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Challenges in AI Renders Architecture & How to Overcome Them
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Challenges in AI Renders Architecture & How to Overcome Them

June 17, 2024
Yannic Schwarz

AI Renders in Architecture

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing architectural rendering by making it significantly more time-efficient and enabling architects to iterate design changes more effectively with their clients. AI tools streamline the creation of photorealistic images and animations, cutting down rendering times from hours to mere minutes. This acceleration allows architects to explore different design options rapidly and provide instant visual feedback, fostering a more collaborative and dynamic dialogue with clients. We have already provided a broad overview of the advantages and disadvantages of AI renderings in architecture in this blogpost. If you want to read more about the general implications of AI in architecture, we suggest this article.

However, while AI rendering offers exciting new possibilities for architectural visualization, it also comes with challenges that need to be addressed. Issues like maintaining consistency, achieving precise control over rendering details, and integrating AI tools into existing workflows can pose significant hurdles. Additionally, the resource intensiveness of AI rendering and its ethical implications, such as data privacy and the impact on employment, add layers of complexity to its adoption.

In this blog article, we delve deeper into these challenges of AI renders in architecture, providing insights into both the opportunities and the obstacles this technology brings to the field. Understanding these aspects will help architects and designers navigate the evolving landscape of AI rendering, balancing the promise of efficiency and creativity with the practical considerations for successful implementation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Efficient Visualization: AI rendering speeds up the creation of photorealistic architectural images, turning hours into minutes, enabling swift exploration of design options.

  1. Early Design Communication: AI tools quickly generate detailed renderings from sketches, enhancing early-stage design communication and idea conveyance to clients.

  1. Predictability Challenges: Consistent and accurate AI renderings are challenging, especially for detailed planning, requiring integration with 3D metadata for stable outputs.

  1. Integration and Context: Effective AI tools must integrate with workflows and represent real-world contexts accurately, using BIM and real-world data for precision.

  1. Resource and Sustainability: AI rendering is energy-intensive, necessitating efficient algorithms and renewable energy to minimize environmental impact.

How AI Renders in Architecture Change the Way Architects Communicate

AI renders in architecture are revolutionizing the communication landscape between architects and their clients by making the creation of photorealistic images more accessible and efficient throughout the design process. This transformation is particularly impactful in the first five phases of the German HOAI framework. Since the release of stable diffusion models in 2022, numerous AI tools have emerged that allow architects to generate detailed renderings from early sketches and preliminary plans. These tools act as ideation companions, enabling architects to explore diverse design possibilities and combinations of architectural styles that may not be immediately intuitive. This capability fosters enhanced creativity and allows early design concepts to be communicated more effectively to clients, as renderings can be produced almost instantly. However, the accuracy of these early-stage visualizations can be limited, with potential alterations in geometries and materials due to the reliance on simple 2D inputs. In this blogpost you already find an overview of some AI render solutions that use 2D as inputs.

In the planning stages, particularly in public competitions where detailed visualizations and specific perspectives are required, the challenge for AI renders in architecture is to process and accurately represent complex plans. Many existing solutions struggle with this task, failing to maintain the precision needed to match specific architectural designs. A promising exception is Pelicad, which is developing a solution that integrates 3D metadata and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to guide AI rendering outputs. As 3D-guided AI rendering engines become available, architects will be able to input intricate plans and automatically generate accurate renderings. This advancement will revolutionize phases 2 to 5 by enabling architects to incorporate customer feedback more efficiently through multiple iterations. Direct visualization of design changes will facilitate quicker and more effective client feedback, streamlining the iterative design process. Furthermore, future advancements in AI renders in architecture will include the creation of 3D animations and videos, further enhancing communication and collaboration between architects and clients.

Challenges of AI Renders in Architecture

Predictability & Consistency

AI renders in architecture face significant challenges in producing predictable and consistent results, especially during detailed planning stages. Many 2D AI tools, while useful for initial sketches and 3D plans with flexible geometries, struggle to accurately match specific details such as the exact locations of doors, windows, and materials. This is primarily because these tools rely on simple 2D screenshots and edge detection methods like canny edge detectors to estimate geometries. These estimations are often inadequate for larger scopes, leading to inaccuracies and high standard deviations in guiding the stable diffusion process. Depth maps and normal maps also suffer from similar estimation issues, impacting the rendering accuracy.
Conversely, AI tools using 3D inputs, such as Pelicad, calculate these maps, reducing deviations and enhancing guiding accuracy.

