Unlocking Architectural Potential: A Comprehensive Exploration of Digital Twins in Architecture

The concept of a Digital Twin in Architecture has emerged as a transformative force, leveraging cutting-edge technologies to revolutionize the way buildings are designed, constructed, and operated. A Digital Twin (DT) is a digital replica of a real-world physical product, system, or process that acts as its virtual counterpart for practical purposes. Coined by Michael Grieves in 2002 and further defined by NASA in 2010, the digital twin concept has evolved into a cornerstone for Product Lifecycle Management, permeating the entire lifecycle from creation and construction to operation/support and disposal.

At its core, a Digital Twin is an architectural construct enabled by a fusion of technological advancements, including the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing, Edge Computing, Fog Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Machine Learning, and Bio Data Analytics. This convergence of technologies facilitates the creation of three distinct types of Digital Twins, each serving a unique purpose in the architectural landscape.

  1. Digital Twin Prototype (DTP): This represents a digital rendition of a physical counterpart before the actual construction of the product, applicable in fields such as automotive design and consumer product testing.
  2. Digital Twin Instance (DTI): A digital replica of a real-world physical object or system, used for testing and analyzing the behavior of a product in different scenarios. Its applications span industrial plant maintenance, healthcare technology, and the development of smart buildings.
  3. .Digital Twin Aggregate (DTA): Also known as a Connected Digital Twin (CDT), this type involves a network of digital twin instances interconnected for real-time data sharing and analysis. It finds relevance in complex systems like power grids or transportation networks.

In the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, challenges arise from the gaps between planning, design, construction, and operations, leading to significant data losses. This disconnect has been a major contributor to projects going up to 80% over budget, according to a 2016 McKinsey report. Digital twins present a solution by consolidating project data from various sources, formats, and phases into a data-rich digital hub, offering a comprehensive view of all project insights.

Digital twins, when connected to built assets, collect operational performance data, allowing for the creation of system models for simulation purposes.

Stakeholders can monitor and optimize energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, and support facility utilization and contact tracing. Despite the need for constant evolution and data input, the operational phase of an asset’s life constitutes 80% of its lifetime, emphasizing the long-term benefits of a digital twin.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 31% of respondents have adopted digital twins in architecture to enhance employee and customer safety through remote asset monitoring, minimizing in-person interactions.

Operational data derived from digital twin architecture aids in making informed, long-term investment decisions. Realistic simulations of updates, failure predictions, and addressing forecast planning issues contribute to risk reduction in decision-making processes.

The shift from traditional formats like PDFs and spreadsheets to a data-rich digital twin enhances collaboration and communication among stakeholders.

For architects in the United States, a digital twin offers a revolutionary tool to bridge the gap between initial design concepts and the actual realization of a building project. While not a mandatory component of the design and engineering process, a digital twin provides a fully connected, transparent, and robust experience, enhancing communication and efficiency within construction teams.

In conclusion, digital twin technology is poised to reshape the future of architecture, laying the foundation for more sustainable, people-centric, organized, and desirable cities. Architects in the United States have a valuable opportunity to leverage this emerging technology to streamline their processes, enhance collaboration, and create buildings that stand at the intersection of innovation and functionality. As digital twins continue to evolve, architects will play a pivotal role in shaping a future where the virtual and physical seamlessly converge, unlocking new dimensions of creativity and efficiency in the built environment. Aligned Studios can help your firm integrate the latest technology into your work processes. Get in touch to know more.

6 current AEC industry ​trends

As the AEC industry continues to battle old challenges in the second half of 2023, it will need to remain more efficient. To meet target deadlines and stay competitive in the face of challenges arising out of labor shortage, material and supply chain issues, stricter sustainability requirements and wider economic challenges, the AEC industry needs to step up its game. Here are some of the top AEC industry trends that can help it get there:

More than just an AEC industry trend, sustainability is the need of the hour. Currently about 40% of all carbon emissions are caused by the construction industry and 20% of all material is wasted.  

Green and net-zero energy buildings with energy savings made using renewable energy sources continue to gain popularity. Passive design techniques such as natural ventilation and daylighting which reduces energy consumption and improves indoor air quality will prevail. More emphasis is being placed on building performance and management for optimum energy efficiency, which ties into the growing trend of digitalization. With the use of data in new and innovative ways, digital solutions are making the start of a major shift in the industry. 

A virtual model of a physical object, a digital twin spans the object’s lifecycle and uses real time data sent from sensors on the object to simulate the behavior and monitor operations. Project teams can adopt a fully digital approach and increase collaboration and efficiency with them. This can lead to substantial reduction in waste, errors, risk and energy consumption. Which all boils down to substantial savings in cost. Improved project management by centralizing all building data in one place contributes favorably to more sustainable and cost-effective buildings and infrastructures. 

Integrating the two software will enable more accurate and detailed virtual replicas of buildings and infrastructure across the entire operational lifecycle. Planning smart cities is another area where digital twins will offer benefits. Increase in the usage of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to visualize digital twins is being envisaged. BIM software and digital twining, along with IoT and cloud computing can lead to better collaboration and more efficient data management. More advanced analytic capabilities added to BIM software will help stakeholders make more informed decisions. Other developments will see BIM offer more automation options to reduce errors and effort. 

Artificial intelligence is already one of the key developments of 2023 that is shifting project management from solution-focused to data-focused workflows. Currently, collaborative cloud-based platforms enables users to share 2D drawings and 3D models and link all available documents to the right objects in the BIM model. As technology advances, the management of project data is set to become even more streamlined and automated. For example, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will be used to automatically determine which drawings belong to which project and match them to existing 3D models with minimal human input. It will benefit multiple partners by saving time and increasing design quality. 

