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Industry leaders explore the future of intelligent building design

Intelligent Building Design

Aurecon has partnered with a range of clients to create intelligent buildings that change the lives of the people who occupy them.

Peter Greaves, Aurecon's Technical Director, Building Services, discusses key changes in the way intelligent buildings operate, trends in the way they function and how these buildings will change in the future with two of Aurecon’s clients – Steve Coster of HASSELL, an international multidisciplinary design practice, and Ben Crosby of Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications and media company.

Peter: What is an intelligent building?

Steve: “Intelligent buildings” is a term that means different things to different people. While a building needs to be technically intelligent, it also needs to be emotionally intelligent. An emotionally intelligent building understands people’s motivations and feelings. Rather than looking at technology first, they instead focus on the way people work and interact.

In that way, people lead the design of the building, rather than technology leading the people. Engineers, designers and consultants need to find out what future occupants want from a building, how they want to work and interact in space, and design the building and the technology around the occupants’ needs.

Ben: If a person is able to walk into a meeting room and the meeting starts automatically, or if a building recognises that there are certain patterns in how people use different spaces and automatically adapts the lighting and air conditioning to those patterns, then it is an example of an intelligent building. Technology needs to blend into the background of a building in such a subtle way that people aren’t even aware of the technology around them.

Peter: How is the design of intelligent buildings changing?

Steve: Intelligent buildings are becoming simpler. While the technology, innovation and engineering in the building structure might be very complex, the user experience needs to become easier and more intuitive.

The best buildings get out of the way and let people connect and complete their tasks. Technology should not create barriers to doing business. What people want is a building that lets them operate at the real speed of business. Any technology and engineering that can help people do this is an intelligent building.

Peter: What do people want from the technology of a building?

Steve: For the user, the building is just a means to an end. People are not necessarily caught up in the technology of a building, they just want to be able to achieve their desired outcome.

If a person wants to be able to control the temperature in their environment, they don’t mind if this is achieved by pushing a window handle or by using technology. Sometimes the most low tech solutions are the most natural and effective for people. The common theme for successful intelligent solutions is simplicity.

Ben: A building is not intelligent if it is full of technologies that don’t communicate with one another. A building is intelligent when it’s aware of its inhabitants, aware of their needs and is able to adapt to these needs.

Peter: Are intelligent buildings always state-of-the-art, modern buildings?

Ben: Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace and the way people work will continue to evolve over the next 20 years, which will lead the evolution of intelligent buildings.

Artificial intelligence continues to evolve and companies continue to invest in big data as well as machine learning and analytics, with the hope that this will lead to artificial intelligence.

As an industry, we need to put more thought into how the artificial intelligence will operate, how it’s going to be controlled and how it will evolve. We need to figure out how we are going to respond to artificial intelligence from a legal perspective, policy perspective and from a human perspective.

Steve: Intelligent buildings are usually associated with new buildings, but heritage buildings can also be intelligent. Heritage buildings and the reuse of existing structures can be a powerful feature of organisations, particularly in terms of cultural alignment.

One of the primary goals of leadership within an organisation relates to culture and a building can help companies align their physical environments with their corporate cultures. An intelligent building is deliberate and conscious in the way that it motivates people. A heritage building is often a more authentic and comfortable experience. If people don’t like the space that you are offering to them for work, then they will go and work somewhere else.

Peter: How should designers create spaces for millennials?

Steve: Buildings shouldn’t be designed for different generations. Intelligent buildings need to be designed for how different individuals choose to work. Whether the building occupants are Gen Y, Gen Z or baby boomers, the environment you provide needs to work for the individuals while simultaneously connecting them to each other for their common goal.

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