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The top trends that will shape AEC in 2021

November 24, 2020 in Industry | 4 min. read

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In our new report “Top 2021 Trends: Architecture, Engineering, and Construction,” industry experts shed light on 15 trends that are going to shape the industry in 2021 and beyond.

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has historically been slow to change. For instance, productivity in construction has only grown one percent annually over the past two decades, according to McKinsey & Company. This was before 2020 – the impact of COVID-19 on the AEC industry was immediate and will continue to be felt in the future.

Companies must adapt to the new normal, one that changed all parts of the building lifecycle. For example, remote work has forced companies to find new ways to communicate, collaborate, and create. As 2020 comes to a close, 2021 is poised to bring even more change. 

We spoke to industry experts to figure out what will shape the future of AEC in our new report, “Top 2021 Trends: Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.” Below, we share contributions from three individuals featured in the report, who explain the top trends that will define the industry in 2021.


Read the full report

XR with 5G unlocks the hidden value of existing AEC digital assets

The design process of the AEC industry has evolved from traditional hand sketching to 3D generative modeling during the past decades. Although our design drawing has been massively digitized, it is hard to believe how limited it is in the contemporary workflow. The statistics show that, in recent years, digital models, including BIM, are used merely in the planning and design phases and rarely be transferred to the construction and operation stages that account for a larger proportion in a building lifecycle.

In 2021, with increasing 5G deployment and XR performance, it becomes possible to bring the sophisticated 3D model outside of the office by empowering mobile devices with cloud access. In conjunction with augmented reality (AR), we can bring the 3D model “alive” in real coordinates to improve the efficiency and accuracy of many onsite tasks relying on traditional paper-based workflows such as QAQC, public engagement and facility maintenance. 

The combination of two technologies can extend the usability of existing AEC digital assets and makes high-quality modeling a more cost-effective option. With proper UX design, this could also achieve an effective remote working model between the office and onsite groups. We should acknowledge that XR has the potential to lead the dominant narrative for the next generation of the human interface under the ongoing global trend of the remote working model.

- Yuan-Po Li, Immersive Lab Lead, AECOM

Increased accessibility of digital twins and data

Digital twins consume historical context and performance data to understand the past, use direct and indirect data to analyze present conditions, and apply machine learning and knowledge to predict and act on the future. When digital twins are leveraged across the lifecycle, they create a digital thread of data, performance, and decisions that bring transparency and enhanced communication to stakeholders across an enterprise. 

Future trends will be:

  • The continued evolution of technology will support the democratization of digital twins, enabling a new wave of users to make them.
  • The cost of AR/VR equipment makes the technology more accessible, so more users can adopt it and therefore see and interact with their digital twins in new ways, fostering fresh insights and understanding.

There is going to be a move towards platforms that enable users to develop digital twins — bringing together data from disparate systems into a single interactive visualization that can be modified for users across the lifecycle and a wide variety of platforms to enable new insights.

- Sandra Marshall, Chief Technologist, Booz Allen Hamilton

The commodification of real-time AEC tools

After years of testing to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and with purpose-built real-time 3D tools for game engines, it’s now possible to commodify offerings to our customers and make real-time tools in AEC “business as usual.” This will in turn produce substantial time and cost savings that those who have had the vision to use real-time in AEC have been anticipating all along.

In addition, we’re seeing the maturation of hardware, especially in VR, that will improve accessibility and lower the barrier to entry for the use of real-time tools. Now it’s feasible for a designer to have a headset on their desk, while the connection between design tool and the real-time engine is just one click away.

- Murray Walker, Expertise Leader: Interactive Visualisation, Zutari


For more insights, check out our report: “Top 2021 Trends: Architecture, Engineering, and Construction.” You can also learn more about how real-time 3D is changing the way buildings are designed, created, and operated.

November 24, 2020 in Industry | 4 min. read

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