More than ever, technology is now an important factor to be considered in the planning and design of buildings. Deloitte recently highlighted that the use of smart building technology could enable more efficient facilities management and help support a safe and healthy environment. As workers return to office buildings, corporate tenants and building owners need to plan and prepare. Similarly, residential and commercial buildings of the future will be designed with the wellness and health integration of its users in mind.
According to CallisonRTKL’s Senior Associate Director Prodipto Ghosh, this ‘new normal’ means that the future of architecture will allow architects to take one-step forward in creating authentic solutions that are adaptable to an individual’s needs while tackling issues that arise from being socially distant. “It is important that people feel safe and secure in an environment, so by incorporating technologies that can support this will play a big part in buildings in the future.”
For example, buildings need to become more intelligent and building management systems (BMS), and sensors that are already prevalent in modern buildings need to be far more ubiquitous and adaptable to changing needs, such as this pandemic. BMS systems need to be able to gather data and control the infrastructure while continually communicating with the users to identify and inform them of potential risk, Ghosh highlights.
Building infrastructure also needs to change to gain the trust of the users. From the parking to elevator control, access control, lavatory fixtures, and dispensers, all should be connected to a contactless system that can be linked back to a user’s smartphone, allowing the building and the occupant to communicate more readily with each other.
According to Ghosh, social distancing can be enforced through contactless access control systems. “This can also be built into smartphone technology and linked to a BMS system which can measure the occupancy and control the number of people in a space or building at a given time,” he explains. “Offices can be linked to an algorithmic protocol, which through anonymized sensors can calculate safe distancing in the environment and allocate people to desks or areas of use.”
Another technology that can help buildings get ready for a new normal in the post-COVD-19 environment are heat sensors that can be placed at the entrance of buildings, which is a simple way to identify risk at the threshold and control the spread of a virus by limiting access to the building.
Ghosh also highlights that buildings will need to have advanced HVAC systems that contain hospital-grade air filters to aid better air quality while the systems must be engineered to limit the mixing of air. Sensors built into the system can continuously detect poor air quality and communicate with the BMS system to intelligently control and cut off areas where potential risk is detected.
“The maintenance routine of a building can also be controlled by technology with robotic infrastructure sensing the occupant levels and intensity of use in areas within a building and relay that information to the maintenance system,” says Ghosh. “The system will then cordon off the zone and sanitize the area which will, in turn, be communicated back to users via the BMS to their smartphones.”
So, with wellness and health integration become a key consideration when designing buildings in the future, how can we leverage technology to achieve this? According to Ghosh, fundamentally, health and wellness remain at the core of all societies.
“By focusing our attention on the challenges of the ‘new normal’ that we now face in our daily lives, coupled with the application of emerging urban technologies and life centered design, it is possible to deliver solutions that enhance the happiness, health and wellbeing for all.
“Spaces can provide stress relief, methods of interaction, levels of comfort, natural light, air quality and other elements that can influence people’s emotions and provide environments where individuals are more conducive to productivity.”