Moreover, consistency issues arise when AI renders in architecture fail to maintain unchanged details across different perspectives or minor design modifications. For instance, changing a material while keeping the overall atmosphere constant can result in unexpected changes in other parameters, leading to frustration. This inconsistency extends to maintaining a consistent style or atmosphere when switching perspectives within the same project, often disrupting lighting, backgrounds, and other details.

To address these challenges, successful AI renders in architecture require stable diffusion models guided by consistent 3D context.

Worthy to mention: these issues have already been addressed by real-time renderings solutions that, although being quite complex and not easy-to-use, give architects the possibility to preview changes in a high-quality real-time 3D environment. Further exploration of real-time rendering engines can be found here.
Thus, AI render tools will also need to offer real-time functionalities in cloud to offer architects a fully operational tool to create all kinds of visualizations. 

Control Over Specific Material & Surrounding Details 

AI renders in architecture often face significant challenges in producing accurate outputs for materials and surroundings, which are crucial during the later stages of planning and designing. In these phases, architects frequently iterate material choices for both exteriors and interiors in collaboration with clients. Precise visualizations of materials are essential for managing customer expectations and ensuring design fidelity. While real-time rendering engines allow architects to test and adjust materials on live 3D models, achieving exact matches often requires manual work in tools like Adobe Photoshop. Conversely, 2D AI render engines lack the capability to adjust materials effectively, relying instead on prompts or reference images. This approach frequently results in inaccurate outputs due to inherent predictability issues in 2D rendering methods.

Architects expect visualization tools to accurately reproduce complex material patterns, shapes, and textures. The increased use of Building Information Modeling (BIM), which includes detailed material and texture data, adds another layer of complexity. Currently, all 2D AI render tools fail to incorporate this detailed information, making them unsuitable for later design stages where precise material representation is crucial. 

Additionally, 2D AI render engines struggle to accurately depict real-world surroundings. Most buildings are not isolated but situated among neighboring structures, landmarks, or other significant features. Typically, architects manually integrate this context into 3D scenes using real-time rendering engines or add 2D images of the surroundings from matching perspectives, often captured by drone photography. These manual methods yield accurate results, but 2D AI render tools lack the functionality to adjust within a 3D scene or offer viable alternatives for surrounding context, necessitating further manual edits in Photoshop.

Compatibility and Integration 

Integrating 2D AI renders in architecture into established architectural planning workflows, particularly those using Industry Foundation Classes (IFC) files, poses significant challenges. Architectural planning is a complex, multilayered process involving specific customer requirements, intricate material and asset integrations, and sustainability considerations. Traditionally, these tasks are managed using 3D models enriched with metadata, known as IFC files. These models encapsulate detailed information about geometry, materials, and spatial relationships, which are crucial for accurate project visualization and planning.

Optimally, AI render tools in architecture should seamlessly integrate with IFC files to leverage this rich dataset. However, most 2D AI render tools lack the capability to process the detailed 3D information contained in IFC files. As a result, they fall short in delivering precise and contextually accurate renderings that reflect the complexities of modern architectural projects. This shortfall not only limits their utility in advanced planning stages but also necessitates manual updates. Material and asset changes made through 2D AI renders must be manually reflected back into the IFC files, adding extra steps to the workflow that are prone to errors and inconsistencies.

Emerging tools, such as Pelicad, are attempting to address these integration issues by enabling AI rendering engines to process 3D information directly from IFC files. This approach promises to enhance the accuracy and utility of AI renders in architecture by ensuring that all relevant project details are considered.

Despite these integration challenges, many 2D AI render tools offer notable benefits, particularly their availability in the cloud. This cloud-based access simplifies the rendering process, allowing architects to use AI tools without the need for powerful local hardware. Cloud-based tools facilitate easier access from various locations and enable simultaneous collaboration on projects, which is less feasible with traditional 3D real-time or rasterization render engines that typically run locally. However, while cloud availability provides flexibility and accessibility, it does not resolve the fundamental issue of integrating 3D data from IFC files into the rendering process. To truly enhance architectural planning workflows, AI renders in architecture must evolve to incorporate 3D guidance and IFC integration in cloud effectively.  

