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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Dealing with Construction Uncertainty – sg2013 London

April 30th, 2013 by Susan Smith

The Smartgeometry 2013 (sg2013) Conference, hosted by Bentley Systems, held in London at the Bartlett UCL Faculty for the Built Environment, assembled some of the most forward thinkers in the area of architecture today.

On Friday the venue is called “Talkshop” where a number of panelists present on various topics. Some of the highlights from those sessions are as follows:

 “Constructing Data”

Usman Haque of Haque Studios talked about data coming in from so many sources. Data is a big topic in this community now. London-based Pachube, Haque’s creation, is “a web service available at that enables you to store, share & discover realtime sensor, energy and environment data from objects, devices & buildings around the world. Pachube is a convenient, secure & scalable platform that helps you connect to & build the ‘internet of things’.”

This seems distant from what we understand as architecture, design and construction, but data is used to design and construct so it has relevance here. “We think we need to measure more things so then we will have more data,” explained Haque. “We think by having more data we will have more efficient behavior. It is almost glorying in the data. I believe data is crafted, it’s not just there , every action we take is to create data. The data is the least interesting thing; the most interesting thing is getting the public making data. This is what leads to understanding.”

He talked about a study where students went through streets and wiped grime off buildings, and then looked at it under a microscope to look at variants of pollutants and measuring. This was done to show the air quality difference on different places on the buildings, and further, how we might design using this information.

Abdulmajid Karanough, design architect, AEDA posed the question, “How do we communicate design and construction intent?”

The common way to do this is with sketches, 3D and BIM.

A project that he was the architect for, Al Bajar Tower, Abu Dhabi, required energy efficient rules in order to create an adaptive environment. The building folds and unfolds according to the movement of the sun, like a flyer. The façade needed to be capable of responding to the sun. Using origami as a way to explore the shapes needed, they eventually came up with 1,000 umbrellas that are called “mashrabia” that are programmed to open as the sun is facing. It blocks the sun but lets in light.

With this approach, windows don’t have to be heavily tinted. With the “mashrabia” less energy is used because they don’t have to use artificial light inside. They are made of aluminum, and the mesh is fiberglass.

“It doesn’t move when presented with extreme conditions,” said Karanough.

In the panel discussion, Usman brought out the fact that this project could have been done with each piece of the adaptive environment having its own intelligence.

Karanough responded: “We have one light sensor, and wind sensor. If you allow each panel to respond separately, it would respond in an unpredictable outcome, scaring people.” He said there was a certain amount of money and time to do the project and no one saw it as an opportunity to experiment with such things.

Stephen Gage pointed out that in other areas such as roads and highways, we have systems in place to deal with uncertainty, but we don’t see that as much in architecture.

Gage said, “technology will fail us. There is no real concept of control as much as we think we have control. It’s not an issue of building; the idea of architect has to evolve into different ideas of space. It’s not about responsive interior, it’s more of a necessity than novelty or desire.”

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Categories: AEC, architecture, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud, construction

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