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Top 7 Reasons Why Architecture Should Pull Information from Objects


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © Dreamstime

As technology becomes smaller and evermore mobile, sensors are being embedded everywhere. This means that those objects which you use every day will be able to convey data about the way they are used. Consequently, with such information coming from a multitude of objects found within the environment — a smart building can use its systems to detect patterns and form inferential decisions that impact the building’s behavior with which to engage occupants.

So the questions remain — What can you tell from objects? And how can we use that information to improve lives?

Well, the following is a list of the top seven reasons why architecture should pull information from objects. You will notice that most all reasons involve improving life for the building occupant — which gives good foundational reason as to why such information should be gathered from objects in the first place.

  1. Comfort: If sensors are embedded within clothing, buildings could gather information about an occupant’s comfort level in real time. Thus, by pulling information directly from the way occupants are feeling at any given moment, smart building’s can make the necessary environmental changes to qualities like its temperature, lighting, and acoustics. Also, occupant stress levels could be determined that could help an environment to regulate itself in an effort to lower such stress levels.
  2. Social Awareness: Occupant behavior within a building can be used to make other occupants aware of the building’s environment and how it is being used. For instance, by creating an information visualization installation, occupant behavior could be put on display to help either influence the behavior of other occupants, or to inspire them as they journey through that building’s environment.
  3. Health: It is important for building occupants to stay healthy, and a smart architecture can help with this effort by observing how objects within it are used daily. From such behavioral patterns, habits can be monitored — and the building itself could help its occupant to stop old bad habits or to create healthier new ones. In short, a smart building would be helping its occupants by making suggestions for a healthier lifestyle.
  4. Maintenance/ Safety: A smart building will also know when the objects that are being used within it need to be replaced or updated. In other words, incoming information from sensors embedded within objects can help the architecture determine and announce when an object is no longer safe or needs to be upgraded. Thus, smart buildings would move into the realm of prevention to upkeep maintenance and safety measures.
  5. Engagement: Smart architecture, with the help of objects that transmit data, can use such information to help it respond to occupants in real time. By using such incoming data, such smart architecture can form a better relationship with occupants by engaging with them in more meaningful and timely ways. Thus, data from objects can help interactive architecture become more adaptive.
  6. Culture: Certain buildings maintain or evolve a certain building culture — where occupants within such environments celebrate certain ways of being and doing. By analyzing and responding to data being gathered from objects within an environment, smart architecture can proactively take part in a building’s occupant activities. Thus, the building in this case becomes an active participant within the cultural lives of its building occupants.
  7. Behavior Change: If an occupant needs help engaging in any type of behavior change, a smart building can help by providing just-in- time design interventions. And to help such a building influence, inspire, and educate its occupants — it must have real-time access to their behaviors on a daily basis. From such information, a smart building could prevent or inspire certain occupant behaviors.

As you can see from the list above, the objects which get used and are all around us contain critical information about the way we live our lives. If smart architecture had access to such information, perhaps our environments could help us to lead healthier and happier lives. And while privacy will of course be an issue as such advancements become mainstream — we must not lose sight of the innovative ways in which we could help people, by better understanding them through the objects which they use regularly.


what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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