Design transformed

Design transformed

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Today’s innovation can become tomorrow’s necessity.  Innovative design technologies in architecture and specification are progressing at a rapid pace. How does technology impact work practices and client relationships and how will it influence the future of architectural design?

A century ago, the telephone would have seemed a rather daunting invention. Fast-forward to 2017 and not only are mobile phones commonplace, but we’re accustomed to interactive digital experiences in all elements of our life from ordering food to making bank transfers or video-calling our families. 

When professional industries latch on to these innovations, it can change the way they work drastically. Technology changes not only how professionals do things but also what they do, because it opens up previously unthought-of possibilities.

Putting pencil to paper will likely never be replaced entirely by architects, but computer-aided design (CAD) is now a normal part of many architects’ working lives. The spread of building information modelling (BIM) has been part of this evolution, with the more recent introduction of virtual reality (VR) taking things one step further.


Technology timeline

Adopting innovation

Looking at how advances in technology have changed architectural practices in the past few decades, it was CAD that first replaced the drawing board and allowed architects to create precise 2D illustrations and technical 3D models using computers. This gave them the ability to create and manipulate design concepts with greater ease and efficiency than ever before.

Design transformed

Survey by Reynaers Aluminium with 100 architectural professionals in UK.

While its conception was around the same time in the 1960s, it took much longer for BIM to be refined and widely adopted within the last decade. In theory at least, BIM allows the whole construction team to work from a virtual model of a building, test out alterations and innovations, then decide on an approach that can be consistently followed by all involved.


BIM is an example of how technology may adapt. It was designed to help collaboration among the construction team but also allows a client to gain a better grasp of what their building will look like.


The industry is already looking beyond the capabilities of BIM to overcome the challenge of translating a small-scale representation into something that will accurately portray how the finished project will actually look and feel.

Transcending dimensions

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the more recent innovations to arrive on the scene that may go some way to addressing the challenges faced by architects. The technology is in its early stages as a means of both further developing design practices and allowing stakeholders to experience a building before the plans have even been finalised. 


“VR will provide compelling experiences of the completed building before it  gets to site, explaining interior spaces to end users and getting around the age-old issue of ‘I didn’t think it would look like that’”

VR will also, no doubt, eventually be put to use by architects in ways not at present envisaged, just as were earlier innovations.


Already ahead of this trend, Reynaers has created a virtual reality facility, Avalon, at its Belgian headquarters to showcase what the immersive technology can do. Using the facility, early concepts can be mapped out and 3D models viewed up close to explore technical issues, design variants and user experiences. Beneficial not only to firms wanting to impress clients with a cutting-edge service, it’s a practical process that combines a series of complex files in order to give a holistic understanding of a project across all levels. This technology will never replace BIM, but instead revolutionises planning phases and helps avoid conflicts and costs that arise from misunderstandings. 


For more information on AVALON, visit 

Unleashing design

The construction industry keeps innovating and changing both the way that buildings are designed and the way that they are built. 

Technology is enabling architects to design buildings freed from the previous constraints over what was possible. The use of computers is allowing designers to create more curved and expressive projects with less regular forms. Freeform buildings such as those designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid will become more widespread and trickle down to housing.

As designs become more complex, follow less traditional forms and make innovations, the need to show these clearly to clients, planners and occupiers will surely grow.

For more information on AVALON, visit