Ami Nigam on the importance of technology in driving design innovation

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Contact Ami Nigam, Head of Technology

We recently welcomed Ami Nigam as new our Head of Technology. Here, Ami answers questions about his role, his global influences, and the importance of technology in driving design innovation.

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Can you tell us about your new role at Benoy?

For many architecture firms, technology is a relatively new phenomenon. But for Benoy, it’s becoming absolutely central. In my new role, I’m working with senior leadership in EMEA to facilitate a top-down approach to technology and drive innovation in a systematic manner. We are broadly focused on engaging with sustainability, optimize our project workflows and engage with data on various levels. As a creative, commercially driven company, we have an opportunity to engage with data in a way that few companies can. And this unique, forward-looking role is all about using meaningful technology to enhance our design processes, validate and enhance our design decisions.

In essence, I’m looking at how we can use technology to automate the design process and increase efficiencies. I’m looking at how we can use data analytics, capture live data as we’re designing buildings, and leverage what this data tells us about projects as they evolve. One of my key objectives is to ensure we’re designing in smarter platforms that carry data from design models to delivery models, enabling us to design for longer, iterate more and test multiple ideas.

How can technology drive design innovation and value at Benoy?

By introducing new and sophisticated software, we’re looking to enhance our design intelligence capabilities. We’re using analytics and building information modelling (BIM) to explore how we can better engage with clients through the creation of dashboards and moving images. Technology is key to presenting work in a more exciting and informative way; it can help us make a compelling business case for design ideas and create powerful visuals that provide project insights, generating value for the client. 

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For example, we’ve been using Power BI, an interactive data visualisation software product, on an increasing number of jobs. This kit enables us to create truly dynamic dashboards that help clients understand the efficiency gains and gross leasable areas linked to specific design options. Compared to a static Excel spreadsheet, this approach gives the client a complete picture of a building’s potential. 

Click here to see an example of the Live Dashboard.

We’re also focused on establishing a culture of innovation at Benoy. I’ve been working to identify technology champions within different teams, and collaborating with these champions to really push the tech agenda. We’ve set up a technology focus group that brings our champions together on a weekly basis. It’s a hackathon, of sorts; we share new ideas, try out new tools, and help each other solve problems from different projects. 

I should add that within the tech team we’re always looking for new talent and we’re always on the lookout for tech-savvy architects to enhance our teams more generally. 

How can technology advance sustainability in urban design?

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The software we’re introducing enables our teams to really engage with sustainability. If we’re designing a mall in Dubai, we can use data to assess peak daytime temperatures. We can determine how much sunlight different parts of a building are exposed to, how the wind moves around the structure. Do we need to increase shading? Do we need to let in more light? What are the implications for energy efficiency? We can address these questions now in ways that weren’t possible a few years ago. And we can design in a more sophisticated manner in response to the knowledge we gain.

What’s exciting is being able to receive sustainability feedback in real time. So, if a designer changes a shape or angle within a building, they receive data telling them what the sustainability implications are. What’s more, through our collaboration with Benoy’s sister company, Pragma, we can begin to put hard numbers behind sustainability performance. The way we analyse spaces, and our ability to demonstrate value quantitatively, can help clients understand the social and environmental gains a project could generate. It’s an absolute gamechanger.

Can you describe your professional journey to date?

I originally studied as an architect in the UK, then moved to Beijing where I co-founded and ran a small design collective. It was during this time that I really got into tech, essentially bringing ideas from architecture and exploring the use of technology in different contexts. We experimented applying tech to fashion, food and installations. We even 3D-printed items of clothing. 

After Beijing I studied in Barcelona, where I completed a master’s degree in modern construction methods – looking at computational design, BIM, programming and sustainability. I then moved to Hong Kong, where I worked for a Dutch architectural practice called UNStudio. I think at this point I evolved from being an architect who works with technology to a technologist with a background in architecture, and it was this evolution that brought me back to the UK

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Process, not product, is the key – it goes to the core of innovation.

Ami Nigam, Head of Technology

How do your global experiences influence your present work?

My past roles enabled me to work across a range of sectors and typologies. At UNStudio, I focused on designing building façades using parametric software and sustainability approaches, which naturally led me deeper into technology and automation. In particular, I looked at how to bridge design and technical delivery. This work laid the foundations for what I’m doing now, with a focus on architecture and landscape, interior design and master planning. Essentially, it’s about bringing what I’ve learned to bear on the processes we’re developing here at Benoy. 

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Image 1 Ami QA v2
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Image 3 Solar Analysis
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