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Evaluating Innovation: Q&A with AEC Excellence Award Judge Anthony Frausto-Robledo

How do you assess ingenuity? It’s no easy task. Yet, over the last 10 years, the Autodesk AEC Excellence Awards judges methodically evaluated thousands of inspiring projects to honor the best of the best.

As we celebrate a decade of excellence, we continue a series of conversations with some of our esteemed judges. The AEC Excellence Awards judges are an international, independent group of thought leaders and industry experts who dedicate their time and knowledge to the program. We’re grateful for this cohort, and I find them just as inspiring as the people behind the winning projects.

First, we heard from Todd Danielson on his experience in the program. Today, we chat with Anthony Frausto-Robledo. Anthony is an architect with more than 30 years of experience in practice. He’s also the founder and editor of Architosh.com, a publication known for its coverage of CAD/BIM/3D technologies and processes for the AEC industry. Like Todd, you may have seen or chatted with Anthony at Autodesk University Las Vegas in previous years.

Read my Q&A with him below.

Anthony Frausto-Robledo

Architosh founder and editor Anthony Frausto-Robledo.

What is your day job?

I am the publisher and editor-in-chief of Architosh.com and manage editorial direction with the input of senior associate editors Akiko Ashley and Pete Evans, AIA, IDSA. I am also a practicing architect and associate principal at Morehouse MacDonald and Associates, Inc., a Boston-based firm with projects in the U.S. and abroad.

Tell us about your experience as a judge for the AEC Excellence Awards?

I served as a judge for the Building Design and Innovator of the Year categories in 2019 and 2020.

Why did you choose to be a judge for this awards program?

Being a judge in programs like Autodesk AEC Excellence awards means being exposed to the work and technical processes of some of the world’s leading innovators in AEC. We regularly write about leading-edge technologies —we even have a newsletter devoted entirely to the subject of ’emTech’ (emerging technologies). So serving on the AEC Excellence award jury is another vital source of connection to the people and firms advancing the industry through their trailblazing use of new digital production methods.

What is a trend you’ve seen in the projects you’ve reviewed over the years?

Most winners utilize a complete full-BIM workflow with discipline integration, which is not the case throughout the industry, especially by global region and building type. While the BIM transformation still has a long way to go before CAD plays only a minor role, we see in these winning projects time-savings and the reduction of errors that benefit all stakeholders, thanks to BIM. Related to this is the emergence of ‘digital twins’ technologies, which serve building owners even further. The latter technology provides more incentives for adopting the former, as does computational design—another trend seen in the recent winners.

What is a project or person that stands out from past submissions as inspiring or impressive? Why?

There are many impressive projects, so it is hard to single out just one. However, the project that genuinely swept me away was called the WILD, by Katrina Urbanik AS, in Norway, a winner in 2020.

Built on floating artificial islands, the WILD had far-reaching implications for how humans can occupy a planet under a sustained climate crisis. It was ambitious in scope, from obtaining its water from desalination infrastructure to farming its food. With rising sea levels, the floating structure could elevate up over time to respond incrementally to sea-level change. The project, as a whole, was beautifully presented, and they utilized computational design to optimize components of the building, like the facades. These computationally driven facades optimized the structure for energy use.

Caption: WILD is a new urban development with cabins and residential living areas on a 181-meter in diameter, human-made island with three “mainlands.” The idea for WILD is based on the need to provide solutions to simultaneous, worldwide crises and create a new urban life, based on a circular economy, that will empower cities and communities. Image courtesy of Katrina Urbanik AS.

WILD is a new urban development with cabins and residential living areas on a 181-meter in diameter, human-made island with three “mainlands.”

WILD is a new urban development with cabins and residential living areas on a 181-meter in diameter, human-made island with three “mainlands.” The idea for WILD is based on the need to provide solutions to simultaneous, worldwide crises and create a new urban life, based on a circular economy, that will empower cities and communities. Image courtesy of Katrina Urbanik AS.

If you could add a new category or award, what would it be and why?

I would like to see a category singularly focused on economics on adopting new ways of working. Most AEC firms stick to tried-and-true processes as a matter of managing risk and watching their bottom line. The industry could benefit from the AEC firms with the best strategies for evaluating and integrating emergent technologies and leveraging them with strong economic results. Educationally, this can help inspire and instruct more AEC firms to increase the adoption of new ways of working, which ultimately can improve the economics of the AEC industry as a whole.