Aurecon thinking: Intellectually and emotionally intelligent buildings

People at the centre

Intellectually and emotionally intelligent buildings

In a survey by Management Today magazine, 97 percent of respondents said they regarded their place of work as a symbol of whether or not they were valued by their employer. Yet alarmingly, only 37 percent thought their offices had been designed ‘with people in mind’. 

It’s easy for some engineers to get so caught up in technology and digital tools that they forget the humans using them. An historical approach has brought about a misalignment between how traditional engineers view ‘intelligent’ buildings and how owners and occupiers view ‘intelligent’ buildings. 

Buildings were never meant to operate in isolation from users; rather in ‘synchronisation’ with them.

For a building to be smart and connected, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s up to the building designers to consider all the complexities involved in designing a human-centred and emotionally intelligent building – and then to design ‘simple’ ones. This means having empathy for the needs, challenges, daily tasks, desires, and long-term goals of the people who use them.

Creating buildings that are both intellectually and emotionally intelligent will be the currency in the future as companies start to realise that their bottom line depends largely on the wellness, happiness and productivity of their people.

Traditional vs People-centred buildings

Intellectually and emotionally intelligent buildings

Intellectually and emotionally intelligent buildings

In a recent Facts & Figures report by Solatube, research indicates that people prefer to work, buy and recreate in spaces illuminated with glare-free daylight. The report refers, among other examples, to a Wal-Mart store in Kansas’ cost-cutting decision to install skylights over half the store. While it did result in significant energy savings, Wal-Mart’s famous real-time inventory system quickly found that sales per square foot were also significantly higher in the daylit half of the store, and higher than the same departments in other stores.

In this article, author Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg goes beyond productivity to explore the benefits of natural light on human health and biological functions, relating its effects to a recreation of the natural human circadian rhythms. The fact that humans in modern cities spend upwards of 90 percent of their lives indoors, means that a disassociation with this natural cycle has become common, and well-lit, well-designed spaces actually help restore that balance.

Instead of seeing buildings of the future as an extra cost or a social responsibility that is divorced from business objectives, we need to analyse the broader set of topics that they encapsulate. This new value proposition considers the environment, social equity, health and wellness, and ultimately the emotional intelligence of the building. These buildings have been shown to improve time, energy and user efficiency.

Customising and optimising buildings of the future for each client and their specific occupants is helping businesses differentiate their brands, and it’s also the driving force behind ongoing innovations and efficiency within the building. The results that are achieved post-occupancy highlight the benefits of designing both emotionally intelligent and intellectually intelligent buildings.

Theory in action: Aurecon centre in Melbourne

We wanted to prove that our people’s overall comfort and wellness would result in higher productivity and satisfaction.

When Aurecon established our new Melbourne base camp at 850 Collins Street, we did so with our staff’s needs driving the design. 

The 8-storey Aurecon Centre houses 700 Melbourne-based staff and we focused on designing a building that would foster co-creation, engagement, collaboration and innovation. Carefully planning everything from digital platforms that connect a range of sensors throughout the building, walkways, bike racks, recreational areas and living plants enabled us to design a space that not only provides useful data and insights, but one that people enjoy.

The data that is studied allows Aurecon to review these correlations by looking at scenarios such as: comparing stair vs. lift use; measuring bike facility usage; monitoring indoor air quality; using wearables to promote health initiatives; understanding drinking water consumption; and optimising daylight, temperature and humidity levels. 

Together, these factors determine the success of the building’s design for our people who work in it and occupy its space.

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