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How digitisation is influencing the evolution of façade design

  • Digital technology has transformed the construction industry and the constant advancement of technology is undoubtedly one of the main driving forces in the sector, changing the way architects and designers deliver their design. Here David Clark Director of Manufacturing at Spanwall talks about how technology is fuelling a new set of design opportunities.

    Advancement of technology has provided the construction and manufacturing sectors with massive opportunities to change how we approach design, utilising 3D models that change how we interface with the designs and harnessing the power of immersive technology to enhance how we experience the designs in a virtual environment.

    Digital tools have already had a profound impact in enabling firms to build more smartly and it is predicted we have not even scratched the surface of their capabilities. At Spanwall we are already extrapolating their potential to change how we work, creating a more effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly processes.

    Building Information Modelling (BIM) has become more ubiquitous throughout the construction and manufacturing sectors, creating new scope for design capabilities. BIM forces enhancements to standard processes, creating a more streamlined and collaborative design workflow that uses an array of design software tools to integrate all aspects of the building design into one place.

    This opens up new ways for façade specialists like us to design and create the manufacturing data. Previous ideas that could only have been conceptualised, are now being realised through ground-breaking digital innovations. There is no doubt that BIM will continue to massively impact productivity; however, it is vital that stakeholders buy into it and embrace it - by doing this it will enable firms to truly collaborate and start to standardise design solutions that will still be flexible enough to be used repeatedly for a wider range of projects.

    It is almost impossible to discuss the future of building design without mentioning technology-driven generative design and robotic construction within an offsite manufacturing environment. Whilst this has been around on the wings for a long time, it would appear they are finally getting their big debut as they begin to drive design conversations across industries. Through the initiatives being developed within the Construction Innovation Hub, and the Transforming Construction Challenge programme, we are starting to see the establishment of a platform approach to construction. The recent release of the beta version of the Product Platform Rulebook seeks to drive forward on a new standardised approach to design across the industry, and Spanwall Facades are proud to have sponsored and supplied cladding to the facades of the award-winning Seismic project that delivered standardised designs using offsite construction techniques.

    Smart building will certainly have its role to play in the route to sustainable building, in fact, many designers are already incorporating smart elements into their designs, including climate-responsive components, creating intelligent products that offer increased functionality to buildings.

    In the future, we can expect more creative opportunities for pioneering solutions to complex design challenges through new frameworks and processes that will look at each unique project and solve them through computation.

    Engineering of the future involves collaboration – the creation of multidisciplinary teams of architects, designers, and computer programmers – who work together to create a new generation of innovative solutions with standardised designs and a product platform approach.

    Communication between client and contractor will be more seamless, with BIM enabling both parties to access and edit designs instantaneously, creating a much more sleek way of working and massively reducing overall project timelines.

    New technology will also enable practical solutions to be offered right from the early stages of design, resulting in a less wasteful process. Digital technologies also have the potential to play a pivotal role in combating the current construction labour shortages through automation, robotic manufacturing and even 3d printing.

    Climate change as well as the increased movement of people will also put pressure on firms to incorporate technologies into their practice to enable them to cope with the changing needs of users (and the environment) especially during a time of mass skills shortages.

    Although massive changes have taken place across the industry, the construction sector has notably been slow in its uptake of digitalisation and the harsh reality is, firms must modernise or risk extinction. In an industry ripe for disruption, there is certainly an exciting conversation to be had about the role of digital technology on future façade design.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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