The majority has almost always had a thing for playing it safe. No one wants to be wrong. So, we shouldn’t be surprised when the case for a new innovation narrative meets with our best defence of ‘business as usual’. But when famous architect Norman Foster admits to getting it wrong on Apple’s recently constructed headquarters, there’s definitely cause for concern. Foster’s practice spent the past eight years designing Apple’s Campus 2 — but, looking back, regrets that the headquarters feature a massive underground garage for 11 000 vehicles. The cost of digging a deep, dark underground cavern is huge. Today, this is an amenity but, in future, as transportation patterns evolve, parking garages may very well become obsolete. Foster cautions others that “By rethinking the spaces during the design stage, building owners can ensure that garages can be retrofitted into habitable space when garages become less important…A long-term view of a building is much more than designing ‘open plan’ office spaces…”
Of course, everyone wants Buildings of the Future to pay off in our back pockets, but cost-value equations that champion future buildings’ return on investment simply don’t exist yet. And all our traditional design methods and delivery models tend to block innovation before it is able to take a step out of the door. In the constant effort to ‘prove it’, we are forced back into short-term thinking, and we spend our time delivering interim solutions rather than exploring the long-term possibilities of intelligent future design.
The truth is, we don’t have the tools or language to make the guarantees that they will pay off. Intelligent building design is carving out fresh tracks as we go, and there’s little by way of historical precedence to provide the landmarks for the journey.
Dividing net profits by total assets is no longer an acceptable way to determine the ‘profit’ of the building. The equation is far more complex than this, and includes a building’s ability to provide a healthy working environment — and thereby reduce absenteeism; its ability to attract top talent; to create the perception of value to influence rental returns; and successfully support corporate strategy elements such as environmental responsibility and collaboration.
This paper explores why and how our thinking around return on investment (ROI) needs to evolve.
Inspired by interviews with a broad group of professionals across the built environment who were asked to imagine what Buildings of the Future might look like and how they might be created, Aurecon’s very first Buildings of the Future paper explored four drivers behind the demand for and challenges inherent in reaching Intelligent Building status (scroll down to read Aurecon’s original paper). These major drivers (people at the centre, designs that make sense today and tomorrow, easy life: complex technology, and bottom line benefits) have the potential to reshape our industry in the next 30 years.
This follow on paper explores a new narrative around the ROI of intelligent buildings and is call for a new ROI model that reflects the importance of designing buildings for the long term and looks at both the financial and non-financial benefits of intelligent buildings.