Contract - Design Process: Advanced Technology Integration

design - process



Design Process: Advanced Technology Integration

14 May, 2010

-By Joe Montalbano, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate, Mancini Duffy



Technology is continuously evolving and its impact on the way we live, work, and relax has been profound. As our economy shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial base, developments in technology have allowed us to achieve greater efficiency and efficacy of production. As a knowledge-based economy emerges, the power of information technology leads to even newer efficiencies that accentuate the value of space and time to us all. Thus, the importance for architects, planners, and designers to integrate this ever evolving technology into the spaces we plan and design has increased exponentially.

Yet, the integration of technological systems into built environments has traditionally been dealt with in basic, often times uncoordinated, methods that independently address infrastructure and space planning/design. Attempting to reconcile the requirements of ever evolving demands within the reality of a fixed space has been one method.  The focus here has typically been the planning and integration of infrastructure and connectivity needs.  Strategies for this type of integration have generated such common buzzwords as anticipation, flexibility, scalability, and reliability.  Execution of these strategies has at times resulted in all-too-familiar, inefficient, expensive and “over-designed” solutions that result in such situations as abandoned empty conduits, oversized utility spaces, and unnecessarily redundant systems.  These strategies have also been prone to the pitfalls of “layering” by addressing requirements for each system individually, often as afterthoughts or accessories added to a completed construct.

Another method of integration has involved the design of space to harness the potential of the implemented technology.  While somewhat reactive in nature, this type of integration has led to concepts such as the collaborative and distributive workplace, the use of new and innovative materials, the incorporation of digital media, and an overall change in the types of spaces we design.  Work environments are now including spaces such as telepresence rooms and network operations centers, which all set advances in technology closer and more comfortably within users’ reach.

The convergence of advanced technologies that is currently shaping our society demands a more holistic, collaborative approach synthesizing infrastructure and design to realize complete integration. This approach allows for a new level of efficiency as evidenced by the concepts of Interoperability and Sustainability.

Interoperability     
Current technology allows for building and technology systems to interact or communicate over an open protocol, providing users the ability to control and monitor systems and objects; in effect manipulating their environment. Intelligent building systems have the ability to “talk” to one another, allowing for each to work in concert with the other. For example, buildings controls manufacturers such as Johnson Controls are developing open communication protocols that converge building management systems with information technology systems, allowing for the operation and monitoring of multiple building systems by end users at any location. In the meantime, programmable systems such as Herman Miller’s Convia have been developed that allow end users to control lighting HVAC, power, and shading systems via a single wireless wand. This new level of end user controllability/manipulation provides designers with new ways of thinking of space. Mood, thermal comfort, and acoustic performance may be tuned to alter one’s experience and perception of space. The complexity of these systems requires an interdisciplinary approach where architects, designers, and engineers collaborate to realize new possibilities.

Sustainability
The demands of global sustainability require us to jointly consider the integration of infrastructure and design to realize increased efficiencies. Advanced technologies allow for this integration, across disciplines, to occur during the entire design, construction, and building life cycle. For example, efficiencies in design and construction are realized through new building informatics software such as BIM; advances in nanotechnology that have created long lasting, high performance materials reducing waste such as current research into “solar energy collecting paint”, “smog eating concrete, “self cleaning windows”; glass that changes opacity; advances in biomimicry; and a whole generation of active and passive cooling and shading systems that have been developed leading to a new design aesthetic. Technology has also been integrated into spaces and utilized to realize energy savings. Armstrong Ceilings, as part of the Emerge Alliance, has developed a ceiling grid that carries DC power within it. Not only does the “energized grid” allow for unprecedented “plug and play” flexibility for lighting, but it also promotes the reduction of energy usage via the availability of low voltage power for energy management and control systems, IT equipment, and portable equipment in lieu of AC power. The previously mentioned Convia system also allows for programmed power reduction, load shedding, and constant measurement of energy usage.