Along with parametric modelling driven by data, design automation is likely to witness an upward trend. Visual programming is making it easier for architects and engineers without scripting skills to customize automation to their needs. For example, automated clash detection, automatic generation of fabrication and construction drawings and other automation capabilities are being added to BIM software which can help to improve efficiency and reduce errors. 

It can also help remove repetitive tasks within the design process and fulfil broader workflow needs such as quality checks or rule-based design analysis. This will result in greater efficiency and improve productivity. 

Technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are being used to improve communication and collaboration among stakeholders. VR can be used to create virtual walkthroughs of building and infrastructure, which can help to improve communication among designers, engineers and builders. AR can be used to overlay digital information on real-world environments, which can be used to improve communication among workers on-site and to train them. In addition, these can be used to improve design and construction processes. For example, VR can be used to conduct virtual mock-ups and testing which can help reduce errors and rework. AR can be used to provide workers with real-time information on site such as construction schedules and safety procedures, which can help to improve efficiency and safety. 

These AEC Industry trends viz. the adoption of BIM and digital twins, the rise of green buildings, automation and even the potential of the Metaverse is moving the industry towards a more digital, data-driven and sustainable future. Stakeholders can work more efficiently with reduced errors and improved performance of buildings and infrastructure. 

At Aligned Studios, we have very effectively advocated the use of BIM for our collaborative projects and now are exploring the possibilities of AI’s incorporation in Architectural Projects. Want to know how? Get in touch with us. 

Fastest growing cities in the US: Raleigh-Durham, NC

The annual national population growth rate has been tepid in the last few years in the U.S. Many factors, which includes the pandemic, have affected this growth. However, this hasn’t dampened the growth of metropolitan cities across the country. With a rapid migration of population to the South and Southwest, the US is experiencing a population shift to urban areas of this region. This has sped up the growth of cities and their surrounding metropolitan regions here. A typical ‘metropolitan’ area would consist of an urbanized area with a population of 50,000 or more, with surrounding areas having a high level of social and economic integration with the core. Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill in North Carolina combine to form one such tri-city metropolitan region that is expanding rapidly and has been ranked as 4th of the fastest growing cities in the US list.

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and was officially named after the English explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh is most strategically located with more than half of the US population living within a day’s drive from the city. Raleigh has been nicknamed the ‘City of Oaks’ for the sheer number of majestic oak trees which line the streets. The city, together with Durham and Chapel Hill is also nicknamed ‘The Triangle’ as they form the Research Triangle Park planned in 1959. Raleigh and Durham also share an airport i.e., the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), with its two main terminals (1&2) operating more than 400 daily flights with 50+ non-stop destinations on an average.

The US Census of 2020 states that the national population has grown by 7.35% to 331,449,281 from 308,745,538 in ten years. The current population density is 92.3 people per square mile. When we compare these statistics to those for Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, we can see how rapidly the city is growing.

When we have a look at the corresponding figures for Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, we can see that the growth rate has been more than double of the national levels. The population of the metro in 2020 was at 1,362,997 having grown from the 2010 figure of 1,137,383. This is a growth of 19.84%. The population density is 643.4 people per square mile spread over 2118.4 square miles.

The average age of the population is also leaning towards people in the prime of their working age i.e., 36.9 years. The average persons per household are 2.6, the median house value is at $268,900 while the median household income is $78,706. There are 548,432 housing units with 93% occupancy and out of these 66% are ownership. It is clearly borne out by figures that Raleigh-Durham is positively well ahead of national averages in all areas.

The cost of living in Raleigh is 5% lower than the national average and 58.7% lower than NYC and housing is 85.2% lower than NYC. Realtor.com named Raleigh the most affordable alternative ‘’kindred city’’ to San Francisco. Traffic isn’t too bad either with average commute time being 26 minutes.

The Raleigh-Durham area is home to numerous higher education institutions including Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, Meredith College, Shaw University, William Peace University,, Durham Technical Community College, and high-end research facilities like Research Triangle Park. According to the US Census in the Raleigh area, over 50% of persons aged 25+years have a Bachelor’s Degree and 20% have doctorates.

In addition to the multiple educational institutions providing employment to the residents, there are hospitality, healthcare and other associated businesses affiliated with these campuses. There are also employment opportunities from global companies like Apple, Cisco Systems, Fidelity Investments, IBM, Microsoft, Dell Technologies, Accenture, Novo Nordisk, Deloitte, and many more. Raleigh has been ranked 3rd on a list by Forbes for best places for business and careers.

Apart from proving a huge draw for people as a tech-hub, this region also provides great dining and entertainment, museums, parkland (like Umstead and Eno River State Parks), outdoor recreation and more. Raleigh is not a big tourist destination and is more of a good place to live. However, more and more people are visiting Raleigh for its outstanding culinary offers and endless breweries to discover. There are over 30 local Raleigh breweries known for their craft beer. Raleigh has 180 miles of Greenway trails to explore. The Capital Area Greenway System is made up of 28 individual trails and is one of the most popular things to do in Raleigh. Pullen Park and its 66 acres of land was the first Public Park in North Carolina and the 5th oldest operating amusement park in the US.

Raleigh is well known for its quality and quantity of free museums and has been called the ‘Smithsonian of the South”. Three major state museums call the city home.

Shaw University founded in 1865 by Henry Martin Tupper is the first historically Black Institution for higher education in the South and among the oldest in the Nation.

Raleigh is perhaps the only American city to have a flag to feature different designs on the obverse and the reverse. Both sides feature a similar red-white-red vertical triband that represents Sir Walter Raleigh, after whom the city was named.

