16.–21.01.2023 #immcologne

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Intelligent construction

Smart technology for architects

The way we live and work is changing constantly. Encouraged and driven forward by concurrent progress and the accessibility of technology, this constant change also influences the way architects and designers think about modern living spaces.

The building that thinks: modern architecture combines design and technology at the highest level to make home living even more comfortable and convenient. (Photo: Lance Anderson on Unsplash).

The building that thinks: modern architecture combines design and technology at the highest level to make home living even more comfortable and convenient. (Photo: Lance Anderson on Unsplash)

The smart home: no longer a futuristic fantasy

Flexible working, digital nomads, co-working spaces and co-living accommodation are markets that are expected to keep growing, so that the boundaries between spaces for living, working and relaxation adapt accordingly and become increasingly blurred. Much of this is still in the early stages, but connectivity and automation are definitely gaining more and more ground. From concepts involving virtual reality to construction using robots to controlling the household with a smartphone, the smart home has the potential to improve many users’ quality of life.

Dot Architects have come up with a particularly innovative approach in this field. As early as 2017, they built an entirely smart home called Baitasi House of the Future – an experimental tiny house in the historic Hutong district in Beijing. Moveable modules in the house are controlled via a smart TV and can be shifted around to create four different basic layouts, which, among other options, allows the entire space to be transformed from living accommodation with three bedrooms into a small office, and vice-versa. The façade can even be opened up to connect the living area with the outdoors. Some of the transforming pieces of furniture and other parts of the house have to be put together manually, but the process is largely automated.

The layout of the house is partly inspired by the architects’ conviction “that the boundaries between home and society are being blurred by the rise of the sharing economy, working nomads and technology.” This is placing new demands on living spaces – demands that can no longer be met by conventional, static layouts.

With the SmartSauna by Klafs, you can switch on the sauna from anywhere and relax as soon as you get home. (photo: KLAFS).

With the SmartSauna by Klafs, you can switch on the sauna from anywhere and relax as soon as you get home. (photo: KLAFS).

Smart-home solutions on a smaller scale

There’s no doubt that a fully networked, thinking house comes at a cost. But smart home applications can be incorporated on a smaller scale during the planning stages too. Lighting specialist Bega has developed lights that can be controlled via an app and allow indoor and outdoor areas to blend into one. The resulting interplay of the lighting breaks through physical boundaries and visually extends the indoor space. Klafs is combining the smart home with comfort and convenience at the highest level. The company has developed a sauna that you can switch on while you’re still out and about. The settings for temperature, humidity and lighting can be controlled by voice using Amazon’s Echo Dot. Equally compelling are the innovative products by Biffar . The company specialises in doors and windows and is tackling one of homeowners’ biggest concerns – break-ins. Biffar’s smart doors can be opened by touching a fingerprint sensor, and the digital door viewer enables the area around the door to be monitored on an iPad or smartphone.

How the interior design and construction industry can benefit

Lighting systems, sound systems and surveillance cameras that can be controlled via an app can also be fitted in existing properties. The market for smart home technologies is growing constantly and offers a wide range of solutions that can be controlled wirelessly through a smartphone. However, customers often have concerns about security against hackers. Comprehensive systems that are integrated into the planning right from the start can help alleviate those concerns, as they transmit signals via special cables, which are installed in the walls or floors so that they are almost invisible. Unlike wireless systems, these systems transmit data exclusively via a home server, rather than over WiFi, and therefore an external server. In addition to security, smart home systems that have been incorporated from the outset offer other benefits:

  • 1. A wireless infrastructure reduces the number of visible plug sockets and switches needed. This enhances the aesthetic appeal of the home and eliminates the need to consider plug socket placement when arranging furnishings, allowing more scope for creativity in interior design.
  • 2. Intelligent homes autonomously adapt to different conditions, automatically closing the blinds on hot summer days or creating ventilation at certain temperatures. This gives architects more flexibility when designing indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • 3. Since the home’s functions can be controlled from anywhere, the room layout can be more flexible. Instead of placing one room at the centre, the rooms and functions merge with one another.

Since the home’s functions can be controlled from anywhere, the room layout can be more flexible. Instead of placing one room at the centre, the rooms and functions merge with one another.

Accessible living with intelligent technology

The rise of intelligent technologies is often met with disparaging comments about how lazy people have become. Surely we can open doors, switch on the lights or television, or adjust the curtains with our own two hands. But we’re quick to forget that not everyone is physically able to do those things. In a world where so much is designed for young, healthy people, traditional concepts – from floor plans to kitchen sinks – exclude a considerable proportion of the population. However, the alternative has been perfectly possible for some time now. By integrating automated processes, sensor technology and artificial intelligence, architects and the interior design industry can expand their customer base. This intelligent approach proactively includes the whole of society while at the same time opening up new distribution channels – and making retrofitting in order to meet the needs of older people unnecessary in many cases.

Seizing opportunities with smart approaches

The potential of intelligent solutions is obviously huge, so it is a smart move to integrate them right from the construction planning stage. After all, not only do smart home applications make day-to-day home living more convenient and secure , they also enable living spaces to be used in new, more flexible ways. If the interior design and construction sectors adopt a common approach in this domain, in future every home can become a thinking system.

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