Exploring Architects’ Perspectives on AI: A Survey of Fears and Hopes

An AI-generated architectural rendering of a school interior

RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, ran a survey in late 2023 with 500 respondents on the impact of AI on their profession. The study also explored the near-term outlook for AI adoption and use. The results reveal divided opinions among architects. A popular view is that AI threatens the profession, even though a larger portion sees tools like AI as necessary in the coming years.

The present use of AI

The respondents were asked, for the projects they are currently working on, how often their practice used AI in any way.

In all, 41% said that they use AI to some degree. Of those, 43% agree that AI has improved efficiency in the architectural design processes, while 24% disagree.

A graph on how often architects use AI for their projects

The most common use is for early design stage visualizations. 6% use it always for this purpose, 22% often, 60% sometimes or rarely, and 12% never using. Generative and parametric design came second and third as use cases.

AI in the next two years

Most respondents (54%) agree that AI will have been adopted in their practices in two years, although a quarter (25%) disagree. The remainder (21%) are equivocal.

Environmental analysis, heightened efficiency, and accuracy of modeling and simulations were among the top reasons for AI adoption.

Many comments expressed the view that the role of AI will always be limited. For example, AI could never be well-suited to consider design’s cultural, historical, and social factors, nor the intricate spatial, structural, or regulatory complexities of the design process, nor make subjective judgments of aesthetics and client preference.

AI’s copyright issues are still an unanswered question. Almost 60% of the respondents agree that AI will increase the risk of their work being imitated.

Graph on the imitation risk of AI

Positive or negative?

Whether or not AI is a threat to the profession is a divisive question. 35% agree it’s a threat, 36% think the opposite, and 29% could not say one way or another.

Graph on AI threat to the profession

But will AI and other digital tools be necessary as building design becomes more complex? 47% thought so, while 24% disagreed, and 29% had no definite answer.

Eventually, AI will have an impact on architecture as a livelihood. The following graphs sum up the overall sentiment regarding employment and fees. Negativity prevails.

Graphs on the employment and fee impact of AI

A boost to the whole industry

Regardless of the mixed feelings that the survey exhibited, a sound majority, 65% thought that AI will increase the productivity of the construction industry, and around a half of the respondents see a positive effect on collaboration between architects and other professions.

Anyway, architects should take an active role in defining how and for what they will use AI and how to reap its full benefits without ignoring the risks.

Download RIBA Artificial Intelligence Report 2024 at architecture.com.

The images are by AEC Business

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