The future of Raleigh-Durham looks exciting! All the ingredients that come together to catalyze the growth of a metro in the modern age are in place here. Raleigh-Durham was recently ranked number 3 on the list of top best places to live in the country, and evidently so. It remains top on our fastest growing cities in the US list. There is a great a scope for expansion and growth of businesses in the AEC industry here as corporates, realtors and the people converge here. Is your architecture business equipped to grow with the city’s growth? We can help you future-proof your business and make the most of upcoming opportunities. Contact us.

Fastest growing cities in the US: Austin, Texas

Economists generally agree that economic development and growth are influenced by four major factors: human resourcesphysical capitalnatural resources and technology. Growth in human capital and physical capital often explains only half or less than half of the economic growth that occurs. Technology is one of the most important contributors to economic growth, especially in the US.

Using these parameters, we are profiling the fastest growing cities in the US. And on the top of our list in the state capital of Texas, Austin.

Austin, one of the sunniest cities in America enjoying 300 days of sunshine on average every year, has emerged as the second fastest growing city in the country, falling just behind the San Francisco Bay area. 

An influx of heavy hitting tech companies, a high concentration of venture capital, vibrant cultural offering and a warm climate are driving Austin’s economic output and population growth. 

Data from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) which is used to assist in infrastructure development and conservation efforts anticipate Texas’ statewide population to grow more than 70% in a fifty-year timespan, jumping from 29.7 million residents in 2020 to 50.5 million in 2070. 

By 2040, Austin metro’s population is expected to surpass San Antonio metro population size for the first time. Under 2020 estimates, the Austin MSA’s fine county coverage areas currently have a population of 2.3 million but will be pulling in 3.3 million residents by 2040. The census recorded 961,855 people in 2020 in the current metro area. Currently, in 2023 it is at 2,228,000, a 2.39% increase from 2022. 

Some of the key growth areas surrounding the urban cores in the Austin region include counties like Bastrop, Hays and Caldwell, said Todd Danielson, VP of Engineering at Texas Water Utilities. Downtown Austin has surpassed pre-pandemic levels for development growth.

Austin is the fastest growing city for millionaires, according to the 2023 Wealth Report by Henley and Partners. A millionaire growth rate of 102% puts Austin on top of the list. In a news report on regional economic trends, the American Growth Project ranked Austin as the second fastest growing city.

Lila Valencia, the city demographer of Austin, sees unemployment at very low levels and still leading in terms of growth. Valencia says that the growth that Austin has seen in the last ten years is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

The types of industries that are growing in the area are tech, finance and real estate. 

Infrastructure and Real Estate:Adam Perdue, research economist with the Texas Real estate Research Centre said that the Austin region and its leaders will need to be strategic in their planning to ensure sustainable growth. Austin today is often regarded as the best place to live in Texas as it offers its residents:

  • affordable cost of living, 
  • fantastic job opportunities, 
  • unique attractions,
  • and some of the best eclectic live music in the country

The city is recognized for its innovation and leadership in contributions to music, film, gaming and multidisciplinary digital experiences. Festivals such as South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits and the Fusebox Festival have made Austin a premiere cultural destination.

The city’s official slogan promotes Austin as the “The Live Music Capital of the World”. Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan,” Keep Austin Weird” which refers to the desire to protect small, unorganized local businesses from being overrun by large corporations. ‘Keeping Austin Weird” has been a popular local motto for years, featured on bumper stickers and T-shirts. 

Austin was selected as the No.2 Best Big City in ‘Best Places to Live In” by MONEY magazine as far back as 2006 and No.3 in 2009 and also the Greenest City in America by MSN.

Austin is considered a Beta – Level Global City as categorized by the Globalization of World Cities research work. Even Downtown Austin and Downtown San Antonio separated by approximately 80 miles may someday form a new ‘’metroplex’’ like Dallas and Fort Worth.

Austin’s impressive growth has come with some not so impressive consequences such as escalating housing prices. The median home value in Austin increased from $347,156 in August 2020 to $ 566,479 in August 2022, with average multifamily rents rising 10% year over year.  Cost of living in Austin is 9 % higher than the state average and 1% higher than the national average, housing is 16% more expensive than the US average while utilities are about 6% less pricey.

Austin has found its unique and distinguished place in peoples’ hearts for a lot many diverse reasons. Looking at it from the perspective of business, it is a great place to explore as the city expands and evolves into a bigger metropolis. Working with AEC firms in this region, we see a potential for massive investment in real estate and development in the next decade. 

Are you an AEC firm in Austin, looking for the right support to expand your business? We can help your future-proof your business and make the most of the immediate opportunities. Contact us.

Artificial intelligence in architecture a threat for architects?

Artificial Intelligence in architecture, engineering and construction isn’t a far-off dream for the industry
anymore. The ability to utilize tons of previous data in a millisecond to enhance the architecture design
process could be a game-changer in the way the entire industry functions. AI is already playing a role in
tackling the mundane tasks, and also performing creative work like professional designers in different
industries. And it will do the same for architects, engineers, and developers alike.

Where cost and time overruns have always been the bane for this industry, AI comes in as a savior. AI
will make the planning process for architects significantly easier by giving them access to countless
amounts of data, interpreting the building environment and creating realistic cost estimates in
practically no time. This will help shortening design and building time significantly.

Currently at MIT, researchers are creating AI-powered drones that have the ability to communicate with
each other to construct small models. AI text-to-image software like Midjourney, DALL-E and Stable
Diffusion have the potential to change the way architects approach the creative and the concept stages
of building design.

Bill Cusick is the Creative Director at Stability AI, believes that software is the “foundation for the future
of creativity”
. Indian designer and Midjourney user, Manas Bhatia says, “AI has a huge potential in
solving the thought-to-execution delay”
. Software has the potential to change the way in which labor is
executed in architecture and design offices. It can free up labor in the early design stages.