As we look to the future it is apparent that information technology and the built environment will continue to converge and blur. It is not so distant a future were entire spaces will intelligently interact with and adapt to users’ needs. Technologies such as ambient intelligence, location based media, and surface computing, among others, are evidence of this fact and allow for an advanced level of flexibility, or rather, real time, continuous adaptability requiring architects, planners, and designers to rethink the challenge of integration. Complete integration of the user with the technology will allow for new spatial experiences to be created. The notion of architecture as “frozen music”, a single fixed solution to a set of predefined needs, will be shattered. Designers will reconsider the notion of design, adaptability, and sustainability, allowing for current end users and future end-users of unknown needs to continue to design and redesign spaces, prolonging the usefulness and life of the buildings and interiors. As end users will effortlessly be able to further manipulate and customize their spaces as needed, architects, planners, and designers will be called upon to create the appropriate armatures for this dynamism. Current and emerging overlapping opportunities for this level of advanced technology integration are as follows:

Smart Technology and Ubiquitous Computing
The infrastructure associated with “Smart Objects” and “Smart Environments” will continue to reduce in size. Materials and objects will have embedded digital attributes allowing them to learn, and adapt, making them intelligent. Chairs, worksurfaces, finish materials will collect data and adjust or be adjusted to the requirements of users opening the doors to new innovation by designers. Computing objects will be ever present; the paint on your walls, your front door, your bathroom mirror, will all be smart.  Some recent examples include, IOO’s interactive object recognition systems such as 6th sense, which combines the ability to create interactive surfaces with fragrances, and SensaCell’s responsive modules and the continued development of embedded MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). We have certainly seen the beginnings of this in several areas in the architectural community. For example, building facades have taken on new means of expression through the use of interactive video/LED lighting building skins and daylight responsive shading systems.

Personalization
One social phenomena of the information age is the ability for individuals to create their own content and expression. Blogs, YouTube, custom ringtones, social media sites, and mash-ups are all evidence of the prevalence of personalization in the digital world. The ability to shape one’s digital world will continue to raise the same expectation in the real world and built environment. One example of this is the rise in customizable options in the automobile industry; for example the ability to change the intensity and color of interior lighting. Planners and designers will need to consider this expectation within the framework of available technology.

In embracing a comprehensive approach to technological integration, we, as shapers of our physical world, will continue to innovate, finding meaningful, responsible and aesthetically inspiring solutions. The opportunity for architects and designers to impact the next wave of technological integration exists now. As advisors to manufactures of systems and products we can provide our professional knowledge and expertise about client needs, provide rules based armatures within which adaptable systems can operate, and of course share our perspective on the principles of space making.


Founded almost 90 years ago, Mancini•Duffy has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and New Jersey. Also, as a member of IPID, International Partners in Design, Mancini•Duffy serves the diverse needs of its expanding multi-national client base across the U.S. and in Great Britain, Europe, East Asia and Australia.



Design Process: Advanced Technology Integration

14 May, 2010


Technology is continuously evolving and its impact on the way we live, work, and relax has been profound. As our economy shifted from an agrarian base to an industrial base, developments in technology have allowed us to achieve greater efficiency and efficacy of production. As a knowledge-based economy emerges, the power of information technology leads to even newer efficiencies that accentuate the value of space and time to us all. Thus, the importance for architects, planners, and designers to integrate this ever evolving technology into the spaces we plan and design has increased exponentially.

Yet, the integration of technological systems into built environments has traditionally been dealt with in basic, often times uncoordinated, methods that independently address infrastructure and space planning/design. Attempting to reconcile the requirements of ever evolving demands within the reality of a fixed space has been one method.  The focus here has typically been the planning and integration of infrastructure and connectivity needs.  Strategies for this type of integration have generated such common buzzwords as anticipation, flexibility, scalability, and reliability.  Execution of these strategies has at times resulted in all-too-familiar, inefficient, expensive and “over-designed” solutions that result in such situations as abandoned empty conduits, oversized utility spaces, and unnecessarily redundant systems.  These strategies have also been prone to the pitfalls of “layering” by addressing requirements for each system individually, often as afterthoughts or accessories added to a completed construct.

Another method of integration has involved the design of space to harness the potential of the implemented technology.  While somewhat reactive in nature, this type of integration has led to concepts such as the collaborative and distributive workplace, the use of new and innovative materials, the incorporation of digital media, and an overall change in the types of spaces we design.  Work environments are now including spaces such as telepresence rooms and network operations centers, which all set advances in technology closer and more comfortably within users’ reach.

The convergence of advanced technologies that is currently shaping our society demands a more holistic, collaborative approach synthesizing infrastructure and design to realize complete integration. This approach allows for a new level of efficiency as evidenced by the concepts of Interoperability and Sustainability.

