Parviainen Architects is a Finnish architectural, interior, and concept design firm renowned for its innovative designs and advanced use of digital to solve client needs. Here, CEO Mikko Lahikainen discusses how architects can better support digital transformation in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry.
How far has the construction industry come on the journey to digital transformation?
As an industry, we are quite far behind others. The slow growth in productivity that’s characterized the construction sector requires us to challenge the status quo. Individual parts of the supply chain are aiming for better results, but we are still missing out on opportunities to transform.
Architects can play a big role in the digital transformation of the construction industry if we want to. A common data platform could be the core of the sector’s transformation. I see this platform as a data pool which would be utilized by the entire design team. Obvious uses would include normal decision-making to calculate things like life span costs, but the intriguing part are the tools and uses data platforms could bring that are not available now. With this, we have an option for new professionals to step in.
How is digital changing your relationships with clients?
It’s making life easier. Communicating ideas and design possibilities to clients has never been so simple. Online meetings and tools open the door for global participation. Location is not that important anymore, which highlights the know-how.
COVID has been a catalyst, as we were all forced to take a leap into the future. Now, we know the value of cooperation and how knowledge can be obtained and shared to create sustainable solutions that last.
Finnish architects are famous for their focus on sustainability. How does digitalization help drive a more sustainable approach in construction?
Digitalization makes it possible for a larger number of project stakeholders to provide input at the beginning of the process. At the Parviainen Architects office, we call this OpenBIM. We’ve connected our information with other professionals, helping us evaluate design ideas and model our impact based on real and current data . This is essential for creating real sustainability, as opposed to just saying nice words.
What role should architects play in the digital transformation of the construction industry?
We play a key role in the first steps of construction, and that means we bear a great deal of responsibility. Our attitude toward digitalization affects everyone else in the project.
In our projects, transparency is the key. We start so that everyone has a window to the real-time progress of the project. This means that end users can be part of the project’s development and architects have better initial information when its needed.
In that sense, architects could be seen as chefs; their choice of dishes and ingredients can affect the tone of the whole restaurant.
In your view, what has separated the most successful architecture firms from the least successful during the pandemic?a
For “real results,” it’s too early to say. Effects multiply over time, so it will be a couple of years before we see who was successful and who didn’t do so well.
Innovative firms have already learned new ways to think and work. That provides a good foothold for the future, but it's how they build on the pandemic’s learnings which will make the difference.
How can the AEC industry derive maximum value from investments in digital tools?
Creating transparency for all participants in the design and building process is vital. Current tools are a great start, but the user interfaces must be intuitive for all. This is the response that we get from the client's side, as well. It's something that needs attention now and increased development focus in the future.