Career Advice

IR4.0: The Future of Jobs and How AEC Students Should Prepare for It

Published by on Aug 10, 2020, 02:49 pm

When steam engines first took over the manufacturing industry, we called it the first industrial revolution.

When electricity, gas and oil emerged almost a century later, it was the second industrial revolution – and it took the world by storm as things were manufactured at a quicker pace, alongside ideas and news being widely spread through newspapers, the radio and telegraph.

And by the time third industrial revolution came, we were using electronics and computers in our daily lives which led to the increasing automation of manufacturing and the disruption of industries including banking, energy, and communications.


Now, a new era is dawning upon us

Thanks to cyber-physical systems, we are moving at a pace no one has seen before. Offering a more comprehensive and interlinked approach to manufacturing, the fourth industrial revolution (also known as IR4.0) connects the physical world with both digital and biological – leading to a revolution of “smart” technology.

IR4.0 is a world where literally everything is seamlessly connected thanks to advanced technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), real-time data processing, and 5G.


Basically, IR4.0 optimizes the computerization of IR3.0

And with such a revolutionary era at our door, things will inevitably change – including the way we work.

If you haven’t heard, the World Economic Forum predicted that 65% of primary students today will pursue jobs that have not existed yet. Even more surprising is that a 2015 Australian research estimated 60% of young people were studying or training for occupations where at least two-thirds of jobs will be automated by the next decade or so – a waste of resources and time for all parties involved.


With how fast everything is going these days, we cannot afford to waste time.

So, join us as we delve into how IR4.0 is changing each industry and the ways future graduates like you can prepare for it.

The future for AEC Industry:

AEC stands for Architecture, Engineering and Construction. This industry requires the architect, engineer, and construction team to collaborate together to bring a project to completion using advanced technology. Check out the top trends in the AEC industry today:

BIM Technology

Now that AEC projects are getting more complex and ambitious, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is set to help industry professionals work effectively and efficiently. But what exactly is BIM?

BIM is an intelligent model-based process that allows multiple stakeholders and industry professionals to collaborate and design a building using 3D technology. BIM is advanced – its ability to store physical and functional data means AEC professionals can design and build better, safer infrastructure in short periods. Plus, its data is also actionable! Since everything is connected, the data can be used to improve accuracy and knowledge transfer from stakeholder to stakeholder, as well as reducing change orders and field coordination problems. BIM can also provide insight into existing buildings for maintenance and renovation projects in the future!

An example of an infrastructure build by BIM technology is Statoil Regional and International Offices, Norway.

3D Printed houses

Now this is only the tip of the iceberg for 3D technology in AEC. Thanks to IR4.0, the impossible is suddenly possible – 3D printing buildings are an actual thing and for really good reasons. With 3D printing technology, construction work is claimed to be both cost and time effective.

Production time will be dramatically cut down simply because machines just work faster than humans. 3D printers are 100% automated, reducing the need for human labour just as long as the right algorithm is keyed in the machine. And since we no longer need human labour to get the job done, this greatly cuts down the cost. The use of lattice and recycled materials in construction means another huge cost reduction.

Virtual Reality (VR)

It’s not just 3D technology that’s changing the architecture and construction game for good. With the help of Virtual Reality (VR), architects can immerse themselves in the construction process sequence by interacting real time with models, moving the elements, changing texture, interacting with simulations and access a panel with vital information about the building.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In AEC, AI is set to help architects maintain and repair homes, using machine-learning algorithms to make accurate predictions of what exactly needs to be done. This was proven in Zaanstad, Netherlands, where AI helped architects predict which foundations are in need of immediate repair. The AI’s prediction was based on over 135 million data records regarding the building’s history, infrastructure, weather patterns, and satellite data.

Sustainable future

This advanced technological phase we’re gradually shifting to is also a great initiative to a more sustainable approach in architecture and construction. New materials such as hydroceramics (cooling systems in bricks) and bioMASON bricks (bricks that you can grow in ambient temperatures) are leaping efforts to protect the environment! Now, architects have the perfect tools to create the sustainable future they envision.


What Future AEC Professionals Need to Learn Now

To be an AEC professional of the future, you need to be familiar with the technology.

For the future architects,

A Virtual Reality Design Lab (VRDL) – image taken from VR Design

In the US, a number of universities have started to integrate advanced technology in the teachings of architecture. The University of Minnesota is running a Virtual Reality Design Lab (VRDL) in their design faculty’s building, encouraging their design team to utilise these trending technologies.

The Northwestern University, meanwhile, is offering “PROJ_MGT 439: Integrating VR/AR/MR with Design and Construction” in collaboration with the McCormick School of Engineering. This course specifically teaches students how these technologies can be employed in the AEC industry throughout a project’s full lifecycle.

For us distant learners, EdX offers an online course, Realistic Architectural 3D Modelling. Using Blender, a free and open source tool for 3D modelling, students can learn basic concepts of Architectural Visualization such as rigid modelling, soft modelling, cycles render engine, cycles materials, cycles shaders, and texturing and light settings. This online course takes place for four weeks, but students are free to self-pace on their own time.

But technology isn’t everything to be an architect! Now that sustainable architecture and construction is possible, you can also focus specifically on studying sustainable building design online, where you can explore key scientific principles, technologies, and analysis techniques for designing comfortable indoor environments while reducing energy use and associated climate change effects for a period of 13 weeks.

For aspiring engineers,


The BIM engineer - image taken from Bimengineer 

BIM engineering is a new sub-set of engineering specifically for the AEC industry. A BIM engineer works with the engineering team of a project, fully using their up-to-date technical knowledge of BIM software. Their knowledge is essential for the crucial design decisions in order to access the full benefits that BIM software can provide to a project.

In Malaysia, you can attend myBIM’s Affordable BIM Training (ABT). This ABT programme aims to help contractors, architects, engineers, and surveyors to learn the process of implementing the BIM process including the usage of tools and managing the construction site by using the knowledge of BIM. As a student, you can enrol in their BIM Concept & Theory course to explore this new technology. 

In a fast paced world like today,

It’s vital that we try to keep up less we want to be left behind in the race. That means for students, we need to equip ourselves with relevant knowledge and skills that will be in-demand in the future.

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