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Design Futures Council Global Conference
by Aeli Roberts

Key issues discussed at the Global Conference in London and Cambridge
Recently, leaders from the A/E/C industry in Europe and the U.S. gathered in London and Cambridge to consider how designers, engineers, and constructors are adapting to the significant changes in the industry world wide.  Included here are the key issues discussed.
Communicating Value: Good Design is Good Business
Business leaders have an accepted language (accounting) that is understood the world over. Economic concepts can be articulated easily across cultures, which provide the basis for trade, growth, innovation and profit potential. Business people understand quantitative measures and are comfortable with metrics that support and substantiate investment decisions.
The same is not true of the design professions. “Design language,” being more visual and less quantitative, is generally more fluid and hence not well understood, especially by members of the business community.
Business values are not traditionally seen as something designers are required to bring to a project, but to the client this is highly relevant in decision-making. To bridge the gap, what’s needed is a way of expressing design value in business terms and business value in design terms.
An effective design language should be multidimensional. Design ideas require visualization and comprehension in both 3-D and 4-D formats. Designers need to tell their stories effectively in a way that will be comprehended and appreciated by their audiences. BIM technology and gaming simulation are increasingly effective means of communicating with clients.
One of the challenges is to communicate “soft” values such as client satisfaction, user productivity and overall sustainability. Clients need metrics that are sufficiently predictive to inform decision making. For example, does more daylight actually contribute to better learning in a school classroom? Thus, a useful design language needs to be robust, dealing with both tangible and nontangible values.
A universally accepted design language would enable architects to communicate their value propositions clearly and convincingly. How much is good design worth? Is it possible to design a building that attracts measurably more visitors or even achieves landmark status? The perception of good vs. bad design is often subjective and personal, but a project that can demonstrate true value-added design has qualities that transcend the personal, and a vocabulary is needed to express these attributes.
The London Olympics: Case Study
The integrated procurement process that was used in the design of the Olympic facilities in London was successful. How best can this and other high profile programs be communicated both inside and outside the profession? Identifying and celebrating specific project stories would illustrate how design creates extraordinary value, both in aesthetic and business terms. The London Olympics epitomizes how the client and the design team articulated and then achieved their vision, in some cases exceeding expectations. Substantial long-term value was created for London as a whole, going well beyond the original design brief. The project revitalized and regenerated an entire precinct of the city, laying the foundation for substantial long-term value to the community, the city and the nation at large.
Good design can create value for all those involved in the project, from the design team to the constructor to the users. Design, when well thought out, has a far reaching impact; it can create a sense of well-being and contribute to long-term sustainability for many decades. Clearly articulating the value of design can provide inspiration for many audiences, including those wishing to enter the profession.
This underscores the need for designers to learn how to communicate with building owners and users throughout the entire life cycle of the building, especially since the original capital cost is a very small fraction (about 10 percent) of the long-term life cycle cost of a structure, and carbon emissions produced during the operational phase far outweigh those created during the construction phase.
Gaming Technology and the Design Process
Gaming technology offers designers a much more sophisticated way to articulate their vision. By visualizing a building in both 3-D and 4-D formats, computer generated imagery captures data not only about form, massing, structure and material, but also about cost, construction logistics and long-term maintenance. Computer simulation can even provide an emotional element.
Sophisticated digital tools can help stakeholders better understand how a space will function even before it has been built. That said, it is ironic that the digital age has to some degree diminished the need for actual places and spaces. The internet and cloud computing have enabled business to be easily conducted from remote locations, even while in transit. This has big implications for the way space will be used.
In the future, expect technology to enable buildings to “talk” to the users by providing ongoing information about performance, much like the dashboard in a car. This includes not only the engineered systems, such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing, but also biometrics — information about the actual users themselves.
Over the past decade, sustainability has become a mainstream business value. Therefore, architects and engineers need to integrate it into their thinking, not only for planning and design purposes, but for its ability to generate bottom-line value. To stay successful, businesses needs to adapt and accommodate the changing needs of society as a whole, and this eventually will be evident in all aspects of the supply chain. Sophisticated owners are taking into account the environmental impact of their projects during their entire useful life, including siting and massing, the selection of materials, energy consumption and conservation and, ideally, zero carbon emissions. Building performance should be optimized at all levels; this is just good business and common sense. It’s already taken for granted that all construction needs to meet universal standards of accessibility.
Design is not only about the new. An increasing volume of work is done in upgrading and refurbishing existing structures, and the future this segment of the industry is likely to grow substantially.
As buildings have become more intelligent there is now the option to include technology, such BMS (Building Management Systems) to allow the structures to communicate with the occupants in order to optimize performance. Certain clients, including the British government, are also driving the need to embrace BMS, and in the future it is likely to become a standard requirement.

This article is reproduced with permission from DesignIntelligence; http://www.di.net/articles/design-futures-council-global-conference/.



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