From digital and business transformation to climate resilience and collective intelligence: what are some of the key challenges and opportunities for the architecture sector that we can expect to see in 2023? Read on to see our predictions for the industry this year.

1. Form follows performance

Buildings are required to perform in more ways than ever before–environmentally, socially, and economically. Whether it’s about improving energy efficiency, lowering carbon footprint, or density requirements, we’ll see more optimization of designs to reach specific outcomes.

New sustainability tools are on the rise helping architects reach their performance targets. Whether they’re developed in-house, or are an existing product, these tools give architects more insights earlier in the design process, empowering them to take sustainability strategies in their own hands and, as a result, lead the way in sustainable design.

Offering valuable early insights, data-driven analyses such as Spacemaker’s (pictured) help architects make informed decisions about building performance when it‘s most impactful.

This is also where vernacular architecture could potentially inspire exciting new local strategies needed in the face of climate change, from preparing for heatwaves–high global temperatures are forecasted again this year–to building with bio-based materials. This leads to new typologies at all scales, from an individual building to a neighborhood, and new ways of making buildings and cities, affecting both the process and the outcome. Think more irregular-shaped architecture or mixed-density blocks.

2. More sustainability regulations

Governments all around the world are taking more regulatory action to accelerate meeting sustainability goals and lowering carbon emissions. Rising energy costs mean energy efficiency, fast tracking the energy transition, and decarbonization will become more prioritized. Architects have a vital role to play in delivering on sustainability targets. It’s no surprise that search engine trends related to architecture, urban planning, and sustainability are increasing–for example, in Germany there’s been a reported 40% increase.

In North America, the Government of Canada enshrined in legislation its commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, which means policies will be put in place to decarbonize the operations of government-owned property, mobility, and other programs. The United States’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the largest federal climate investment in US history, allocates an estimated $362 million for a commercial energy efficiency tax deduction and another $4.5 billion toward measuring embodied carbon in construction materials and installing low-carbon products in public infrastructure and federal government buildings.

The European Union is planning to introduce a regulation requiring worst-performing buildings to be renovated in order to double the rate of buildings renovation in the next 10 years. Currently, about 35% of the EU’s buildings are more than 50 years old and almost 75% of building stock is energy inefficient. In the UK, new regulations require that new homes and buildings must produce 30% less carbon emissions. In Denmark, life-cycle assessments for new buildings will be mandatory from 2023 onwards. In France, the RE2020 environmental regulations focus on lowering carbon emissions for new buildings, and new legislation could require all large car parks to be covered with solar panels. For architects and urban designers around the globe, integrating these factors from day one will be key to meeting new environmental requirements.

Solar panels on an urban rooftop

Solar panels on urban rooftops are helping to accelerate the energy transition.

3. Digital transformation brings business transformation

New digital, data-driven tools continue to expand the architect’s toolkit, helping them work more effectively to achieve better outcomes for their work, from sustainable design to visualization. A must for any new software will be interoperability with existing tools as well as traditional techniques such as hand sketching. Smooth workflows across tools, processes, and collaborators will be key for a successful digital transformation.

AI and automation will play a greater role in the design process by, for example, predicting outcomes and automating tedious tasks such as number crunching or sourcing data, while freeing up more time for architects to focus on design work.

New digital processes will potentially enable architects to rethink their business models such as testing new fee structures and diversifying their services. As a result, more firms will invest in innovation officers and digital strategists to ensure a cohesive approach to architecture, business, and technology.

4. Cloud-based collaboration = collective intelligence

The issues of sustainability, biodiversity, climate change, and urbanization are too complex to solve alone. Facilitating an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach connected by data results in a new collective intelligence.

Cloud-based platforms will enable better ways of communication and collaboration, allowing teams to contribute anytime, from anywhere–imperative when it comes to supporting the hybrid, post-pandemic workplace. We expect to see more and more companies embracing the cloud and cloud-based products. In this transition, hybrid workflows will connect desktop and cloud products to create smoother and more data-driven workflows.

Two workers collaborating in an office

Cloud collaboration enables teams to work across devices, and to contribute anytime, from anywhere.

In this collective environment, the shared language will be data. To ensure data is usable by everyone, the team needs to be able to access it in an intuitive, centralized, and interoperable way. We see data becoming more important in the decision-making process, helping architects reach better outcomes to solve complex societal challenges. Data will improve collaboration by boosting trust and transparency in the team and facilitating more constructive dialogues with the client, municipality, or internally, benefiting the whole project lifecycle. The result will be buildings, neighborhoods, and cities that are better equipped for what uncertainties and opportunities the future may bring.