Friday 31 January 2020

The Shape of Things to Come (for Architecture)

Technology is breaking the Survival Rule of Threes.  This lists out our basic needs as humans.  We can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 hours without shelter, and 3 minutes without air, but not one moment without wifi!

The Survival Rule of Threes
Technology is changing the world at an incredible rate.  It is not easy to see how progress will change our lives and what it will do for architecture but there are definitely structures in place which point towards how it will affect us in the future.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been developing rapidly and is becoming a natural and organic part of our lives,   AI allows us to interact efficiently with our environment but also has the power to control and direct our environment.

Robotics and Automation advances promise opportunities for groups of items to work together more efficiently.  Developments will take the form of automated systems and robots working independently of humans, and collaborative robots (Cobots) where machines and humans interact in shared workspaces.  Advances in lightweight, mobile power sources supports these advances.

The 5G Network promises an explosion of what we can do to access and control items on 'the internet of things'.  3GPP focuses on industrial applications to improve on connectivity within factory buildings.  5G promises flexible mass-scale connectivity to the worlds of manufacturing, industry and logistics.  The label 'Industry 4.0' is used to describe the smart factory.

AI, 5G networks and automation creates a powerful structure representing the next wave of technological developments which will affect our lives over the next decade.  Beyond this and longer term, other developments on the horizon include quantum computing, blockchain, nanotechnology and genetics bringing even more radical developments and integrating the structures above.  Nuralink for example is working to directly link the human brain with computers, connected to globally networked AI.

The Shape of Things to Come

What does this mean for Architecture and the built environment?   For example, we can connect current technological developments in BIM (Building Information Modelling) and BMS (Building Management System) servicing agreements with the bigger picture of AI, network and automation.  It's not a stretch to see how BIM could be used in the service life of buildings to monitor and manage building and services assets, and call up orders for replacements when required.  Likewise, advances in network technologies will enable much greater connection and control of buildings by facilities management companies via their BMS systems.  Each active component of a building (services and anything that moves or has a control) will be a smart devise linked to the building's BIM and BMS, creating smart buildings.  BIM with AI will also develop as a data gathering tool to optimise buildings for the requirements of the owner, users, specific groups of users and individuals.  This should assist the economics of the property in use and efficiency of its life cycle.

There are still a bigger picture beyond this.  Innovation begins with people and the individual is not tied to the building or the work place.  Technology developers will be following their markets so if individuals provide the greatest revenue stream, buildings might need to accommodate changes in how they are used.  Architecture might need to address new issues involving flexibility and adaptability of spaces and services, mobility of buildings in part or whole, and how building fabric and services meets the demand for greater virtual connectivity with other locations across the globe.  Walls, floors, ceilings, doors and windows might transform out of current recognition to meet these requirements.  The building industry has a fantastic opportunity to develop with innovations in materials, adaptive environments and the design / construction work-flow.

Needs, Material Wants and Aspirations

Meanwhile, individuals are riding the crest of the technological wave.  I'd bet the tech that each of us have on our phones, wrists, in our ears and in our homes has advanced more quickly than the tech in the work place.  It is making us more independent and aspirational.  In addition, technology is offering a growing range of personalised and bespoke goods and services, tailored specifically to individual needs; a big departure from industrialised mass produced products.  This will transfer to the work place with pressure for remote working and flexible hours.  Depending on affordability and personal aspirations, your staff might be anywhere in the world to suit their cultural, climatic, family and schooling requirements, possibly working from a virtual workstation which brings them right inside business HQ!

These innovations might affect the building industry directly, but could have greater pressure from the developing needs and aspirations of individuals.

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