The office of the future: from algae to bioresponsive PV membranes
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Footprint recently attended the BCO’s Intellibuild conference which attracted an audience of around sixty, including a mix of architects, engineers, interior designers, manufacturers and consultants.
Chaired by Neil Pennell of Land Securities and chairman of the BCO’s technical affairs committee, the seminars focused on intelligent buildings in the office sector.
Neil was joined by a number of presenters including:
- Peter Rees, city planning officer for London
- Volker Buscher, Arup
- Professor Derek Clements Croome, emeritus professor at University of Reading
- Dr Clare Penny, IBM
- Sean Affleck, Make architects
- Andrew Hunter, Skanska
- Hanif Kara, AKT II
- Rachael Armstrong, TED fellow
Speaking of the future smart city, Peter Rees stated that it must be the ‘place’ that is intelligent and not just the building, and that this comes from factors like accessibility, multiculturality, favourable climate and financial security.
Both Clare Penny and Volker Buscher highlighted the significance of knowledge and how analysis of data can lead to savings and increase efficiency. Volker emphasised the importance of processes and technology in intelligently handling information and future proofing investments.
Derek Clements Croome stressed that intelligent design must be peoplecentric and that good environmental design is essential for human well-being. He presented a bio-inspired responsive building membrane as a potential vision for buildings of the future. Inspired by the eye structure of a moth, the building membrane has integrated PVs which enhance sunlight absorption and glow in the dark.
Hanif Kara spoke of a future using robotic construction and of the ‘invisible intelligence’ in the interdisciplinary use of bespoke tools, testing, fabrication and assembly of materials, citing three projects:
- Foreign Office Architects’ Ravensbourne College where the external facade pattern is informed by key functions in the interior
- Masdar City by Foster + Partners which drew inspiration for the brise-soleil from the past
- Kanyon Mall in Istanbul by Jerde Partnership where smart tools were employed to understand the aerodynamics of the building
According to Sean Affleck of Make, ‘intelligent design must do more’, allowing experiments with form, innovative materials, textures and patterns on the facades. Make has been exploring algae facades since 2008. They thrive on carbon dioxide emitted from the building keeping it cool and therefore reducing emissions. This type of facade also reflects the seasons, responding to the life of the algae.
An important theme emerging from the conference was how the integration of mobile technology in buildings could distance people from their work places. The physical presence of a building plays a critical role in enhancing social interaction. The speakers reflected on how the advent of mobile technology is changing the value of space in the city highlighting a need to retain a sense of belonging as ways of working become increasingly virtual.
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