As is typical with the present-time, we are always in the midst of emerging trends. For designers, this means either following the trends or setting new ones by being well ahead of the curve. Environmental design is no different. As advancing technologies like virtual reality lead to augmented realty, or as interactive physical space leads to adaptive physical space, it becomes fascinating (and necessary) to question where these technological developments are heading.
As technology continues to advance, it is important for designers to consider (and guide) how such technologies will affect and be injected into environments. This is particularly true for the long-promised technology which is now gaining ground in its development – the hologram.
As an architect, it is important to guide your tools in a way that helps you see deeper into your designs. Yes, using 3D visualization tools do help you to make your initial design vision more tangible. But how can you go beyond this, to leverage technology to better formulate and analyze a concept during your design process?
When designing, technology can do a lot to either enhance or detract from a project. And the way you guide technology integration into your environment is what makes all the difference. For every design decision you make, there is an ultimate consequence that your occupant will experience. And the interaction between those decisions, yield entirely new consequential experiences.
Architectural technology can often act as a double-edged sword. If integrated properly, it can benefit building occupants – but if improperly integrated, technology can greatly detract from all that your environment is trying to accomplish. When thinking about sensory design, technology becomes an important factor to consider.
Have you ever experienced a building that was painful? This is a building that may have been designed well in some ways, but it lacked the proper integration of architectural technology. You see, when technology is tacked on within an environment as an afterthought, the space will likely suffer in its ability to provide an experience that empowers occupants – from a multi-sensory design perspective.
Google is unveiling a virtual reality paintbrush which allows one to create three-dimensional design forms to human scale. By wearing a headset and waving a hand-held paint-brush tool, a designer can create a virtual world limited only by their imagination.
By using 4D printing technology, they are now able to create forms that shapeshift once immersed in water. This is an interesting technique that has far-reaching applications — particularly for the discipline of architectural design thinking.
In the past, architectural technology design has served to improve the standard of living. From better lighting and air quality to innovative tools that free up occupant time, technology has been evolving to help alleviate occupant repetitive tasks, and other painful environmental aspects. But what if technology could do more?
In an age where communication occurs in real-time, architectural technology design is critical to get right. When designed well, technology integrated into environments can actually “unite” people with each other and with the healthy activities which are best for them and that they enjoy most. In this case, architectural technology becomes a “connector” where new interactions become possible between people, and for people.
As evolutionary trends continue, emerging technologies are getting smaller, cheaper, and smarter — all of which push technology to become evermore ubiquitous. And as technologies continue to integrate into our daily lives through architectural environments, such innovations evolve to not only become more flexible, interactive and adaptable; but to eventually disappear.
As new innovations like the Apple iWatch emerge — one can’t help but explore what possibilities lie ahead as they make their way into the market. Of course, there will be a multitude of new applications that make good use of the hardware that smart watches like the iWatch use to help them interface with their human wearers.
As new technologies are being developed, architecture is getting better at communicating with its occupants. For example, real-time communication can occur between a building’s system and an occupant’s clothing — or other worn devices, like interactive lenses.
The beautiful Notre Dame de Paris has been recently merged with new Philips lighting technologies. In fact, its interior has been entirely augmented with state-of-the-art LED lighting that allows for Notre Dame to be experienced anew.
Just about everywhere you go, there is a digital screen within the built environment. Such digital screens can be in the form of television screens, computer screens or even interactive window screens. You see, each of the latter acts as a focal point or anchor within a space — sometimes detracting from building function, and other times adding to it.
An investment in the CubeSensor seems minimal compared to the benefits that it would provide. Imagine being able to fine tune your surroundings while trying to work, exercise, cook, or even sleep. Each activity may call for slight adjustments in environmental quality — adjustments that the next version of the CubeSensor may help to communicate.
All of these advantages of wearable technology will change your building occupant. They will be more informed, more self-aware, and more connected. In fact, they will even connect to their surrounding environments in new ways.
There is a new way to visualize architecture and communicate its design. It is a new method which comes in the form of the “holographic architectural representation system”.
Building construction is often an endeavor that takes a long time and costs a lot of money. Thus, advancements are being made that are changing the very nature of the way construction occurs. You see, by using robots to build houses, many benefits can be gained — particularly when those homes are built using the “Contour Crafting” method.
