Philip Bernstein is vice president, Building Industry Strategy and Relations at Autodesk, Inc.

He has practiced architecture as a principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, where he managed many of the firm’s most complex commissions, and has taught at the Yale School of Architecture as a Lecturer in Professional Practice since 1988.

Architecture and Design spoke to Bernstein about technological trends in the industry, building information modeling and teaching at the Yale School of Architecture.

What are some recent technological trends in the architecture industry?

There are a number of trends impacting and shaping today's and tomorrow's architecture, from the continued adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM) to increased interest in embedding sensors into structures to take advantage of the power of ‘The Internet of Things’. 

One trend that I’ve received a lot of questions about from customers is the growing interest and application of advanced prefabrication. In fact, I believe we are entering the age of the mass-manufactured building. Prefabrication is growing up and reaching a new level of maturity that is now going to change the industry and define new categories of building.

The rush to prefabrication that I'm seeing also goes beyond typical applications such as metal, curtain wall panels and cabinetry, to whole bathrooms, for example, dropped into place on-site to hospitals, with entire floors built in days rather than weeks.

How do you think these trends will impact on how architects design?

That’s a big question. In short, there will be a stronger connection between how something is designed, how it is built, and how it operates brought forth by the use of BIM at the onset of the design phase.

Architects, at a minimum, will need to acknowledge – and at best lead – construction approach and building operation strategy. They should provide the insight and information necessary for both during design, and then follow-through once the baton is passed accordingly.

How well do you think the industry is picking up new technology and using it?

Adoption rates across the world are rising, particularly in markets where architects see BIM as an opportunity to lead. In the US and the UK, adoption is accelerating rapidly, according to the latest Dodge Analytics reports we have received. We expect the same to happen in Australia.

Can you provide some examples of how you think companies are using new technology well?

We work with some of the most innovative companies across the globe and each of them has their own unique set of challenges. The best companies are those who are constantly adapting to new technologies and tools to create more efficient, more sustainable and more beautiful designs.

The Shanghai Tower Construction and Development company, for example, used BIM to design and build the Shanghai Tower, the 121-story transparent glass structure that takes the title of the second tallest building in the world. More than that, it is also one of the world’s most sustainable buildings and even includes its own wind farm and geothermal system.

BIM enabled the company to coordinate and collaborate smoothly on a massive and very complex design project that simply couldn’t rely on traditional processes or typical software. The unusual twisting shape of the tower, for example, meant that important details couldn’t be conveyed in 2D. The design team actually used Autodesk Revit to assess the glare from the tower and take the necessary steps to minimise light pollution. It’s a great example of companies using new technology not just to create stunning structures, but sustainable ones as well.

You are teaching at the Yale School of Architecture. What are the differences between how American and Australian students are taught?

While I don’t have direct experience with the pedagogy in Australia, one of our graduate students at Yale, Alicia Pozniak, did her training in Australia and explained to me that the degree structure is different – a three-year architecture concentration as an undergraduate versus the US’s college system of four years and workloads in the US are substantially higher.

Also, the US teaching model is heavily reliant on a physical co-location of students in a design studio, which is apparently less true in Australia. But Alicia is a superb student so things must be done well in your system!

What do you think will be the biggest technological change in the next five years?

I see architects today being very interested in how technology changes the processes they use to design and integrate their design ideas into buildings. BIM is now a well understood concept and it’s becoming increasingly adopted globally, which in turn helps set a foundation for the future.

Taking this further, we have what we call the “Future of Making Things” which looks at how buildings and things in our built environment are becoming more “connected” in terms of their design process and relationships between one and another.

Five years from now, I believe we will see the complete transition from old methods like drawing to new methods like modeling.  And with that in mind, five years from now, data will have a lot more to do with the design of buildings. Today, the design of buildings is much more about composition and technical solutions.  In the future the strategies architects follow for design will be supported by “big data”, analytics, measurement, and outcomes.