Let’s appreciate here that AI software is more of a powerful tool than a replacement for an architect, as
it still requires a user with knowledge and skill to produce useful, workable results. Artificial Intelligence
technology is like the game of chess which takes a short time to learn but decades to master. AI
generates images based on the designer’s idea that is fed in the form of text, and that idea input will
vary qualitatively from designer to designer. AI is a tool that essentially needs a human counterpart to
function.

We can foresee five distinct areas where Artificial Intelligence in architecture will have a huge impact on
the industry:

Like an architect’s programming language, AI will allow architects to create such structures that
would not have been imagined earlier.

AI will makes the architect’s work significantly easier by analyzing huge data and saving a lot of
time, cost, and effort in the process of correction of errors. The overall project time will be
reduced, and accurate estimates will allow tighter controls over cost, the two most vital factors
that determine the success of a project.

For an architect, starting off a project requires countless hours of research, both of
understanding the design intent of the project and indicative project data of the past. AI can
analyze aggregate data in milliseconds and recommend multiple options in project models.

The way your city looks could be very different in coming years. City planning is a complex task
that requires years of precision planning. However, a major task of the architect is to
understand how a city will flow; how the ecosystem will co-exist. The emergence of the AI-
empowered Smart City will drive architects to rethink their traditional models. Smart cities will
be places driven by real-time data and feedback through the Internet of Things, communicating
within itself like a living organism. The buildings, smartphones, cars, and public places will
communicate with each other to improve living conditions, limit waste, increase safety and limit
traffic. You can see that trend in some of the world’s most advanced cities.

One of the most time-consuming steps in the project life cycle is getting approvals from the municipalities and counties for Planning and Zoning, Landscaping and Building Permits. You can use AI software that perform these reviews with the click of a button. It will make it an easier task for not only architects, engineers and developers, but also for the county officials.

At Aligned Studios, we have recognized the vast potential of artificial intelligence in architecture in our
field of operation and see it as a definite benefit in the service package that we offer our clients. It
enhances our quality of work manifold and results in noteworthy time reduction. Our team of very
talented handpicked design consultants can augment your team and processes with their talent. Along
with the AI aided systems in our day- to day operations, we are also incorporating it into the projects for
our clients for their benefit.

Learn how AI tech + Talent solutions can work for your firm. Book a discovery call now.

Remote Working Trends: 2023 Forecast

The workplace has evolved across the world in recent years making hybrid and remote working commonplace. We need to look at what 2023 holds for the workplace and prepare to meet those challenges.

  • Regardless of the business we are in, people will always remain as the USP.
  • The elimination of geographical frontiers has opened up amazing new potential pools for both the employer and the employee.

The number of job listings globally with a remote component has nearly tripled since 2020 and this is not in the least bit surprising. The pandemic has worked as a catalyst for fast-paced change ensuring that the coming years will adopt remote and hybrid working models more commonly. 

The number of job listings globally with a remote component has nearly tripled since 2020 and this is not in the least bit surprising. The pandemic has worked as a catalyst for fast-paced change ensuring that the coming years will adopt remote and hybrid working models more commonly.

Even though remote and hybrid working models emerged more out of a revolution rather than an evolution, the enforced pivot has created an environment where these models are here to stay because the productivity can be very high. With a YouGov poll citing that 57% of employees want to be able to work from home, it’s becoming a critical factor in a company’s hiring package. 

With 25% of all professional jobs in North America likely to be remote from next year, it’s time to embrace remote working trends and make them work for your organization. Even the more resistant employers who were looking at ‘returning to normal’ have begun to come to terms with the ‘new normal’ and the many positives that remote working bring to a business.

Emerging trends that are impacting organizations in 2023 and beyond are:

While remote working was an unique bonus in job offers of the past, it is now a ‘standard expectation’ amongst employees. More than 80% of workers who had to work from home due to the pandemic say that they now plan to work hybrid. Global recruitment firm, Robert Half, found that a staggering 50% of professionals who began working from home would resign if they were made to return to the office full-time. Employees are the people who sell the company’s products or services, who shape it’s future, and who take it forward, step-by-step, day-by-day. Attracting and retaining top talent is key to business success. Remote work creates an atmosphere of trust and future-forward thinking.

35% of employees would change jobs if they could work remotely full-time. It becomes imperative for employers to build in some form of remote or hybrid working facility to their job offers. Remote working models build in a competitive edge and helps in staying ahead of industry peers.

Commuting took up a significant chunk of time for office-going employees. The 94% of workers facing a commute before have had a chance to rethink and are now keen to look for a hybrid work solution where they work at least some days from home. The 10% of employees who have changed to home working have reaped the reward of their commuting time as well as being an astonishing 47% more productive than those working in an office environment. 

Home workers spend 30 more minutes doing exercise than office-based peers, save five hours a week in commute time and have almost $60 extra in their pocket which they aren’t spending on commuting or office lunch. As employers, a huge amount of positivity is generated by saving time and money for employees as well as giving them a much greater work life balance.

Remote working models have unshackled geographic and socio-economic chains. Hiring now has opened doors for the best in the world and is no more restricted to the best within local commuting distances. While 67% of construction companies and 72% of healthcare providers cannot work remotely, many others have been liberated by remote working possibilities.

On the one hand, employers can pick the best talent from a global pool. On the other hand, employees now have the option of reaching out to their ideal job, anywhere. These increased opportunities are enhancing employee and employer standards across the board. Companies have to be at the top of their game in terms of corporate culture and benefits to draw in the best employees. Consecutively, employees need to constantly up their skills to remain competitive in a more extensive competitive field.

