What AI deployment could look like in your firm

Morrissey Goodale discusses how AI can be used in the architectural engineering industry and the challenges in implementing it

By Morrissey Goodale July 1, 2024
Courtesy: Brett Sayles, WTWH Media

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t just knocking on the door of the AE industry—it’s kicking it in. Ready or not, like it or not, AI is here to revolutionize how AE firms operate, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and leaving traditional methods in the dust. But integrating AI isn’t a walk in the park. It’s more of a thrill ride full of twists and turns, ups and downs. For those daring enough to embark on this journey, the rewards can be immense—but the challenges are real.

Picture this: A mid-sized architectural firm struggling to keep up with complex designs, a large engineering company plagued by project delays and cost overruns, or a small environmental consulting firm bogged down by slow data collection and analysis. These firms each faced unique hurdles but also saw golden opportunities in AI. Their journeys, though fictional, are steeped in real-world challenges and triumphs that could mirror your own.

Welcome to the tales of Tenacious Architects Group, Preeminent Precision Engineering, and EcoFirm Environmental Consulting. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how each of these firms took the AI plunge in different ways, navigating the rough seas of implementation, dealing with skepticism, and reaping the benefits—all while keeping an eye on the horizon for the next big wave.

In this mini-series, you’ll find a mix of ambition and pragmatism, innovation and caution, success and ongoing struggle. These aren’t fairy tales with happily-ever-afters, but real-world narratives showing how AI can transform organizations and the ongoing challenges it brings. Take a look at how these firms tackled their unique challenges with AI, what strategies they used, and what hurdles they still face. Let their experiences ignite your imagination and help you forge a path to your own AI success story.

The scenario of tenacious architects group

Tenacious Architects Group (TAG) is a mid-sized architectural firm with a proud history and a traditional approach to design. The firm has built its reputation on the back of traditional technologies, such as CADD software. Despite its solid standing, TAG found itself struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for more complex and customized designs. The firm was at a crossroads: either adapt to the new technological landscape or risk becoming obsolete.


The firm’s leadership, led by CEO Emma Thornton, identified opportunities in using AI for generative design. Generative design uses AI algorithms to create multiple iterations based on specific constraints and preferences, offering innovative solutions that traditional methods might miss. However, as you might suspect, the idea of integrating AI was met with mixed reactions within the company.

The supporters and the skeptics

Emma was a forward-thinking leader, eager to embrace AI to propel TAG into the future. She was supported by a few key players, including CTO Michael Lee and junior architect Sarah Martinez. Michael had always been a tech enthusiast and saw AI as a way to revolutionize the firm’s design process. Sarah, relatively new to the firm, was excited about the potential for AI to open new creative avenues.

On the other hand, there were notable skeptics within the firm. Senior architect David Brown, a 25-year veteran of the company, was resistant to change. He believed that the firm’s traditional methods were the cornerstone of their success. David was joined by project manager Linda Epps, who feared that AI would lead to job losses and undermine the human touch that defined their work.

AI strategy

Despite the internal resistance, Emma decided to invest in generative design software. She chose to introduce it gradually, starting with a few pilot projects to gauge its effectiveness and train the staff. Emma’s strategy was to demonstrate the tangible benefits of AI while addressing the concerns of the skeptics.

The first pilot project was a mid-sized residential complex. Michael and Sarah were tasked with leading the AI integration. They used the generative design software to create multiple design iterations, each optimized for various constraints such as cost, materials, and sustainability. The AI-generated designs were innovative, with unique aesthetic elements that traditional methods might not have considered.

Initial outcomes

The pilot project showed promising results. The design phase was completed 30% faster, and the clients were impressed with the innovative solutions. Emma showcased these results in a company-wide meeting, emphasizing that AI was not replacing human architects but augmenting their capabilities. However, the transition was not without challenges.

David remained unconvinced. He pointed out that the AI-generated designs, while innovative, sometimes lacked the nuanced understanding of context that human architects bring. Linda highlighted the steep learning curve and the initial disruption to workflows. Some junior staff members were overwhelmed by the new technology and needed extensive training.

Addressing the challenges

To address these concerns, Emma implemented several measures. She organized a series of workshops and training sessions led by Michael and Sarah to help staff get comfortable with the new technology. Emma also ensured that there was a clear communication strategy to explain how AI would enhance, not replace, the architects’ work. She emphasized the importance of human oversight in the AI-driven design process.

Emma also took David’s feedback seriously. She encouraged a collaborative approach where AI-generated designs were reviewed and refined by senior architects to ensure they met the firm’s standards. This collaboration helped bridge the gap between traditional methods and AI-driven innovation.

Further integration

Buoyed by the success of the pilot project, Emma expanded the use of generative design software to more projects. One significant project was a commercial complex in the heart of the city. This project posed complex challenges in terms of space optimization, sustainability, and aesthetics. The AI-driven approach allowed the team to explore a wide range of design possibilities quickly.

As the technology became more integrated, some of the initial resistance began to wane. David, initially a staunch skeptic, started to see the value in AI when he realized it allowed him to focus more on the creative aspects of design rather than the repetitive tasks. Linda also acknowledged that the AI-driven project management tools helped streamline workflows and reduce errors, leading to more efficient project completion. And they both started having dinner at reasonable hours, which was not lost on either of them.

Long-term implications

While the integration of AI at TAG has been largely successful, it is an ongoing journey. The firm continues to invest in training and upgrading its AI tools to stay ahead. They also face the challenge of maintaining a balance between AI-driven innovation and the traditional design values that have defined their brand.

Emma is aware that the firm must continuously adapt to the evolving technological landscape. The AI tools need regular updates, and the staff needs ongoing training to keep up with advancements. Additionally, the firm has to manage client perceptions and ensure they understand the value that AI brings to the table.