AI is coming for AEC

Aug 18, 2023

Travis White


If you want your firm to be an early adopter, you must be aware of this new technology and be willing to adapt.

According to Goldman Sachs, over the last 10 years, companies that were defined as “technological disruptors” have outperformed those that were vulnerable to being disrupted by 411 percent.

As most intuitively know, first movers and early adopters (those who establish/are first to adopt new technology) within the AEC space will grow at an outlier pace compared to the rest of the industry. The efficiency of firms that adopt new technology will drastically increase, leaving laggards (those who adopt new technology late) at a lower profitability than their counterparts. Higher profitability allows for reinvestment, reinvestment results in faster growth, and so on and so forth. What will future disruption look like? Well, according to 47.5 percent of respondents to a 2021 Statista survey, AI/machine learning is expected to be the most disruptive technology over the coming years. One could argue this opinion is already playing itself out.

OpenAI’s recent release of ChatGPT has resulted in many AEC professionals looking for what’s next within our industry. There are already existing applications that can give us a glimpse into what could be coming. A few examples include:

  • Delve by Sidewalk Labs. Using the power of machine learning, this generative design tool helps urban development teams identify far better neighborhood design options than time and cost constraints typically allow.
  • Generative Design in Autodesk Revit. This AI-powered design feature allows engineers to generate design iterations based on constraints such as spatial requirements, materials, manufacturing methods, and cost, defined by the engineer or designer.
  • Finch3D. Designed to be used in the early stages of a project, this tool helps automate repetitive tasks and helps guide architects into making informed decisions using simulations and artificial intelligence.
  • Autodesk’s Spacemaker. An early-stage planning software that helps design high-quality site proposals. It uses AI to generate alternatives based on set parameters and tests site proposals for criteria such as noise, wind, sun, microclimate, and more.

Disclaimer: To create this list, I asked ChatGPT to “write a list of the latest AI integrated tools and applications being used within engineering and architecture,” chose a few, applied corrections, and then added a few more.

When significant disruption hits the AEC industry, how do you ensure that your firm is at the forefront of the adoption curve?

Your firm’s likelihood of being an early adopter comes down to two things: awareness of industry developments and willingness to invest/commit to change. Firms must have a finger on the pulse of the industry and be aware of new technology when it becomes available. Here are a few ways to do this:

  1. Participate in organizations. Get involved with AIA, NSPE, ABC, or whichever professional organization suits you best. This allows you to stay up to date with the latest industry trends, network with others in the field, and gain valuable contacts and resources.
  2. Attend industry events. There are many options out there. Zweig Group offers a variety of training seminars and events. Let us know if you would like to get involved so we can get you plugged in (at the 2022 ElevateAEC Conference, a panel called “Engineering Efficiency with Automation and Software” spoke about topics such as these).
  3. Know your competition. Keep up with what your competitors are doing, using their website and social media to see what new products, services, and strategies they may be implementing.
  4. Keep up with industry white papers. These are a great way to stay informed on the latest trends and advancements within our industry, as well as gain insight into what competitors are doing. You likely have organizations that you admire from afar – this is a great way to keep up with their latest movements.
  5. Subscribe to trade journals/newsletters/magazines. Get connected. Publications such as The Zweig Letter help keep your organization up-to-date on recent developments in our industry.

If you’re actively participating, you’ll maximize your likelihood of being an early adopter. Once your firm has consistent awareness regarding new developments within the AEC space, the organization needs to be willing to experiment, invest, and adapt when these tools become available. Start small by testing these applications for their true capability as they’re developed. There will be many with big claims – and you will need to determine which are the best fit for your firm. Adopting new technology doesn’t (usually) come free and firms will need to be both fiscally and mentally prepared for a new normal. 

Travis White is a strategy and operations advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.