Employees no longer need to locate themselves in the world’s larger cities to find the best job opportunities. Employees are taking their skills as well as their incomes to smaller towns and rural areas bringing wealth to regions which were historically deprived. Also, unlike earlier trends where employees worked through the week waiting for the weekend to unwind, working from home has introduced a healthier work-life balance enabling employees to love and enjoy their work more. Employees who worked from home were found to be 20% happier, on an average. Employee well-being increased by 3% for everyday that the employee worked remotely. Remote working models have definitely enhanced job satisfaction and happiness quotient.

A key remote working trend is the investment in hiring protocols enabling companies to broaden the geographical base that they cover. While the base is now much wider to cover international hires, it needs sophisticated systems to appeal to the correct market sector and the top candidates within that. The systems will also need to comply with country specific employment laws.

Policies clearly outline expectations and protocols. Policies are put in place to minimize unnecessary risks for the employer and the employee. With employees becoming more and more physically remote, well-defined policies make the model more feasible and scalable. Employees working remotely will always be plagued by doubts and questions that will need addressing from time to time.

Good policies not only answer immediate doubts and questions but are even able to preempt future developments. Policies also help to align employee and employer efforts to a synchronized common corporate goal. 89% of Companies have already introduced a remote work policy or are currently considering one according to a KPMG report, illustrating that the majority are committed to a future where remote working is a key factor.

Geocentric hiring (hiring the best people,regardless of their location) is the only hiring policy which truly and openly necessitates remote working. While global hiring opens up boundless possibilities, it comes with complex and numerous legal and taxation hurdles. In the Czech Republic, for example, the status of remote work is itself unsure. While an overarching accountancy plan can tackle global taxation requirements, it is worthwhile to employ local resources who are aware of finer details that need to be explored during hiring. Cultural nuances of hiring to be mindful of range from the Swedish daily practice of ‘fika’(a proper break from work for tea or coffee and cake, and a chat with a friend), to the different Israeli workweek(Sunday to Thursday, to allow the many Jewish members of the population to more easily observe Shabbat on a Friday).

Cybersecurity is going to be more and more important for remote working organizations. Apart from supply chain attacks and AI-based spear fishing, hybrid or remote working is a significant threat to data security, keeping the cyber threat landscape significant for business owners. More than 85% of cyber-attacks are initiated with a human factor. The human-machine interface is a really easy entry point. It’s easy to exploit employees through emotional manipulation and social engineering. To improve cyber security and create resilience, five cybersecurity priorities need to be deployed:

  • Multi-factor authentication.
  • Applying ‘least privilege’ access.
  • Keep versions of software up to date.
  • Always utilize anti-malware.
  • Protect all Company data.

We, at Aligned Studios have adopted, nurtured, and grown the remote working model as a win-win model for our clients, our employees, and our company. We have adopted the model even before the pandemic, recognizing it as a feasible business model and have over time used the learning curve to effectively iron out deficiencies. We have witnessed significant corporate growth, helped our employees find job satisfaction, work-life balance and overall happiness and delivered high quality work to our clients in predetermined time schedules. We have reaped the benefits of recruiting across geographical frontiers in search of the best talent. We have put in place a transparent and comprehensive work policy, we have the best tax and legal consultants to guide our future expansion plans. We have the highest standards of cybersecurity in place to protect our clients as well as our own data. We consciously invest in the remote working model as the future of global collaboration.

Let’s get on a quick call to discuss how we can help you use remote working to your benefit.

A paradigm shift to global architects working remotely

A new survey conducted by Architizer focused on AEC professionals’ evolving relationship with technology during the post pandemic year, looked at topics ranging from design and communication to the psychological wellbeing of staff. The survey reveals that almost 80% of AEC professionals worked remotely during 2020. Both design processes and team communication were now being conducted digitally. However, 28% of architects working remotely said that they were doing this even before 2020. This indicates that a shift towards online collaboration and a fully digital workflow was already well underway before the pandemic closed down offices across the globe.

Although an oxymoron, it is true. The biggest advantage cited for the remote working phenomenon was the flexibility to select and customize personal work environment, as well as the commute time saved to and from office.

In addition to the above, benefits include an improved work-life balance, flexible working location and hours, proximity to family and an unprecedented sense of freedom. From the respondents, 44.1% appreciated the flexibility while 22.9% liked the ‘no commute’; 11.7% enjoyed being closer to family while another 11.7% valued their freedom. A fair 8.4 % even reported increased productivity.

On the flip side, a good 33.8% of respondents reported struggling to keep clear separation between work and home life. The second most common challenge pertained to communication with colleagues with 17.7% reporting missing the in-person collaboration.

The most significant finding of the survey is the preference of almost half of all respondents i.e., 46.3%, to continue working remotely, indefinitely even after the pandemic with only 13.9% wanting to return to the workplace.

77.9% of architects working remotely cited a powerful computer or laptop as an essential tool to bolster performance. They described how displays are vital to their workflow with many respondents naming either large or dual monitors among hardware they regard as essential. This goes a long way in replicating the technological advantages of the office environment at home.

In terms of software, communication tools have risen hugely in significance. A huge 87% of respondents cited communication applications such as Zoom and Skype as being among the most essential software in 2020, placing them even above the most ubiquitous design applications such as Revit. As architects attempt to mitigate the loss of real face time with their colleagues, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Discord have also risen markedly in importance.

Another interesting insight emerging from the survey was just how common it is for architects to connect back to their office remotely. 57% of respondents stated that they utilize the cloud to connect back to company servers when working at home. If architects working remotely becomes a norm, the concept of a central server for all company work may need to be re-evaluated.

AEC professionals are split almost exactly 50-50 between primarily using a laptop or a desktop. This is a big shift over the past five years. In Architizer’s previous survey on technology in the architectural profession, 80% of architects were primarily using desktop computers.

