In a Q&A following the presentation on Flux earlier this month by its co-founder Jen Carlile, the first audience member to pose a question summed up the general reaction - “Holy crap!”
But what do others in the sector think about Flux’s idea of “auto-generated” buildings, encoded with the rules and data-sets that allow them to design themselves in response to their location?
Architect and digital enthusiast Elrond Burrell, associate at Architype, said that he had looked at the Flux Metro app, now launched for the city of Austin, Texas.
He said: “Actually, it’s not about busting BIM - it’s about enabling early stage design in a much more intelligent way. It’s about bringing planning and development conditions into a graphic interface. It has the rules on issues like density, or rights of light, complex rules on set-backs - it gives you all that stuff."
On the Carlile’s KeenCon presentation, he commented: “They said some fairly ambitious things - that if you set up a bunch of algorithms it gives you a building based on those. If you take it that far, that’s a lot of professionals out of a job! But I think the reality is that it will mean more access to information and less time wading through codes and requirements."
His analogy was the current situation on architecture and QSing. “At the moment, an architect can run out a schedule of components and prices, but that doesn’t mean we can replace QSs - it’s about having expertise and professional judgement.”
If the Austin trial is successful, Burrell anticipated that Flux could roll out the location-based app to other cities very quickly. “If you think of the time from launching Google Maps, to having Streetview incorporated in them, it was very fast.”
He suggested that a London version could incorporate the GLA’s requirements on affordable housing and renewable energy, as well as BREEAM criteria. “There’s nothing comparable on the market.”
But Randy Deutsch, a BIM commentator and blogger from the USA and associate professor in the school of architecture at University of Illinois, felt that Flux and Google were under-playing the human input and flair needed to design successful buildings, and were being less than open about their commercial goals.
In his blog at at bimandintegrateddeign.com, he writes: “Flux asks: What if there was a standard library where people could build upon the work of others, as opposed to solving the same problems over and over again? We already have that technology: it’s called the human mind and memory.
“I think the population growth storyline and Mother Nature metaphor don’t mask the underlying opportunity to best greedy developers at their own game by charging for this software as a service (SaaS.)”