Resource Intensiveness & Sustainability

Artificial Intelligence (AI) computing can transform architecture by accelerating the rendering of complex CAD plans. However, this progress brings substantial challenges in resource intensiveness and sustainability. The information provided was partly derived from an article of Kelly Barner (2024) in “The surging Problem of AI Energy Consumption” and “The Hidden Cost of AI Images: How Generating One Could Power Your Fridge for Hours” by Michael Cengkuru (2023) on Medium. The information is subject to change, so please double check numbers when using them for other communication or calculations. 

AI's energy consumption is notable; generating one AI-rendered image can use between 0.01 to 0.29 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, akin to running a refrigerator for half an hour. The environmental impact is significant, with AI models like ChatGPT processing 200 million requests daily, consuming over half a million kWh per day—equivalent to powering more than 17,000 U.S. homes daily. Data centers, crucial for AI computations, contribute 1 to 1.5 percent of global electricity use due to their energy-demanding GPUs, which require 10–15 times more energy than traditional CPUs and demand additional energy for cooling.

In architecture, AI aids in rapid and accurate CAD plan rendering, necessitating robust models that consume substantial energy. Handling large datasets and processing imagery intensifies energy demands. Sustainable AI practices are crucial, involving the development of energy-efficient algorithms, use of renewable energy for data centers, and optimization of workflows to reduce energy consumption without compromising quality. Embracing energy-efficient practices and ethical guidelines will be pivotal in maximizing AI's benefits while minimizing its environmental footprint.

The overall energy consumption will increase in the upcoming years also due to the necessity to process 3D metadata to adequately guide the stable diffusion models. Sourcing this energy from renewable sources will likely pose immense challenges to meet the global net zero goals until 2050.

How to Overcome Challenges in AI Renders in Architecture

AI is transforming architectural rendering by enabling the swift generation of photorealistic images from complex CAD plans, significantly enhancing design processes and client collaboration. However, AI rendering also introduces challenges in resource consumption, consistency, and workflow integration. Pelicad addresses these issues with innovative solutions, providing architects with efficient, accurate, and sustainable AI rendering capabilities.

Efficiency in Architectural Rendering

Pelicad leverages AI to streamline the creation of architectural renderings directly from within a 3D scene. By integrating stable diffusion outputs with accurate 3D calculations, Pelicad ensures that renderings reflect precise geometries and design elements, reducing the time required for architects to generate detailed visualizations. This capability allows architects to rapidly iterate design changes and obtain immediate visual feedback, facilitating a more dynamic and effective dialogue with clients. Pelicad's cloud-based platform further enhances efficiency by reducing hardware requirements, enabling architects to access powerful rendering tools from any location and collaborate in real-time with clients and stakeholders.

Predictability and Consistency

Achieving consistency in AI rendering is crucial, particularly when dealing with complex architectural designs. Pelicad enhances predictability by incorporating 3D metadata into its stable diffusion models, allowing for consistent rendering of specific details such as doors, windows, and materials across multiple scenes. By remembering outputs from previous render scenes and using calculated 3D meta descriptions, Pelicad ensures that visualizations remain consistent, even when design modifications occur.

Integration and Realistic Surroundings

Pelicad seamlessly integrates with existing architectural planning workflows, utilizing BIM metadata to enhance rendering accuracy. The platform supports direct use of IFC files, allowing architects to incorporate detailed information about geometry, materials, and spatial relationships into their renderings. Adjustments made during the rendering process are automatically reflected in the IFC file, streamlining the workflow and reducing the potential for manual errors. Pelicad also facilitates the addition of realistic surroundings by integrating 3D models from Google Maps, enriching the rendered environment and providing architects with a comprehensive visualization of their projects within real-world contexts.

Advanced Material Handling

To address the challenge of accurately rendering materials, Pelicad includes a neuronal material creator that generates precise 3D materials from reference images. This feature enables architects to achieve accurate visualizations of complex material patterns, shapes, and textures, enhancing the fidelity of their designs.

Conclusion

AI rendering revolutionizes architectural visualization by drastically reducing the time to produce photorealistic images, enhancing design iteration, and improving client communication. Despite challenges in consistency, material accuracy, workflow integration, and energy consumption, innovations like Pelicad's 3D metadata integration promise more efficient and precise renderings, supporting sustainable architectural practices.


If you want to have a broader overview about the implications of AI in architecture, please visit this blog article. More insights about the world of renderings can be found in this article.

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