NEW YORK – Microdesk, a leading provider of business and technology consulting services to help firms successfully plan, design, build and operate land and buildings, unveiled its annual list of architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) industry predictions for 2014 at Autodesk University. The top three predictions highlight advancements and perception shifts around technology, public engagement and building processes that will culminate to bolster U.S. infrastructure.

After a year that saw both strides in technology and setbacks to U.S. infrastructure, Microdesk predicts that 2014 will be a pivotal year in which the foundation will be laid for a major industry overhaul. The technological tools are available, and in 2014 firms will employ innovative and creative tactics to solve everyday infrastructure problems such as the nation’s aging roads and bridges. As Microdesk revealed in its 2013 "State of the Industry" survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults, 95 percent of Americans fear risks to the nation’s infrastructure. That said, with the promotion of ideas such as Autodesk’s Smart Cities, Elon Musk’s Hyperloop and Google’s Driverless Cars, it is clear the industry is at a turning point and must prepare for these breakthrough ideas that are likely to become reality by 2020.

Based on its survey findings and AECO industry expertise, Microdesk predicts the top trends and necessary vehicles for change in 2014 and beyond will include:

Proliferation of “futuristic” technologies: Staying ahead of innovation

90 percent of Americans agree technology plays an integral role in improving U.S. infrastructure. As Microdesk envisioned in its 2013 Industry Predictions, significant strides were made over the past year in terms of adoption of mobile devices for design, construction and facilities management and cloud computing for collaboration and improved workflows throughout the project lifecycle. Industry players that do not adopt these technologies in 2014 face losing project bids and isolating themselves from "futuristic" technologies that by 2020 will be realities. Beyond driverless cars, these include Google Glass and 3D printing, which we anticipate will have important implications for the development of efficient, cost-effective and manageable infrastructure in the future.

Universality of public engagement: Becoming infrastructure intelligent
The age of the nation’s infrastructure makes the country more susceptible to devastation in the occurrence of natural disasters and normal wear and tear. Without proper government funding for construction, maintenance and repair, in 2014 the AECO industry will make a concerted push to employ technologies such as simulation and fabrication for smarter, more efficient design processes that in turn will revitalize the nation’s existing infrastructure. With the movement towards smarter cities, which, according to Fast Company are more efficient, optimize existing infrastructure and "break down bureaucracy in order to stimulate a creative, entrepreneurial economy," we predict the penetration of gamification in the AECO industry to make both professionals and citizens fully intelligent about the buildings they’re in and roads they’re driving on.

Necessity of building standards: Driving adoption at the owner, developer level

While adoption of advanced technologies such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) is accelerating, the need to reduce construction costs and do more with limited funds will prompt further adoption. 75 percent of Americans agree that government attention in the form of laws is needed to improve infrastructure quality. Certain cities have adopted BIM standards to drive improvements in design and management, though the industry is still largely in an education phase on uses and benefits of BIM. In the absence of government mandates, owners are now acting as drivers for change, using BIM to streamline construction and facilities management. In 2014, this trend will extend to developers of urban projects and large corporations, prompting a bottom-up movement that will then move to more of the nation’s cities.

"The AECO industry is at a turning point, where it is more important than ever to keep an open minded view of the opportunities that technology provides to create collaborative and efficient processes in the development of key infrastructure," said Michael DeLacey, president of Microdesk. "There are both big opportunities and serious challenges on the horizon. We predict that 2014 will be a pivotal year in which the groundwork will be laid for significant breakthroughs, including the possibility of driverless cars on our nation’s highways within the next 6 years. The need for funding and government leadership to establish the infrastructure required to support these advancements is critical."