Kashif Dafedar: Pushing the Boundaries of Traditional Design Practices

Kashif Dafedar, Design Technology Specialist at CallisonRTKL

For the past few decades, technology has been revolutionizing the architectural design space. By leveraging technology, many architects are experimenting and pursuing new horizons in design. They are harnessing emerging technologies to bring transformational design solutions to the table. One such tech-savvy architect is Kashif Dafedar, the Design Technology Specialist at CallisonRTKL.

At CRTKL, Kashif is responsible for digital interventions in design processes and works with project teams to enhance and optimize existing workflows. He has always been adept at most architectural tools and their supportive programming platforms. His passion and proficiency reflect in his work.

We at CIO Look reached out to Kashif in our endeavor to find Most Influential Business Leaders in Tech to know more about his journey and how he has created an impact in the AEC industry through his expertise.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at CallisonRTKL. What challenges you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

Before I started working as a digital technology specialist, I had the opportunity to work on many planning and architectural projects. My exposure to the diverse collection of project types was critical in my current understanding of design and technological interventions in the AEC industry.

While I have always been adept at digital technologies and would easily understand concepts like BIM, visual scripting, and programming, this affinity towards digital, coupled with my experience on complex design projects, pushed me towards a career in design technology.

One of the critical factors in my reaching the level I have today is the guidance and support of the CRTKL leadership. While most design managers encourage digital tinkering, very few understand translating prototypical ideas into viable design delivery. We go beyond that at our firm, and I have been fortunate to work with enthusiastic mentors about digital integration; here, I am encouraged to innovate and push the boundaries of conventional design practices.

The journey here has been quite exhilarating, mainly because these are relatively new sets of responsibilities within the AEC industry and the frontier for digital innovation is exceptionally complex. The learning never stops, as opportunities to learn from one’s failures are balanced with occasional epiphanies and successes that make it all worthwhile.

Tell us something more about your company and its mission and vision.

CRTKL is a global architecture, planning, and design practice, which began over seven decades ago and has evolved into a cultural agency to advance positive outcomes in our communities.

Ours is a multicultural, multi-generational team situated across 18 offices worldwide that work as one bringing together a diverse range of skills that advance project outcomes and improve their social and environmental impact. As curious thinkers and changemakers, we face the challenges of this world and are ready to ask the questions that hold others back.

Development initiatives in the Middle East, Europe, and the globe captivate our collective imaginations – we know what is possible and seek to build a more equitable future for our people and our planet.

We embrace digital transformation and all it can do to enhance our design. With strong in-house capabilities and pioneering research and development programs, we harness its power with incredible speed and efficiency to offer up the best solutions to meet our clients’ complex challenges.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the Architecture & Planning niche through your expertise in the market?

Data has become the most valuable commodity in the world. It is no different in the AEC industry, with a huge amount of data generated throughout the project’s lifecycle. Unfortunately, conventional design processes are not built to leverage this data effectively. Architectural design processes are very classical – while we use computers, the overall process is still very analog.

Where many in the industry still rely on conventional delivery formats like CADs, PDFs, and in a few instances, BIM models, at CRTKL, we are conscious of the benefits of integrating design data into our projects. Apart from the building data found in our BIM, we also provide custom tools that help understand contextual, climatic, and post-occupancy usage data. We are fortunate to work with clients who understand the importance of this insight and the potential value gained throughout the entire lifecycle of their projects.

This is perhaps the best time to invest in integrated practices. The plethora of tools available in the market now can transform the AEC industry for the better and it is up to us to seize the opportunity. I am proud to be part of the team leading that effort at CRTKL.

If given a chance, what change would you like to bring to the Design Technology industry?

Technological advancements in the construction industry have paved the way for us to undertake increasingly complex projects and deliver them faster with improved profit margins. Using advanced modelling techniques, we can put together projects that would otherwise be impossible to build.

What I would like to see now is the application of these tools to target climate positive outcomes and greater social impact. From improved operational efficiencies to new construction methodologies and buildings that feed and fuel their communities, l, I believe the technology we have at our disposal can steer the AEC industry towards a greener future where our buildings and cities are optimised and able to give back. My mission is to help drive this; I want to apply my knowledge to enable more responsible architecture.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for CallisonRTKL?

CRTKL’s vision provides a total commitment to sustainability. It establishes a digital-first culture where technology and data empower our people, and research-based insights enrich our internal processes and client-facing solutions. I am very fortunate to be working alongside individuals who align with these values and are committed to improving the profession and the way we live, work, and play with the help of technology. The digital transformation initiatives at CRTKL empower us with the tools and knowledge needed to deliver on this and instill in us a desire to do and build better.

I see CRTKL as a cultural agency that can provide specialised design solutions that prioritise health and wellbeing, without compromising quality, sustainability, cost, or time. There is still much to be done to reach the goals and ambitions we’ve laid out here and I see myself as an integral part of this process and the ongoing integration of digital technology in design.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the Design sector?

Good architecture and design are fundamental to the health and wellbeing of our planet. The requirements for conscious and responsible designs are incredibly dire. Anyone aspire to work within the design sector should take seriously the responsibility to correct course and transform the built environment into a vehicle for positive environmental and societal change. Technology and digital innovation will be critical to this, so upskill in these areas if you want to effect change and future-proof your position in the sector. In short, don’t wait.

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