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Millennial Vision of Future AEC

A millennial is a group of people born between 1980 and 2000 often categorized as being lazy, less productive, impatient and not loyal to their employers. I am a millennial and I can see where these views are coming from. I have demonstrated impatience in showing the statuesque and demanding instant information. Probably came off as entitled because of a wanted respect for my unproven new ideas without a proven track record. I have left a job because I didn’t feel satisfied and felt like I couldn’t make an impact. I even managed to get the nickname “shortcut” by two of my senior engineers. I first took offense to this nickname. It was always in that same tone was when the word millennial is used most the time. Now I look at it as a compliment. I now realize finding shortcuts in any business process is the game that we are all competing in. This was the idea during the industrial revolution. Henry Ford has been quoted saying, “One of the most noteworthy accomplishments in keeping the price of food products low is the gradual shortening of the production cycle. The longer an article is in a process and the more it is moved about, the greater is its ultimate coast”. A new revolution is on its way. I, a millennial, was given the perfect hand to be winning this game. We have had the most time spent, learning, playing, teaching, and adapting to technology than any other generation. We have watched it evolve from tube TV, typewriters, Nintendo Game Boys, scooters to 3D flat screen tv, affordable desktop 3D printerS, Oculus Rifts, I Phones, Pokémon Go, and Segways. We were told as kids if we could dream it we could do it. We have grown in a world of instant access to information now expect it in our work. Add our desire to have an impact on the world around us and I give you a perfect storm for a revolution in the ACE industry. Here is a future vision of the AEC industry through the imagination of a technology-driven and impatient millennial.

Building an Existing Model

The first step in a renovation project is to build a new model. Innovators and pioneers in the industry are already saving many hours to days by using laser scanning to capture current facility information that goes from point cloud to Building Information Model.

Image via BuiltWorlds One

That's awesome but let’s take it further. First WiFi enabled nodes are placed to sync real-world point with points in the model. This will allow location tracking that can be used in and by the Building Information Model. A surveyor quickly walking through a building with a tablet in hand fills out the required information about the space. A tag is placed on equipment and in each space, storing the data from the tablet. The tags are equipped with sensors to measure engineering data, (temperature, sound, light, etc…) That data can then be organized and analyzed. Think like HVAC loads. Then a robot with a scanner and WiFi attached runs autonomously room by room capturing all aspects of the room and picks up the tagged data and its location. All of this is turned into a model that has exciting equipment in place and data filled out. Also, the ability to autonomous navigate the building in the future thanks to the triangulation used by the nodes.

The technology is there it just needs to come together. I have seen automated vacuums navigate a house, Xbox Kinect laser scan a room, Arduino board with light and temperature sensors that can be programmed at home and WiFi tracker for keys.


So we showed our workflow from above. Now it time to do some architecture and engineering. We have a lot of data already in place in our BIM environment. Completely eliminating the data drop of an onsite visit and a huge head start on BIM production. Now we enter the new age of algorithms. Which will make it possible to generate thousands of possible design options in a matter of seconds rather than weeks or months. Freeing us up to focus on the things that truly matter. Picture algorithms that can; select systems equipment with set of parameters like coast while minimizing energy; place all of the needed elements and data in the model and optimize routing of ducts pipes and cables clash free, use that computer generated mode to get not just an estimate but an exact coast, getting a bill of materials straight from the model, emails to a number of respected suppliers, pulling that data backing in and analyzing for the best price, producing a construction schedule and delivery schedule, not just materials not just to the site but to the exact location in the building, finding ideal location for construction equipment.

With cloud base computing the power and availability is nowhere to run such massive algorithms.

Take Autodesk Insight 360 where you can send a model to the cloud/ supercomputer and in a matter of minutes have a dashboard where its possible to rotate the building, change the U values, change lighting loads ex.. and intently see the result to find best energy scenario.