Touch technologies are now evolving, where sensors are being embedded in building features like doorknobs. And as a result, building doorknobs are becoming able to read not just that there is a touch, but that the touch was comprised of certain fingers.
Due to social media, it becomes ever more possible to form a first impression of a place before ever having visited it in person. With social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, it becomes possible to broadcast “place” using photographs, video, or text-based commentary. Rarely is a place simply a place anymore — as events occur within such places that result in merging the physical with the virtual.
As architectural technology gains greater capability to do more, will occupants like doing less? Well, I think much of the debate revolves around two issues: control and privacy. And when these two issues are dealt with correctly, technology can serve to lift limitations — so occupants can do more of the things they want to do.
The placement of such smart windows will be paramount, as will attention to making sure technology isn’t getting in the way. You see, such a smart window is really all about what is going on inside of a room. But I question — what will happen if the window begins to use apps that also take into account what is going on in the nearby exterior? What if the window becomes more truly interactive?
What can you, as an architect, do with such data to help your occupants? And can architecture be the go-between that pulls from data which tracks health, to emitting environmental stimuli which promotes health? Well, I say the answer to the latter question is yes, and for the answer to the first question: read on.
Perhaps it is the notion of having an invisible technology where functions are elevated within architecture because of it — but where side-effects and trade-offs are non-existant. To accomplish this, a holistic sensory design mindset is necessary, where you as a designer factor for a multitude of senses within your design. In this way, you will be aware of when technology issues a trade-off, and you will be able to correct it.
The notion of control within environments will be going through a shift. As such brain computers as the emotiv epoc headset continue to be refined in their development, it may be possible to assert environmental decisions with less physical action and more mental reliance.
3D viewing of objects is something that many designers (particularly architects) are always in search of doing better — for, building design models that take the form of physical prototypes or even virtual prototypes (as is built within the computer using digital media) most often become limited in what they can tell a designer about their designs.
CAVE-CAD is a great instrument for testing architectural designs in terms of how occupants will be likely to experience them. As an immersive testing and design tool, it is possible to make design changes on the fly while simultaneously analyzing how an occupant would respond to such change.
Attention is paid to the visual senses as masses, materiality, and even lighting are carefully chosen for a particular design vision. But how do you as an architect target more intangible things, like building air quality?
Lighting interiors can make a significant difference in carrying through the intent of how you want your building to function, whether it be a retail clothing store, a hospital patient room, a residential design or a school classroom.
There are many times on this site where I write about new sense technologies that are evolving and making their way into the mainstream, and I often encourage you as an architect to think about unique and creative ways that you can integrate this technology into your design to make it better for your occupants — this is a distinction from simply using technology “just for the sake of using it”, but rather to use it when the time and place is appropriate so it can bring newfound innovation to your design vision.
New interactive tools are surfacing to help architects do their job better. One such tool is a multi touch 3-D architectural application which can be used as both an interactive table device and a larger scale screen projection.
HVAC ducts are a very useful way to create a building wide antenna that can serve to help process incoming information from RFID antenna sensor networks that control various systems within a building. What this all means is that most of a building’s nervous system can go from being wired, to being wireless.
New technologies are emerging like smart windows that are not only making it more energy efficient and cheaper for occupants to run their smart building systems during different seasons of the year, but are providing a way to make occupants feel more comfortable as well.
Making wayfinding a better experience includes tackling issues that deal with timing, understanding the demographics of those that will experience that signage and a designer having a more intimate understanding of how people perceive, process, and respond. While more interactivity is emerging on the façades of commercial buildings, it becomes evermore important for designers to take a look at how such signage can better “harmonize” with those buildings upon which they rest.
Many times, people think of sensing technologies within architecture as a way for the building to pick up all kinds of cues from just the occupants, but that is only one part of how a building can read or interpret the language and context of what is happening within it.
Your building can collect data from all of its occupants at any given time and begin to respond for the collective whole as well as each individual occupant — for instance, by understanding more about their human process of body temperature, blood pressure or movement speed and location.