Interoperability     
Current technology allows for building and technology systems to interact or communicate over an open protocol, providing users the ability to control and monitor systems and objects; in effect manipulating their environment. Intelligent building systems have the ability to “talk” to one another, allowing for each to work in concert with the other. For example, buildings controls manufacturers such as Johnson Controls are developing open communication protocols that converge building management systems with information technology systems, allowing for the operation and monitoring of multiple building systems by end users at any location. In the meantime, programmable systems such as Herman Miller’s Convia have been developed that allow end users to control lighting HVAC, power, and shading systems via a single wireless wand. This new level of end user controllability/manipulation provides designers with new ways of thinking of space. Mood, thermal comfort, and acoustic performance may be tuned to alter one’s experience and perception of space. The complexity of these systems requires an interdisciplinary approach where architects, designers, and engineers collaborate to realize new possibilities.

Sustainability
The demands of global sustainability require us to jointly consider the integration of infrastructure and design to realize increased efficiencies. Advanced technologies allow for this integration, across disciplines, to occur during the entire design, construction, and building life cycle. For example, efficiencies in design and construction are realized through new building informatics software such as BIM; advances in nanotechnology that have created long lasting, high performance materials reducing waste such as current research into “solar energy collecting paint”, “smog eating concrete, “self cleaning windows”; glass that changes opacity; advances in biomimicry; and a whole generation of active and passive cooling and shading systems that have been developed leading to a new design aesthetic. Technology has also been integrated into spaces and utilized to realize energy savings. Armstrong Ceilings, as part of the Emerge Alliance, has developed a ceiling grid that carries DC power within it. Not only does the “energized grid” allow for unprecedented “plug and play” flexibility for lighting, but it also promotes the reduction of energy usage via the availability of low voltage power for energy management and control systems, IT equipment, and portable equipment in lieu of AC power. The previously mentioned Convia system also allows for programmed power reduction, load shedding, and constant measurement of energy usage.

As we look to the future it is apparent that information technology and the built environment will continue to converge and blur. It is not so distant a future were entire spaces will intelligently interact with and adapt to users’ needs. Technologies such as ambient intelligence, location based media, and surface computing, among others, are evidence of this fact and allow for an advanced level of flexibility, or rather, real time, continuous adaptability requiring architects, planners, and designers to rethink the challenge of integration. Complete integration of the user with the technology will allow for new spatial experiences to be created. The notion of architecture as “frozen music”, a single fixed solution to a set of predefined needs, will be shattered. Designers will reconsider the notion of design, adaptability, and sustainability, allowing for current end users and future end-users of unknown needs to continue to design and redesign spaces, prolonging the usefulness and life of the buildings and interiors. As end users will effortlessly be able to further manipulate and customize their spaces as needed, architects, planners, and designers will be called upon to create the appropriate armatures for this dynamism. Current and emerging overlapping opportunities for this level of advanced technology integration are as follows:

Smart Technology and Ubiquitous Computing
The infrastructure associated with “Smart Objects” and “Smart Environments” will continue to reduce in size. Materials and objects will have embedded digital attributes allowing them to learn, and adapt, making them intelligent. Chairs, worksurfaces, finish materials will collect data and adjust or be adjusted to the requirements of users opening the doors to new innovation by designers. Computing objects will be ever present; the paint on your walls, your front door, your bathroom mirror, will all be smart.  Some recent examples include, IOO’s interactive object recognition systems such as 6th sense, which combines the ability to create interactive surfaces with fragrances, and SensaCell’s responsive modules and the continued development of embedded MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). We have certainly seen the beginnings of this in several areas in the architectural community. For example, building facades have taken on new means of expression through the use of interactive video/LED lighting building skins and daylight responsive shading systems.

Personalization
One social phenomena of the information age is the ability for individuals to create their own content and expression. Blogs, YouTube, custom ringtones, social media sites, and mash-ups are all evidence of the prevalence of personalization in the digital world. The ability to shape one’s digital world will continue to raise the same expectation in the real world and built environment. One example of this is the rise in customizable options in the automobile industry; for example the ability to change the intensity and color of interior lighting. Planners and designers will need to consider this expectation within the framework of available technology.

In embracing a comprehensive approach to technological integration, we, as shapers of our physical world, will continue to innovate, finding meaningful, responsible and aesthetically inspiring solutions. The opportunity for architects and designers to impact the next wave of technological integration exists now. As advisors to manufactures of systems and products we can provide our professional knowledge and expertise about client needs, provide rules based armatures within which adaptable systems can operate, and of course share our perspective on the principles of space making.


Founded almost 90 years ago, Mancini•Duffy has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and New Jersey. Also, as a member of IPID, International Partners in Design, Mancini•Duffy serves the diverse needs of its expanding multi-national client base across the U.S. and in Great Britain, Europe, East Asia and Australia.
 


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