Image via

There is a growing community of mostly young professionals exploring and sharing these ideas with free open source software like Dynamo, Rhino, and Grasshopper. I was at a Tech Manufacturing company and have witnessed Excel sending emails to suppliers and also pulled that information back in, including shipping coast a lead time. I have also seen a dynamo script that finds the ideal crane location on a job site given a set of parameters. I have written scripts that set up projects, places elements in BIM models with the information. I have had no code experience. If you want to see really amazing optimization check out Bill Allen’s “The future of BIM will not be BIM-and it’s coming faster than you think.”

Deliverables Virtual Reality is already here, the price is steadily coming down and millennial are known for our screen time and video game playing. So if we put those skills and passion into are work you bet we will. Virtual Reality is not just fun and game it offers great

benefits to the developer, owner, and facilities team. It is logical to recognize that people can visualize 3D models better than traditional 2D plans. It is abundantly valued in cases where owners and the project team need to visually understand an architect or engineer’s design intent. Use of these tools generally provides quicker buy-in, more informed owner feedback, and a faster way for an owner to recognize changes that might be essential or impactful.

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There is also the delivery of data. Not only would delivering a truly BIM model be much cheaper and faster for firms to turn out. It also keeps all information is in one place or file. A true BIM model is a huge database that also happens to be a great graphical represented by a 3D model.

Image via

One of the best ways to understand and get a grip on a large amount of data is throw it in tools like Excel’s pivot tables and pivot charts. No more stacks of hard to understand black and white 2D drawing. Instead, a dashboard that can quickly be customized to fit the conversation and a model that can be filtered, color-coded, updated and displayed like the Death Star plans out of Star Wars.

We have already seen hologram 2Pac performing on stage and Microsoft HoloLens is showing a lot of promise so why not Building Information Models?

Image via Skanska/Studio 216

CONSTRUCTION This is probably the most exciting part of the process. The first needed component is to know the location in a building and sync that with the BIM model. I talked about this above with the wifi triangulation and datum points. Once that is done the possibilities are staggering. Imagine using a camera on a tablet or smartphone or even a hard hat to capture your view on the screen then overlaying a complex array of piping new duct on the same screen.

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As you move around the space, the computer-generated graphics of move with you. That’s the power of Augmented Reality. Even when the ceilings and walls are up, you get a view of what’s on the other side. This is great for ongoing facilities operations and maintenance. It would also allow the overlay of information connected to BIM databases on top of real-world equipment or duct. Giving insight like never before on things like duct velocity design compared to actual flow. Pinpoint issues and solve problems would be much easier. The delivery of materials could be revolutionized. Building components, most of them pre-fabbed off-site, could be assembled with great precision and delivered to an exact location in the building with drones or rovers. Material waste could be done the same way by separating it by a material. These machines just need to be charged they would never get tired, never take a coffee break, and could run 24/7.

Image via James Martin/CNET

Once again this isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Pokémon Go took the world by storm placing characters right over our real word showily though a smartphone.

Image via GosuNoob

Tesla has made driverless cars a reality with others now following, a growing number of hospitals that are deploying robots that can navigate the building and automate simple operational tasks to free up time for workers and save money. Some of this all may sound like science fiction to some. I have even been told its impossible. Millennials have seen and been an intricate part of the evolution of technology. We have the best understanding of technology compared to any other generation and want to use it to improve efficiency so we can focus on the things that matter. Most of the building blocks are in place, we have the ability and drive to put them together and overcome the obstacles that stand in our way. This is because we have a desire to have a purpose in our lives and want the opportunity to change the world through technology. So do not hesitate, it’s time to give freedom to millennials and let them do what they do best. Innovate and change the AEC industry in ways other generations before never could have dreamed of.

Sean Fruin is an innovator and Mechanical Engineer with a passion for technology, automation and optimization in the AEC industry. He has a demonstrated history of finding and implementing effective ways to streamline processes so we can all focus on the things that matter. You can find him here at:



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