Furthermore, two-thirds of respondents that said their primary computer was a desktop also stated that they use a laptop or mobile workstation as a secondary device. This means a total of 76% of respondents utilized a portable computer in some form to get their work done in 2020.

  1. REDUCED NEED TO COMPROMISE: Mobile workstations now provide power-equivalent to a desktop, with all the advantages of mobility..
  2. MOBILITY AT HOME: Architects working remotely during the pandemic require greater flexibility to move between spaces while working (to provide space for family members or seek a quiet space for certain tasks).
  3. AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Some architects may be waiting to see whether they will be required to return to the office before purchasing a desktop computer for a more permanent home office.

When asked to describe their ideal computer, architects overwhelmingly described a powerful, portable computer able to handle their visualization needs. While AEC professionals now require their computers to render 3D models and process complex algorithms for generative design, they are less willing to tie themselves to a desk in an office, and technology must continue to be developed to meet their evolving needs.

Overwhelmingly, AEC professionals are using technology to facilitate visualization and rendering. A huge 91% of respondents cited architectural visualization and rendering as part of their workflow. This result indicates that architects are increasingly creating their own visualizations rather than hiring the services of a dedicated rendering studio. This may be down to practical or economic reasons but may also be because the architects’ own hardware and software is not capable of producing the high-end results they and their clients require.

Other technologies being increasingly adopted by the industry include virtual reality (VR) and generative design, which were cited by 28% and 26% of correspondents respectively.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s Architecture + Technology survey is that, while 2020 was no normal year, the working conditions it has necessitated might become the ‘’new normal’. While the pandemic forced AEC professionals to adopt new hardware and software for remote working whether they liked it or not, the profession has been pleasantly surprised by the outcome. This has led many in practice to re-examine their workflow and work-life priorities in the long term.

With the rise in collaborative tools and apps for ease of communication, this shift is more easily facilitated in architecture than most professionals. For this reason, mobile workstations –balancing immense processing power with the lightweight and compact qualities of a laptop- look likely to become the standard hardware for the profession.

Whatever the post-pandemic world looks like, one thing is clear- the practice of architecture, engineering and construction will continue to advance with the help of powerful, mobile technology and innovative software solutions.

At Aligned Studios, we provide all our architects working remotely with the latest tech-enabled laptops and large screen monitors supported by the latest available software to be able to generate top quality work. This allows them to collaborate efficiently and effectively with cross border partners from the comfort of their homes. 

Want to work with our highly qualified and tech-enabled team? Check out the services we offer.

Integrity is the key to success in the work from home set up

Between 2008 and 2020, remote work has grown 159 percent. Whether companies allow employees to work from home as needed, hire both remote and in-office staff or have only remote employees, more and more companies are embracing the trend. With so many great resources available on transitioning to remote work, there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel here. There are, however, a few transitioning tips that arise out of being in this model for a while which are worth sharing.

  1. A ‘shift’ occurs when moving from working in person to remote working. It is important to recognize and accept that this ‘shift’ takes people time to adjust. People tend to drop the ball in adjusting to new modes of communication which move away from being entirely and exclusively written. Use of screenshare and videos need to be used a lot more to add context to messages.
  2. Incoming mail cannot meet with immediate responses. Response time for ‘considered replies’ must be purposefully and deliberately slotted.
  3. Communication protocols need to be set up as a team to cater to the remote working style keeping in mind individual information needs and impacts of different time zones. At Aligned Studios, we regularly conduct Communication workshops to upgrade communication skills of our people not only within the internal team but also with their international partners.
  4. productive environment consisting of clean, noise-free zones is an ‘absolute must’ in the remote working model. It is important to set apart distinct work zones from the day- to-day routine activity zones to ensure setting of boundaries and compartmentalizing of individual energy levels and priorities.
  5. Warding off loneliness by building an extensive social network even outside of work as well as having video chats with team members always help. At Aligned Studios, we encourage weekly coffee chats, buddy lunches and personal meet ups to help people build stronger team bonds and adjust to the new workplace.

In addition to basic remote working skills, what will always remain at the core of this working model’s success rate is INTEGRITY. Work from home needs a high level of employee integrity to succeed. While responsible and conscious hiring techniques do ensure a high level of employee integrity, it takes a continuous process to keep the integrity alive.

Leveraging the reduced visibility in workflows, a small percentage of employees resort to unethical practices that rob the Company of its productive hours. Timesheets are filled out with deliberately inaccurate information. Work from home time is misutilized for other purposes. As employees are sometimes faced with genuine challenges in a work from home arrangement, it is best to open doors for clear, free, and transparent communication to understand their concerns and educate them on how enhanced commitment from them can contribute to overall productivity and a win-win situation for all.

A second area of concern is ‘moonlighting’. Moonlighting refers to pursuing more than one job at a time and remote working, particularly in the IT industry, has helped employees take up this option. This could involve activities outside of office hours or on weekends that do not impact their productivity on the full-time job or have a conflict of interest. In the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) Industry, however, particularly where international collaboration is involved and NDA (Non-disclosure agreements) govern the arrangement, moonlighting exposes Clients’ assets to risk. Use of common hardware and software to do multiple jobs proves ethically and functionally unacceptable.

Conflict of interest and violation of trust issues are of foremost concern. Employers and employees need to consciously recognize and embrace the goodness of remote working to help the model succeed. It enables global talent to come together on the same table. It empowers people to find a healthy, enriching work-life-balance. It empowers companies to expand their geographical operational boundaries to new markets at minimal costs. Integrity at every level is a small ask to pay to enable this all-empowering model to succeed.

