems sub-contractors, are already doing 3D shop models of their work, for steel or precast concrete 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 the opportunities for many new directions of innovation. A new period of research opportunities are being initiated.
These include such efforts as:

  • development of architectural detailing routines that support styles of detailing that can be easily customized;
  • development of connection theory, allowing modules ranging from a piece of mechanical equipment to a prefabricated bathroom, to be interfaced with the rest of the building;
  • development of new drawing representations to be used by construction and erection crews, eliminating the general purpose, but difficult to read current standards for construction documents;
  • new ways to assess and evaluate buildings, regarding health, flexibility, and other factors;
  • new representations that integrate architectural design and the construction process, so that design teams work out how a building is to be constructed as they design it;

and many new IT technologies for making buildings more responsive, adaptable, and healthful. The new representation of buildings and their components are partially being driven by the potential to use automated fabrication technology to make building 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 aesthetic theories, supporting both analysis and form generation, that allow us to interpret built form in new ways. The program supports interests associated with the application of computation to historical analysis and criticism. The program attempts to balance interests in the development of new technologies with a parallel exploration of their social impacts, costs and benefits.

Last updated: October 21, 2003