Comment: The significance of AI and sustainability for A&E companies in 2024

Key to the agenda of Architecture and Engineering (A&E) firms, 2024 will see AI and sustainability touch upon every part of the business, says Neil Davidson, group vice president, Deltek.


Looking ahead, A&E firms are poised to optimise project tracking and profitability through technology and aligning projects with financial objectives. The industry envisions a future where resilience, growth, and profitability are intertwined, shaped by the strategic fusion of technology and A&E practices. Here I’ll drill into some key predictions for 2024 trends.

AI and Automation across the business

With AI and automation entering the A&E sector, the year ahead holds huge opportunities for firms. To date, AI and approaches such as digital twins and generative design, has enabled A&E firms to be more informed, more productive, and more profitable, and this is set to continue into 2024. Our recent report revealed that 92 per cent of A&E firms currently believe that if they fail to make significant progress in their digital transformation, they will lose market share. And with this in mind, I expect to see investment in emerging technologies continuing to rise in the sector.

There will be challenges to adoption and the transition will require understanding, however companies that effectively utilise AI and automation in their processes will see greater efficiency and sustainability. For example, by automating data-based decision making, firms can streamline processes and free up employees from mundane workloads to concentrate on more strategic and creative tasks and their customers.

ESG prominence to remaining competitive

Alongside the increased use of AI, we’ll also see firms putting a greater emphasis on their environmental efforts. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities will be high on the agenda of all business leaders in 2024. As such, it’s not surprising that heightened environmental and sustainability consciousness has been identified as a key challenge for nearly half (46 per cent) of firms over the next five years. Going into the year ahead, firms can address this by looking at accelerating changes in this area, for example by reviewing and aligning with the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.

Digital Technology key to growth success

Projects are changing, but so are the project-management tools and technologies available to help firms to navigate uncertainty. The key is putting investment in the areas of the business that will enact meaningful change. The Digital Trends Unwrapped: Tech Powering Architecture and Engineering Project Success in 2024 report for example, revealed that 40 per cent of A&E businesses will prioritise new technology investments for long-term resilience next year. Further, nearly half (44 per cent) of engineering firms are eyeing IT infrastructure as the top investment.

The data also suggests that, in 2024, the A&E sector will emphasise technology integration for tracking KPIs. Current stats reveal low confidence, with one in five tracking operating profit poorly however advanced technologies will significantly improve KPI management, offering enhanced visibility with refined and real-time insights.

Digital transformation journeys will ramp up

42 per cent of engineering and 33 per cent of architecture firms are in the advanced stages of their DX journey. Even for those in earlier phases, like the 38 per cent of architecture firms in the exploration phase, a strong ambition for digital transformation is evident.

The sector collectively understands the impact of digital transformation on market share, with 92 per cent from the study foreseeing losses without substantial progress. Whilst this is a gradual journey, we will see the speed of innovation pick up as firms leverage these new technological opportunities, see organisational success, and create a virtuous circle.

Neil Davidson, group vice president, Deltek