In an interesting field experiment on ‘Honesty of online workers’ (Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics, Vol 94, Oct 2021, 101730), employees reported hours mostly honestly regardless of the condition of automatic recording (AR) or dishonesty enabling manual recording (MR). Honesty-humility, a unique indicator of job performance, was not related to dishonesty and choosing the manual reporting. This reinforces the faith and the belief in people’s integrity as a reliable tool in bolstering the success rate of the work from home model.

At Aligned Studios, we have successfully worked remotely completely. By leveraging technology along with the quality and commitment of our select, chosen team, we consistently deliver premium global quality to our satisfied customers across the globe. We have continued to proactively strengthen the learning curve by introducing people- centric, culture- specific and industry-specific inputs that have enriched the workplace and facilitated smooth seamless working across global frontiers. Aligned Studios, along with its employees has consciously recognized the ‘remote working’ model as an ‘equal opportunity’ partnership between the employer and the employee. Looking forward, we see a promising and rewarding working model catering to employer and employee alike.

12 strategies to make your business recession proof

The US has witnessed 12 recessions since World War II, an average of one every six years. Hence, it is crucial for business owners to prepare to survive and even thrive through recessions. As the impending recession comes coupled with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact is going to be felt multifold.

Recessions typically last between two to twenty- four months and impact different industries differently. Essential products like food, utilities and household staples and services like healthcare, education and automotive repairs are least impacted. We’ve explored twelve important strategies aimed at recession proofing your business of which a few would apply specifically to certain businesses.

  1. It is critical to have a CASH FLOW PLAN which defines monthly sources and uses. You should also have in place a cash flow forecast that alerts management of variances. Sources of low- cost capital and alternative financing, government resources etc. must be explored much before one is going to need to use them. Creating an emergency cash cushion fund to cover up to six months of essential costs including payroll, inventory, and utilities along with collecting receivables more aggressively and being covered by business continuity insurance are different paths to stability during recession. You can also consider appraising assets which may be used as collateral, extending credit options with vendors, improving business credit rating, renegotiating existing loans and exploring hitherto unused avenues like asset-based financing of accounts receivables, purchase order financing etc.
  2. WORKFORCE NEEDS must be closely monitored to have the best hires in terms of numbers and skillset qualities. They must be encouraged to work efficiently to maximize their potential. Investing in employee skills through effective training helps businesses stay flexible and think creatively during a recession. Employees must be made to feel connected to the business and more willing to go that extra mile.
  3. Following a BUDGET or operating plan is a great all-time practice, and even more valid going into a recession.
  4. Monitor MARKETING OPERATIONS continuously through KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Only performing operations should continue and others terminated. Action plans drawn out well before the onset of a crisis leads to thoughtful, minimum- error decisions as against the error prone, on-the-spur-of-the-moment decisions.
  5. Understand the COMPETITION in-depth from the customer’s perspective. Always striving to stay ahead through better service, superior technology and updated skills gives one the desired edge when recession strikes. In all economic times and especially during recession, staying close to the customer and understanding their changing needs helps your business preserve revenue and consolidate your market presence.
  6. Be patient; useexperience and wisdom to ride out the storm. At the same time maintaining LOWER DEBT LEVELS equips an organization with the resilience to withstand the onslaughts of a recession. Pay off your debts as early as possible, to save interest expenses which can be routed to cash reserves. Maximum capital availability arising out of debt-free operations gives an organization an edge during recession.
  7. Have FLEXIBLE AGREEMENTS with clients where customized offerings can be made in return for faster payment terms. Rewards like these can not only help stabilize revenue systems but also create goodwill and repeat customers.
  8. CUTTING OPERATIONS COST by tweaking big costs can result in huge expense reductions without compromising end quality. Obtain early-pay discounts from suppliers, automate certain manual tasks, re-organize labor between full time and contractual. Organizations may need to have a fresh look at vendors, staff perks, travel, and entertainment spending, outsourcing certain functions, real estate consolidation and moving to remote working options.
  9. CREATING NEW REVENUE STREAMS using the current infrastructure involves some out-of-the-box thinking. It could involve extending the geographical footprint, identifying new products and services, reinventing the distribution channel by selling online etc. Modify the existing products to better suit changed market demands.
  10. STRATEGIZE well by delegating to well- trained capable staff who run a tested system- based organization where processes are clearly well-defined. This is always the basis for a sound business. This allows business leaders to steer and navigate the ship rather than row the boat during a recession. It may require involvement in strategic partnerships that increases the perceived value of the end-product delivering value, quality and durability during difficult times. Fine-tune to market needs and competition to make sharp on-the spot directional changes in business strategies that are in sync with market trends.
  11. SPECIALIZATION amounts to understanding your market requirements particularly well to be able to exclusively cater to their special needs better than most competitors.
  12. DIRECT & MONITOR SPENDINGS by relooking at current investments for their returns and exploring new avenues for higher returns. It would also mean deployment of state-of-the-art technology to cut costs and at the same time delivering quality in half the time. While critically visiting investment returns, it is important to continue marketing and promotion efforts and loyalty campaigns to consolidate the current, healthy customer base. This helps keep the competition at bay and creates a strong referral point for new customers.

We, at Aligned Studios, have implemented stringent businesses practices that safeguard us against potential threats of recession. We are cost conscious and hence deploy our resources optimally to deliver premium quality to our clients at optimal cost. Our clients are our business partners and hence get to enjoy the benefits of our streamlined cost structure. Our hires are meticulous to ensure the best available in the industry, again enabling us to consistently deliver premium quality to our clients. We regularly update our staff with state-of-the-art training and empower them with the latest technology to enable them to perform efficiently and deliver the best consistently.

Want to make your AEC business recession proof? Let’s schedule a quick call.

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Is Architectural Outsourcing the path for your firm’s growth?

