Ever moving into the future, new ideas and innovations are constantly being presented and considered for what buildings might look like in the years to come. Will people even work at an office, or will home become the new workplace? While that idea may sound appealing to some, it’s appalling to others. Many prefer the separation of work and home life, and abandoning completely the traditional idea of going in to work every day isn’t something everyone is prepared to do.
But as we move forward, we’ve got to consider the problems we face environmentally and how we might make a positive impact on them—rather than a negative one. At the recent British Council for Offices conference, delegates examined new ideas for what are called “intelligent” buildings.
“These buildings will respond to the needs of people, there will be an increased amount of personalization—you will be in control of the environment and be able to tune it to your needs,” said Derek Clements-Croome, who is an emeritus professor at the University of Reading. The proposed buildings he’s talking about could include futuristic abilities including the ability to interact with individuals, adjusting light to their preferences or even adjusting the microclimate to best suit their needs.
By “nano-coating” walls, designers have come up with a way to make an office move from a solid, unchanging environment not optimized for individuals to an “expressive medium” that creates “a seamless pleasant user interface.”
“When someone walks in, [our technology] can recognize who they are and then offer them the appropriate level of service,” says John Monaghan of Cisco.
As for the outside of the buildings, designers have proposed ideas such as “living facades,” where plants are planted and grown out of the very walls of a building, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
“Growing living facades could cool cities down like in a forest, where you find cool woodland glades because of all the evaporation going on around you,” says Sean Affleck of Make architects.
Similarly, if buildings were wrapped in algae tubes, gaseous waste from buildings could be absorbed by the algae—which could convert about 80% of the gas and release oxygen instead. After cleansing the air, the algae could then be harvested for power, biodiesel, cosmetics, or even food.
The risks at this point are still fairly large for investors, but businesses’ need for lower operation costs combined with the undeniable need to become much more sustainable means that ideas like these may not be too far off in the future.