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LEAF Conference 2018 \

Designing buildings for robot occupants, creating interiors as backdrops for social media and occupying Mars are snippets of the debate at LEAF Conference 2018, chaired by Harbinder Birdi in Frankfurt on 18 October 2018. The following is an insight into the day’s debates.

How will new technologies shape our cities?

Drones carrying cargo could alleviate congestion, freeing up opportunities for pedestrian experience. Shared mobility may benefit cities but prove challenging to implement in rural areas. Future transport concepts such as Hyperloop would not suit every city, for example Rome requires ‘wireless’ options to preserve the city’s historic fabric. Designers need to embrace the benefits of technology to shape our future cities and not leave it to tech giants alone.

Is there opposition in the adoption of technology?

The 1999 display by Alexander McQueen, where robots spray painted a model at the Met in New York, exemplifies the coexistence between human and machine. Some see technology as a threat, presented as such in the film industry, or a catalyst to job loss. The consensus was that construction cannot be fully automated as there will always be a desire for human craftsmanship. Technology should not substitute but enhance human possibility.

Are construction professionals doing enough to address the environmental impact of their buildings?

We need to assess the implications of our actions in the construction industry and technology facilitates this process. At Hawkins\Brown the Revit based tool HBERT has been developed to enable assessment of embodied carbon emissions of building components during the design process which sets grounds for complete life cycle carbon footprint analysis.

How is technology used in the hospitality industry?

There is an increasing desire to ‘get back to basics’ with nature and experience local culture, perhaps a reaction to modern day tensions. Those travelling for business may prefer to check in and have keyless access to their hotel room via an app; others favour interaction with hotel staff. Technological innovations increase variety of choice for guests.

Can architecture respond to human emotion?

Sensory hardware can read emotion and physical actions, software then triggers a response in the surroundings. It was questioned whether it is possible to rationalise complex human behaviours and emotions providing standard reactions to suit. The application of sensors raises uneasiness regarding data collection and privacy; the process requires transparency. We should also be mindful of how we adapt to trends or integrate technologies as they can become outmoded.

How can technology be utilised during design and construction?

At Hawkins\Brown, we have seen the first-hand benefits of implementing DfMA through our work on Crossrail improving precision, efficiency and reducing health and safety incidents considerably. Our designers are also becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of working with technology to help solve problems, our in-house computation team crafts bespoke software to tackle the varying challenges of projects. Technology not only augments possibility but allows us more time and thought-space to do better, enjoy and create.

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