The top trends that will shape AEC in 2021

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

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