INFLUENCES OF TECHNOLOGY ON ARCHITECTURE
What is Architecture – Art or Science? We asked the experts. And the unanimous view is that for an architecture to become an art, it first has to fulfil the requirements of science. More recently, technology has changed the form as well as the function of architecture.
BY: SAPNA SRIVASTAVA
Evolution is a process that is constant and we need to adapt to the changes to make our life simpler. Indeed technology affects the way architects design buildings and clients experience the design process. But, does design shapes technology, or technology influences design?
Sanjay Wadhwa, Director, SWBI Architects said, “In all sensitively designed projects design and technology intertwine with a singular focus but sometimes they do diverge and are at cross purpose. Success of a building lies in creating a harmonious balance between the ambition & aspiration of design with the dictates of technology. While in pure ecological terms the traditional construction materials & methods such as earth, timber and bamboo perform far better than the alloys and aggregates of so-called high-tech, but they do not pass the bar, at so many other levels. Fortunately in the modern era, the mantra has been to create more with less, which is the backbone of ecological sustainable architecture. Building projects consume 50% of our material resources from nature, however help is here in form of cutting edge materials like Self-healing concrete, Hardwood cross-laminated timber, Bioplastic, Homeostatic facades, Artificial spider silk, 3D-printed graphene & Aerographite. Also, the design using recycled materials is equally important. Similarly, 40% of CO2 emissions come from buildings. This percentage outstrips both the transportation and industrial sectors of society. But with the implementation of IoT, we can reduce waste by using sensors & detectors to turn off machines and HVAC systems, which will have a major impact on energy consumption.
The reduced energy consumption & controlled material usage, when combined with an architectural design which envisages in its program – generating energy from renewable sources using Solar, Wind and even Piezoelectric is an ideal urban setting. in this scenario, we will design buildings that moves and changes according to human habits and weather patterns and deploy technology in form of internet of things, that will enable us to move and monitor our buildings to achieve the end goal of creating a responsible & responsive built environment.
Babu Cherian, Principal Architect, BCA Architecture added, “Technology is not always about the modern and latest techniques and methods, but also about people’s mind-set and concern humans have about the earth. Smart appliances and energy equipment are brought into use that drastically work towards energy conservation. A design can also be categorised into an eco-sensitive one, just by considering its construction, operation, maintenance and even its demolition. If these processes can be executed without affecting the environment, then the technology can be called a perfect ‘compadre of architecture.”
Rahul A Bendre, Principal Architect, ABC Design Management expressed, “The number of software available in the market to assist a designer in presenting his thoughts are only increasing by the day. Virtual reality and augmented technology make the client experience a near real life feel sitting far away. With the use of 3D printing machines you can create just about anything. Platonic Arc one of the first 3D Printers for architects converts simple AutoCAD files into 3d printing. Home automaton makes it easy to control your space even remotely, so technology not only assist architects in building efficient durable designs and structures, but also provides complete flexibility to end user. The use of CRABOT which are robotic hybrid cranes help in construction and for limitless, easy, and affordable reconfiguration of space throughout the building’s life. The use of solar energy in a right way can create wonders in eco green buildings. Such ideas as ecological replacement scheme or ecology integration using traditional concepts of natural landform integration, natural orientation and effective methods of harnessing the climatic resources like the sun and winds and a breakdown on the modes of building material selection and application to suit geographical and climatic conditions.
Ranjith K Kartha, Director, Principal Lighting Consultant, Veda Lighting Design & Systems (P) Ltd said that in the interior design, new materials and solutions define how the next level of designers perceive a space and design for their clients. “Essentially, the design problem comes first and then along the process of finding a solution, a technology emerges. When it comes to design it’s the user that is at the centre of the ecosystem. Specifically to Lighting, it shapes the space, it captures attention, it motivates, it invigorates. When we design for humans, I think the starting point itself is environmental consciousness. It is important to achieve the right balance. For example, a few technologies that have become integral to our practice are, using Occupancy sensors to design safer spaces, using dimmable lighting controls to design spaces that are welcoming and cosy, using IoT technology to create real time responsive lighting in offices, saving energy and even monitoring people movement, which in turn can control HVAC systems and using tunable white technology that can automatically change light spectrum in sync with our circadian rhythms. These are a few of the interesting technologies and that are affecting how design intents are getting redefined.”