The trope that architects are bad at business might not be completely true, but running a successful business in the AEC industry is really tough. There are some tried and tested strategies that can work to your firms benefit, and take you on the path to exponential growth and new markets. Does architectural outsourcing feature on this list? Read on to find out.

As practicing architects, we love to focus on the designing phase of our projects. After all, that’s what we learnt best at architecture school. That’s the passion that drives us. However, it is imperative that we run our practice as a business, NOT just a passion.

Growth of the AEC industry is forecast at 4% between 2016 and 2026, which is well below other industry standards. Competition for projects in the future is only going to get more intense.

To add to our woes, clients tend to perceive architectural services as a cost rather than a value. As a percentage of the project cost, the architect’s fees are insignificant to say the least and on the other hand, engaging a good architect can be the telling difference between a successful project and an unsuccessful one.

While focusing on delivering quality professional services to a client, architects need to create a sustainable, profitable, growing business model of their own. Regardless of the size of the architectural firm, it is important to have a rock-solid business development plan. Here are 9 salient business development strategies for architectural firms:

Every architectural firm has its own unique strength. Only through a learning curve you can determine your specialization in a particular asset class. It is important to identify one’s strength and focus there. Outreach plans should be directed at those clients that match the firm’s profile and future growth plans should primarily center around such clients. Also, quality market research should always guide the firm’s journey forward, being guided by industry trends, competitor information, new product developments etc.

Profit is what keeps a firm running for the long term. Yet 53% of US firms view increasing firm profitability as one of their top financial concerns. At the onset, while starting your practice, you need to start it as a small business. Running projects on time must be a binding commitment to ensure profitability.

Data indicates that 70% of firm billings are derived from repeating clients. There is excellent software available to guide you as to which of your existing clients are worth repeating to contribute positively towards profitability.

Networking has traditionally been the primary means for architectural firms to generate more business. Now, with the aid of digital media, networking has assumed huge dimensions. Networking with industry partners like contractors, designers, agencies, and builders will go a long way in promoting your architectural business. It not only enriches information exchange but also invigorates the grapevine. It is a mutually beneficial, symbiotic arrangement. Joining clubs, groups, industry conferences, and associations to gain maximum exposure for the firm is a great way to move forward. The growth rate of an architectural business has a direct co-relation with its network coverage.

Digital marketing isn’t just for FMCG products or cosmetic companies. The hashtag #architecture has been used over 100,000,000 times on Instagram. Leading architectural firms use Instagram to showcase their latest commissions and to connect with their audience. Effective digital marketing can generate a very healthy inward traffic for architecture news, thoughts, and opinions towards the firm. Blogs, articles, and case studies can pave the way for a strong online presence. And this being a specialized area, leveraging expertise of digital marketing professionals can lead to maximum benefits. Architectural outsourcing can begin with social media management.

Referrals are very strong instruments for growth in the architectural industry. Clients are exposed to a huge factor of uncertainty where large investments are spread over extended periods in a high technology-based industry of which the client has little or no knowledge. The price of mistakes, failure, project delay, rework etc. are very high and can destroy an otherwise feasible and profitable project. The client needs to be assured of dependability, risk coverage and to feel that they are in safe hands. Referrals reaffirm that you have done it all before, know your way around well and have consistently delivered.

Sponsoring local events, speaking at business gatherings, and supporting associated businesses add to the overall goodwill and help in image and brand building.

Whether growth is gradual or exponential, it needs preparation and proper management. It is important to have proper systems in place to track performance and monitor results. Delayed projects are the bane of the architecture industry and can lead to huge losses and adverse growth prospects. Cost and time management systems will need to be in place right from the start. Whether it’s a very large architectural firm or a small boutique studio, operations favoring growth in a creativity-based industry always needs to be flexible, agile, and quickly adaptable. This has been one of our greatest learnings at Aligned Studios and forms the strongest pillar of our guiding principles.

Being in an industry that is primarily creativity and technology driven, one can never overlook the vital importance of good quality recruiting and hiring. Only quality personnel can deliver quality work. Even after having put our best foot forward in putting together the best team, we must humbly acknowledge and concede that as architects we are not likely and also not expected to be as proficient at skills outside of our own. Your organization will always benefit more from skilled services in software management, digital marketing, human resource management and more as we move ahead.

The entire Architect – Client relationship revolves around one pivotal word, TRUST. As big money is invested for prolonged periods and multiple hi-tech agencies get involved, the client turns to the architect for honest advice. As the trust factor builds, very often clients feel safer having the architect take over associated services like valuation, surveys, procurement, legal compliances, etc.

On the fast track to growth, it has often proven helpful to tie up with a collaborating partner to bolster success. The choice of an effective architecture outsourcing partner is of utmost importance. Background checks need to be done on the proposed partner for credentials, referrals, and previous work records. And the proposed architectural outsourcing partner needs to be verified for corporate-cultural compatibility.

At Aligned Studios, we are making architectural outsourcing positive. We have been building brick-by-brick to feature amongst the best global architectural collaborators. We focus on hiring the best available talent and on building a reserve talent pool. Our teams undergo constant training and upgradation efforts to remain abreast with the global best. We painstakingly train each team member to be a great cultural fit for our clients to enable a seamless work environment for architectural outsourcing.

In our ongoing effort to be a world-class architectural collaborator, we have successfully joined hands with the best in the industry to enhance their team and propel them into expanding markets and higher profitability. We deliver well within the parameters of time, cost, and quality.

Our business model is much more than architectural outsourcing, it is a global collaboration for staff augmentation. It has been widely accepted and appreciated by our clients as very collaborator friendly.

We welcome new collaboration proposals to explore new horizons together. Get on a quick call with us to understand how we can help your firm grown.