Prepare Your AECO Firm for These 5 Trends Coming in 2021

This past year has been tumultuous for most industries as businesses struggled to meet both internal workforce and external client demands while shifting to a remote infrastructure. Project delays, hardware requisitioning and a distributed network were all obstacles that had to be addressed, and the AECO world adapted accordingly.

In 2020 we saw major changes to the way we work and build across the sector, leading to innovative new platforms and processes that allowed us to be as or more efficient than we were in a pre-pandemic world. This evolution has now set the stage for a technology-focused 2021 that leading firms will meet head-on to become leaders in their respective fields. Here are just a few of the trends we will see over the next few years and recommendations on how you can equip your firm to leverage them for success.

Sustainable building will be front and center in AECO firm mission statements.

Sustainability and green technology have been trends in the building industry for several years now, but the increasing consumer focus on energy efficiency, carbon neutral buildings and low-environmental impact has brought the goal to the mainstream. There are economic reasons to break into this market as well; one study reported the green technology and sustainability sector will increase from $6.85B in 2018 to $44.61B by 2026. Construction firms will need to start employing a circular economy that sources materials locally, minimizes waste and maximizes reusability if they are going to keep up with this accelerated growth.

Construction sites will allocate more resources to prefabrication.

Prefabricated residential building has been one answer to the housing crisis arising from urbanization. When construction sites were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the move to this methodology for commercial applications helped keep projects from completely halting. Prefabricating parts of a facility ensures quality standards are maintained in a factory-setting while new technology can reach the Level of Detail required for seamless installation on the construction site.

Big data and AI will find their footing across the industry.

Sensors, the Internet of Things and Machine Learning have paved the way for real-world data to be gathered, categorized and analyzed for use in predictive modeling. Digital Twins are quickly becoming a must-have for asset management teams, and the technology requires input from a variety of sources for owners to maximize ROI. Further, tools like generative design use Artificial Intelligence to help architects and manufacturers review dozens of designs in minutes based on custom-set parameters. The move toward employing these areas will continue and evolve as virtualization is a necessity in 2021.

Companies will continue to heavily invest in cloud collaboration and virtualization technology.

The sudden shift to remote work threw several industries into a panic primarily due to the lack of cloud collaboration technology readily available to them. Prior to the pandemic, firms stored approximately 75% of their data on physical servers within their offices that created versioning issues, and when accessed through VPNs, noticeable file upload/download lag. As a result, AEC companies had to accelerate the onboarding of new technology that could allow professionals to access both designs and software from home offices. Most businesses foresee a percentage of their workforce continuing to telecommute indefinitely, so investment into platforms that make remote work more efficient will be ongoing.

Firms will be defined and differentiated by their partnerships.

One of the benefits of the new digital age the AECO industry has entered into is the ability to partner with companies around the world. Best-in-breed has long been the buying habit of architecture and construction firms, and partnerships are no different. A boutique design agency may win an RFP across the country requiring an on-the-ground consultant to coordinate models. An east coast owner might find their ideal Digital Twin manager on the west coast, or a veteran construction company may requisition virtual training from states, or even countries, away.

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As 2021 heads into full swing, many of these trends will become products and services that can be easily introduced at your firm. Selecting the right partner to implement, onboard and train your employees on the latest technological advancements will be critical in 2021. Microdesk can help you succeed while setting the foundation for long-term innovation.

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