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3 Critical Skills the Architects of the Future Will Need

The architecture and built environment sector is one of the fastest evolving industries in the UK. Not only are technical innovations being implemented rapidly, but there are more regulations than ever to consider, not to mention forthcoming sustainability and fire safety goals.

This means that architects’ skills must constantly evolve, and the architects of tomorrow will require a broader set of skills.

Here, we explore the skills that future architects will need in order to succeed in the role.

Digital skills come first

Technology is advancing industries at a rapid pace, and we’re seeing technological innovations hit the architecture and built environment sector at lightning speed. The digital journey began with 2D renderings, followed by 3D designs. We then saw the adoption of both industry-specific tech like building information modelling (BIM) and sector-agnostic digital tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

We’re beginning to see virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) make their way into the sector, marking the next stage of design visualisation. Once an architect has created their building rendering, complete with metal cladding, they can use AR to superimpose it onto a real background to see how it will look in its final location. VR, meanwhile, will allow people to explore a digitised version of their final creation as if it were real. A RIBA and Microsoft survey expects that adoption of these technologies will increase to a share of 64% by 2023.

Architects who have existing digital skills will be well-equipped for the future of the sector. Architectural design courses should be teaching learners general digital skills, as well as specialist skills in these types of software. Practical, hands-on experience of these digital solutions will be essential for our future architects.

“Net-zero” skills

According to Scott McAulay, founder of the Anthropocene Architecture School, a huge skills gap is emerging in sustainable architecture. With 40% of carbon emissions generated by the built environment sector, it’s easy to see why this is such a pressing issue.

McAulay believes sustainability should be embedded into architecture degrees now in order to prepare the architects of the future for net-zero targets. He says: “At this point, it needs to be entirely normal to start an architecture degree and to be taught in a context of a climate emergency where we have been told that we should be net-zero and curbing carbon emissions as fast as possible.”

Net-zero skills will allow architects to assess the environmental impact of their buildings and reduce the emissions produced by the creation of the building and its use. With the 2050 target of net-zero emissions across the UK, this skill will only become more important as we work towards that deadline and beyond.

Fire safety skills as standard

A huge focus has been placed on fire safety in the years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Building Safety Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the House of Commons, is expected to become law next year and includes new powers regarding architects.

Under the bill, the Architects Registration Board will be able to remove architects from the register if they don’t keep their skills up to date with regular training. This is especially critical with regard to fire safety, with legislation evolving rapidly.

According to a study in the Fire Safety Journal, fire safety is not integrated into building design processes. This means it is often addressed at a later stage, whereas it should be embedded into the design of a building. As the government moves forwards with further fire safety measures, future architects will need to have an in-depth understanding of fire safety design principles and approach their work with a fire safety-first mentality.

The built environment sector has been moving at a high speed in terms of the adoption of technologies and leading the way in hitting our net-zero emissions target. In order for our next generation of architects to succeed, they’ll need these vital skills.

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