9 Ways Architects and Engineers Can Use ChatGPT to Work Smarter

automation effective architect Feb 02, 2023

Architects and engineers are often faced with a range of tasks that require a high level of expertise, not to mention attention to detail. And let's not forget that many of these tasks are often time-consuming. Fortunately, ChatGPT is here to help! Using its large language model trained by OpenAI, ChatGPT can be an invaluable tool for AEC professionals looking to work more efficiently and effectively. So how can we best make use of this new tool? Here are the 9 ways you can use ChatGPT in your daily work:


1. Design Assistance

Looking for some precedents for your project type or a particular material application? Ask ChatGPT! Entering "what are some examples of tall buildings that incorporate wood in the exterior facade" yielded a list of six buildings, most of which I'd never heard of. Likewise, ask ChatGPT "how much space is needed for a classroom containing a teacher and 20 students in an elementary school in Connecticut". What's interesting is that ChatGPT provides a detailed explanation with its response so you can understand the logic as well as make adjustments if needed.


2. Cost Estimating

ChatGPT can be useful when you need to generate schematic cost estimates. For example, you can ask ChatGPT "what is the cost of building a 2,500 SF single-family home in Southern California". You can also ask it for materials and labor in specific regions. Or use it to get an estimate of other project expenses, such as permits and inspections. While ChatGPT will only give you ballpark figures, it's often enough to get you started. While it's unlikely that this technology will replace an experienced estimator (at least for now), it does provide you with concise answers and saves time over Googling and reviewing a bunch of different website sites.


3. Rendering and Visualization

AI image generation tools like DALLE-2 and MindJourney are very effective at producing visualizations using natural language prompts. For example, you can ask DALLE-2 to produce a series of images depicting different material choices throughout different times of the day. Or ask it to generate different window patterns along a brick wall. Want to see some options for specific building geometry? That's where EvolveLab's Veras comes in. This Revit add-in uses images from your model as the basis for further development in an AI-based image generation tool. It's very fast and provides some interesting results. Check out this article for a more detailed review of Veras.


4. Code Compliance

As much as I love UpCodes, ChatGPT can provide (mostly) accurate and detailed building code information simply by asking it questions. For example, typing "what are the accessibility requirements for commercial buildings in California" will result in a checklist of accessibility items. It's not an exhaustive list but will prompt you to ask more detailed questions like "what kind of accessibility signage is required for commercial buildings in California". Will this technology replace code consultants? Definitely not. But ChatGPT makes it easier and faster for professionals to identify the code issues they need to address.


5. Energy Analysis

ChatGPT can be used to create quick predictive models of a building's energy use based on various design and operating scenarios. Using the text-based interface, you can enter the location, insulation values, heating system, and desired indoor temperature. ChatGPT will output energy use estimates. While no substitute for a detailed energy model, the ease and speed with which it can generate an estimate makes it a useful method for quickly testing scenarios. 


6. Taking Notes

If you hate writing meeting minutes as much as I do, you're in luck. ChatGPT won't transcribe video recordings but you can use tools such as Rev to do this. Once you have the transcription, paste it into ChatGPT's window and ask it for a summary of action items or a list of key points. can assist you by transcribing audio and video recordings. What's more, it can then summarize key points and identify action items from the meeting transcription.


7. Writing Emails

Do you need to write an email but you keep putting it off? Ask ChatGPT to write it for you. The tool will provide you with a decent rough draft that you can then massage into something better. I often find a blank screen to be daunting, particularly if I'm procrastinating. It's MUCH easier to edit than to create from scratch so I simply enter an overview of what the email should say and let ChapGPT do the rest. I then copy and paste the text into a blank email and edit away. It's a great way to get started and saves a lot of time.


8. Researching

This is one area where ChatGPT really excels. Simply ask your question and it will provide you with information and ideas in a matter of seconds. For example, to start this article I entered "what are 10 ways architects and engineers can use ChatGPT to be more efficient". It came up with a list of (mostly) interesting ideas. Were they fully flushed out? Nope. Was it particularly well written? Definitely not. But it was enough to get me started and keep me going. That's a win in my book.


9. Generating Code

If you're a Dynamo user, ChatGPT can give you a definite leg up. Check out this article by John Pierson on how he used ChatGPT to generate Python code for Dynamo. As he found out, some knowledge of Python and the Revit API is still required, but it did write a lot of decent code. The same goes for writing Excel formulas, particularly those pesky nested formulas. Ask ChatGPT and it will generate it for you. Paste it into Excel and you're good to go. Easy!



One of the key benefits of using ChatGPT is the ability to save time and increase productivity. The key is to find ways to leverage the technology to your advantage. Will it do your schematic cost estimate or programming spreadsheet for you? Definitely not. Not everything it comes up with is 100% accurate or appropriate to your situation. But it can provide you with a good starting point. Instead of spending hours searching for information or trying to come up with new ideas, ChatGPT can provide the information and ideas you need in a matter of seconds. Additionally, ChatGPT's ability to understand natural language inputs means that you don't have to waste time trying to figure out the right way to phrase a question or task. Just enter your question, get the results, revise

Given the interest and excitement ChatGPT has generated, it's clear this technology is going to impact all of us. And while it's unlikely that ChatGPT or AI is going to take your job, it's increasingly likely that a person supercharged with AI could come for your job. Again, the key is learning how to leverage the technology to your benefit. 

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