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Meet the technologies reshaping the built environment

Meet the technologies reshaping the built environment

Marcus Morrell
UKIMEA Foresight Lead

The Fourth industrial revolution

We are now in what Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum has termed the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – a revolutionary merging of the physical and digital realms. In this emerging era, Schwab foresees that combinations of information-powered and networked technologies will transform the way entire industries work. But what does this mean for the design and operation of the built environment?

From combination to innovation

A new Arup research publication, the ‘Emerging Technology Timeline’ examines how a cluster of emerging technologies will allow designers, architects and engineers to fully optimise the design of the built environment, taking into account the complex interplay between a building or an infrastructure asset and the wider natural, physical and digital systems in which it sits.

A new level of control

Immense quantities of highly detailed data, thousands of connected sensors, a quantum leap in computing power, visualisation tools that put the designer in virtual worlds. All these technologies together promise to give designers and engineers true ‘systems-level’ perspective for the first time. This vastly richer level of insight means better, more sophisticated decision making for clients and a more efficient and sustainable use of the world’s precious materials. They also point to a future for design and engineering where collaborative, data-rich processes inform every choice, bringing client, engineer, user and community closer together than ever before.

Combinations of these technologies are producing a highly disruptive new world of information, one which will in turn drive innovative systems-based approaches to design and engineering.

Marcus Morrell
UKIMEA Foresight Leader

Buildings that learn

We could greatly refine design thinking if we understood how buildings perform once they’re in use. Traditionally the building management systems that facilities managers rely on have been discrete technologies, often disconnected from each other and unobserved by the engineers who initially designed them. However, new ‘smart dust’ nanotechnology sensors promise the inexpensive monitoring of every aspect of a building post-occupancy. This level of embedded awareness means buildings become intelligence-driven, almost self-aware, allowing owner, designer and operator to subtly refine how an asset is used throughout its lifespan.