Manish Kumat, Founder & Chief Designer, Manish Kumat Design Cell shared. “If we speak of technology in respect to architecture, it has transformed the role of the architects in becoming more broad-based that helps in designing ecologically sensitive buildings which are cost efficient, sustainable & close to nature. This integrates the building industry to other industries without losing relevance. Big commercial projects have a huge demand for air conditioning and electrical loads. We try to promote buildings, which are naturally ventilated along with air-conditioning. Some of the techniques are- Use of occupancy and day light sensors, Double glazed glass units, to reduce heat and increase light transmittance, designed differently with different values for different directions, Efficient HVAC (VRV system) with maximum coefficient of performance, Water saving techniques, Utilization of renewable energy and Solar with Heat pump.
“In buildings, wellness is the new sustainability. The goal is to make our built environment more physically healthy for people who stay in them. The concept of sustainability extends to development related to smart buildings and healthy communities, which could support sustainable living, meeting human needs and ensuring equity,” Rahul A Bendre
TECHNOLOGIES AT THE FOREFRONT OF DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Digital Transformation is completely disrupting design & construction. Some major technological influences are by the BIM, 3D Printing, etc. Moreover, technological and market disruptions are transforming how that energy is created, stored, and distributed. Rightly so, ecology & environment is like a tree with architecture and technology its two branches.
Babu Cherian stated, “In architecture technology is not just the software or the applications, even the basic necessities of design and drawing like a pencil, set square, t -scale are all part of this technology that helps in architectural development. Virtual reality is an advanced version of development where people can experience a virtual walkthrough inside a building. This helps the clients and the designers understand every aspects of the design. BIM helps in amplifying efficiency of the whole process of design and construction, saves time and enhance even minute and intricate details of a design, while 3D printing helps in curtailing manual effort and time drained for model making.”
According to Sanjay Wadhwa his commentary is more focused on design. “The main technologies which are defining today and will shape tomorrow are – Technologies that support remote & hybrid working that is moving towards what is now being called “tech-parity”, wherein people doing WFO & WFH enjoy the same online collaboration experience & appearance. Secondly, smart building systems: that have been taken to a level where at a dash board one can virtually have the “Digital twin” of the entire building on a BIM platform. Tech enablement in buildings will be defined at two levels – Operational Efficiency & enhancement of User experience. The former deals with energy monitoring & facility control through digital twin, smart office sensors for space monitoring, smart restrooms & smart cafe, parking & elevator management and the latter maps the entire journey from home using smart shuttle system to booking desk, standardizing coffee mix, navigating the indoors , locker management, visitor & meeting room management etc. Thirdly, with ever increasing awareness amongst the users, the need for design professionals to justify the use case of green technologies in terms of ROI and similar calculations are fortunately fast diminishing. Industry is witnessing an upward surge in investment in green technologies primarily centred on creating Net Zero buildings.
Rahul A Bendre enumerates three technologies. “Robots, drones and autonomous equipment’s have entered the construction industry and shall soon rule it. Drones assist in land survey building inspection monitoring site activities visual presentation and progress discussions with clients etc. On the other hand, robots have increased the efficiency precision and progress speed of work. To add to it we have autonomous equipment’s that don’t need an operator like dumper volcador painting drone etc the future is fast changing.
