ULI Charlotte News

Three Emerging Technologies Shaping the Future of Cities

Speaking at the ULI Carolinas Meeting in February, consultant Paul Doherty of The Digit Group described how 3-D printing, building information modeling, and piezoelectricity are reshaping the built environment.

Doherty’s firm focuses on smart cities, smart buildings, and the tools that can advance architecture, construction, engineering, and development. “We real estate developers are under threat because of our inability to move quickly,” said Doherty.

Data Will Reshape the World

“Data is going to drive our industry,” said Doherty. “It used to be that he or she who controlled the schedule controlled the business; now, it’s who controls the data.”

If engineers, architects, and others input all of their data describing a building’s spacial relationships and variables, the information can create, for example, a giant 3-D model. “In downtown D.C., you can run the data to show energy usage [across the city] and what the retrofit costs should be; you can analyze it and make better decisions,” said Doherty. To boot, individual edifices can be smart buildings, acting as servers and sharing data directly with one another.

And information detailing the layout of the built environment can be used to allow autonomous vehicles to navigate a city more efficiently. “We won’t need a street grid, lights, parking lots, or stop signs,” said Doherty. “We can map the entire built world.” That will affect the energy business, water use, and the further development of technology.

Data are also what make tools like building information modeling (BIM) useful. A computer program that replicates hand drafting, but in three dimensions, BIM uses all of the inputted data to examine the geospatial relationship between what the information says—about where a pipe should be, for example—and reality.

And BIM can also help with one of the building industry’s big problems: a shortage of cheap labor. Even if a worker is relatively untrained, he or she can don a pair of virtual-reality goggles that have BIM running through them so that the construction plans line up on the walls, showing exactly where everything goes. The result? The worker can do the job in record time, said Doherty.

“In the next ten years, the value of the digital information in your building will be more valuable than the building itself,” predicted Doherty.

Read More at Urban Land Magazine.

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