You may already know what can happen when you start with just one pixel-like point when working with computers to design architecture in programs like AutoCAD or 3D Studio Max. But, what will happen when when that pixel-like point becomes more of an omni light in real life— a three-dimensional point in space that has the ability to harmonize with others of its own type?
With the redefinition of flexible space into what is now being called kinetic architecture, you as an architect need to go beyond movement to really think about what growth, expansion and contraction has the power to do. Furthermore, we can begin to bring forward what it might mean for architectural design when we think about a folding space — space transiently reconfigured through variation.
Communication technology is spreading and evolving at a faster and faster pace — particularly noticeable in office buildings. The nature of the way employees communicate is having radical effects on the way buildings work.
As an architect, once you get a good grasp on how the human senses really work and really develop a high design skillset, you should always be concerned with synergy and orchestration.
As technology develops with new ways to “visualize” your complex architectural designs, wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to fuse them together? Why not visually render a space capturing its light levels at a specific time of day while also aurally rendering how it will sound during a specific function?
It is interesting to note that lighting can significantly impact your building design as its qualities exaggerate or minimize architectural elements. For instance, shadows, color and brightness all play a part in displaying architecture’s form in certain ways.
The energy producing dance floor makes good use of human energy without making it seem like hard work for occupants. Ideas like these can be a fun way to make more energy efficient and interactive designs. (…just imagine an energy producing gym)
Where is the middle-ground between going to the doctor’s office and taking care of your healthcare needs once going about your daily life? New technologies are surfacing to help you out – and once such technologies work out their kinks, it will be possible to merge architecture with a monitoring system to help you take better care of your health.
As lighting technology continues to develop, architectural designers will be able to move beyond fluorescent lighting – toward the LED Light Bulb. Architectural lighting design is benefiting from awareness about energy consumption and health benefits of past, current and new lighting technologies.
Libraries have been undergoing the need for a facelift ever since the introduction of the computing revolution. This type of institution is providing for more than simply the borrowing of books. New functions are defining how libraries serve their communities as they continue to emerge.
As architectural technology tries to solve one problem it often creates another. For example, as lighting illuminates it often also emits heat; therefore, making the HVAC system work harder. The systems seem out of balance as one trades off side-effects with another.
Perhaps architecture could find new ways to influence occupant behavior. For example, a person might be persuaded to wait before their walk home based on heartbeat, medical history and a short predicted rainfall. Architecture could tie information together to form smart assumptions that inform occupants that might otherwise not know.
Most building “skins” today are quite static. Instead of being a bridge that allows the exterior and interior to communicate, many building skins today serve to separate the interior from the exterior with only, if any, intermittent window openings. What if, instead, architects designed building skins to synchronize occupant environments with real-time occupant needs?
MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) are tiny sensors that will embed within smart buildings, helping them reach greater interactivity. Already, such devices are projected to help buildings better interact with occupants.
When designing technology into architecture it must be integrated – not just to fit in with the aesthetic effects of the architecture, but to also fit into the narrative of the place. All too often, technology sits where conversations should spark. Computers, televisions and even lighting technologies should enhance the functions they support.
As architectural technology becomes evermore pervasive, its collective effect upon humans will be evermore complex. For this reason, architectural design should lead technological advancement in a mission to redefine human-centered design.
Sometimes there is a fine line between technology and nature. That line can be as obvious as a window pane or as slight as an accent of green picked out in a textile pattern. There are many ways to integrate nature into an architectural design.
Architectural flow is a higher-level poetic goal to reach as you design environments. After all, there is a significant difference between a building that houses a variety of independent functions that co-exist near one another versus a building that fosters functions that harmonize with each other as each leverages the other. This is an important characteristic of architectural flow – where an occupant narrative emerges from a well-designed environmental narrative.
Designing occupant-centered architecture calls for designers to think about environments as providing more than mere comfort. For architectural design, this means striving to reach beyond functionality within your solution. Together with function, aesthetics and meaning must be fused. But how do these all work together to yield new kinds of poetics that innovate occupant experience to uplift quality of life for the better?
What will the future of the architectural design process bring? Will you carry forward your trusted design methods while also injecting the opportunities that emerging design technologies bring? As a forward-thinking designer, I invite you to consider what your own future design process could be like, with the continual development of augmented/virtual reality, prediction algorithms, and faster global communication.