Also, Powerwall digitalized masonry and more such materials are blending with technology. Powerwall, a compact, lithium-ion battery pack will allow residents to autonomously consume energy by drawing from their own sun-powered reserve. Digital fabrication and automated construction processes are now being looked at in place of masonry walls. The ongoing evolution from centralized to distributed power, including innovations such as hybrid photovoltaic plus-storage and mini-grids, have enormous potential to broaden access to clean energy. Digitalization of the energy system and the proliferation of electric vehicles, which can be a distributed energy resource, will be central to energy sector transformation. And floating storage and regasification units are an innovation providing natural gas power in emerging markets. Lastly, augmented technology and 3D printing have taken designing visualization to another level. 3D printers are also being used to make some of the finest creations with Portland cement glass etc.”
Manish Kumat concurred that drones are the most widely used emerging construction technology and the upcoming technology of 3D printing would challenge the major design process. “Because the process is based on CAD, any product alterations are easy to make without impacting the manufacturing cost in 3D printing. Additionally, modular construction can come into role when the construction has to be done within a given time frame with more accuracy and less site work,” he added.
3D printers can be used to create buildings, bridges and homes. It is fast, inexpensive and can be used to create strong structures. It’s only a matter of time before architect’s plan for use of 3D printers in everyday building design.
Ranjith K Kartha believes that sensors are a big part of lighting design and control. “The capability of sensors could get better and integrated with other building services to control lighting, surveillance and security, energy saving, human recognition, etc. Virtual Reality / AR have already made inroads in big architectural firms and help understand and communicate design better. In lighting, its importance will be felt. Applications in Lighting will move beyond Architectural spaces, and as already seen it’s very prevalent in Horticulture, sleep therapy, treatments for Dementia etc. 3D printing could help integrate luminaires deep into architecture. Artificial intelligence & machine learning could disrupt how we look at lighting a space. Who know, next might be drone luminaires that follow you around to your bathroom and garden!”
“From my philosophical perspective, we are at this technological frontier where we are headed towards automating everything and anything around us. Will there be human centricity anymore? Will the world have human qualities anymore? What would be left for us to do?” Ranjith K Kartha
ADVANCED BUILDING MATERIALS & SYSTEMS FOR WELLNESS
The whole intent of advancement in building systems is to enhance the quality of life and experience of Users in a built space. Sustainable living can be achieved through the adoption of smart technologies into our living spaces, wherein intelligent computing could support people’s activities, or the adoption of advanced systems into our community, wherein inhabitants’ wellbeing could be promoted.
Advanced building materials are a new generation of construction materials that demonstrate exceptional properties, making buildings and infrastructure smarter, more sustainable, energy-efficient, and resilient such as:-
- Human centric lighting designed as per the use of the building space. Factoring the light temperatures, voltage and the fixture type can enhance the wellness of building.
- HVAC with Fresh air system- accomplishes two primary indoor air quality goals – pressurizing a building and increasing indoor air quality by diluting polluted or stale indoor air.
- Low Volatile organic compound (V.O.C) & lead free paints with heat guard technology can keep building cooler. Also, Double Glazed Units (DGU) windows consist of a layer of inert Argon gas sealed between two layers of glass that creates nearly twice the insulation as single glazed units.
- P.E.X. (Cross Linked Polyethylene) Plumbing is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, doesn’t corrode, is faster to install than metal and rigid plastic and has fewer connections and fittings. It eliminates the health hazards. And water flowing through P.E.X. does not cause carcinogenic properties.
“Advanced building materials and systems should just focus on ensuring that the processes do not tarnish or blemish the environment. Nowadays new technologies not only save time and energy, but also promote waste reduction, recycling of materials and conservation of fossils,” Babu Cherian
FUTURE TRANSFORMATIONS IN USE OF BUILT SPACES
Built spaces usage pattern has undergone a sea change. Especially in the last two years, the future changes in the built spaces are quite evident. With the impact of the pandemic, humans are constantly finding solutions to be able to carry on with life by adapting to changes. Most cities are witnessing internal migration and reorientation and architectural planning is witnessing a major change.
As per Sanjay Wadhwa, “Occupancy controlled spaces with physical distancing will become the norm. The metrics of design in terms of square feet per person has had a paradigm shift already. Also more and more people now want to spend time in outdoors, which has taken a completely new definition and use case of working, eating, drinking, training etc.”
Babu Cherian agreed that there will definitely be a decline in sophisticated designs like enclosed spaces in offices or even an auditorium. “Safety distance and separations will restrict the design requirements and client needs. Virtual platforms can help in balancing the isolated concentration and productivity, but may reduce the value postulation of shared interactive workspaces. Hand free installation and equipment, UV sanitisation, use of anti-bacterial fabrics and paints, etc. may get used extensively. Air-conditioned rooms may also be designed in such a way that the room is properly ventilated ensuring unhindered air circulation and sunlight.”
Rahul A Bendre was of the view that work from home has led to home renovations for a home office and taking vacation homes in nearby destinations to enjoy the perfect balance of nature and work life. “The change one can forecast in designing a new space, is a study area which is sound proof.”
Manish Kumat added, “In built spaces, quarantine rooms will be planned with proper ventilation and a connected open space as also, convertible room/ guest rooms that can be transformed into a hospital space with a plug and play system. The definition of city- centre is also changing. People living in the core/dense part of the cities, now want to move out to suburbs. Affordable and spacious with amenities like an additional room for WFH (work from home) equipped with all digital solutions and open areas in terms of gardens and walkways will become major part of planning.”
Ranjith K Kartha feels that the pandemic has helped a lot of people relook at their lives and purpose. “I think our relationship with everything will change. How, what and where we do things will change. Remote work, hybrid work will be more common and offices will get more casual for the service industry. I think change will be slower for construction workers or the manufacturing sector. However, the digital tsunami will affect everyone now or sooner.”
“In workplace design domain, it’s completely a user centric approach. Wellness is closely linked with advanced systems integration from monitoring IAQ, to Glare free lighting, mapping occupancy levels, achieving operational efficiency to correct Acoustic levels enhanced by content soundscaping like infusion with nature based sounds, navigational ease and extensive deployment of Biophilia & Green Concepts,” Sanjay Wadhwa
BUILDING MODERN & COMPLEX YET LOW-ENERGY STRUCTURES
At the very first instance the concept of building modern & complex structures using low energy to construct appear to be a bit oxymoronic in nature, as complex problems can rarely be solved by simple fixes & formulas. But, with growing concerns for the environment and climate change, there has been a focus on the way new structures are commissioned and built; particularly in their use of energy and resources.
Sanjay Wadhwa stated, “The biggest challenge is the budgeting, as the current available technologies have yet to hit the mainstream and be affordable to deploy. A long term vision is required with the investors looking at reaping rewards & returns only after an extended period of time. The second is the limitation of available technology itself, which is at research stage. Various business groups and entrepreneurs are working towards solutions, technologies & materials to cater to this fundamental Ask of creating Exciting Architecture which uses least energy to build and run. One can find a parallel in the works of the likes of Buckminster Fuller and Frei Otto of creating a style of High-Tech which epitomizes the “Techno-Eco” approach to Architecture.”
Babu Cherian said, “The main challenge faced by the designer is satisfying the site conditions without compromising client needs. Even if the designer wants to reduce the use of resources to make it a sustainable project there are some restrictions that occur either by the requirements of the client or the existing site conditions. The opportunity of building a modern resource efficient structure is the competence and efficacy of design and the designer.”
Rahul A Bendre shared, “One way to make changes in the buildings of today and the future is to incorporate green building practices. Green buildings often conserve raw materials, incorporate green products and reduce or recycle waste; they are designed to reduce storm water runoff, use less energy and water, and use renewable energy sources. These cost more so if the government gives good incentives like Renewable energy credits on carbon offsetting to builders who follow all these norms and citizens who purchase these flats, we will see a shift in mind-set.
“The benefits of a resource efficient building are many. The main challenge is the limited awareness among the citizens and many perceive it to be an expensive option. The biggest factors holding back green building adoption in India is lack of skilled experts and manpower. Also lack of government policies & incentives in promoting such buildings,” Manish Kumat