Sep 29, 201309:00 AMPoint of View

The METROPOLIS Blog

Analog Assets: Digital Age

Analog Assets: Digital Age

The Stanford dSchool

Courtesy Achille Bigliardi

(page 1 of 3)

Mobile technology is developing at an exponential rate. Architecture evolves at a glacial pace. Result?  We have an “innovation gap” between the spaces we inhabit and the furiously changing nature of the activities our spaces need to support.

According to Moore’s Law, the number of transistors able to be fit on an integrated circuit doubles every year and a half, affecting a wide array of performance capabilities for virtually every electronic device imaginable. Historically, as technology performance increases, the cost to consumers decreases.

But the building industry advances at an arithmetic pace. Today the intended lifespan of a building is roughly 30 to 50 years, with the average commercial lease being 4 years. The traditional design/build process from concept through construction may take years. This slow pace has the unfortunate consequence of making the average new commercial building 4 years obsolete on the first day it opens. 

This “innovation gap,” created by the disparate evolutionary trajectories of modern life and the built environment, need not be seen as a sign of incompatibility, but rather as a rich zone of opportunity for advancement in architecture.

For architects to leverage this zone of opportunity, we must understand the reasons for change and associated technologies, and then move towards strategies that reflect the next epoch of evolution.

We can learn from other successful industry precedents.

Software is continuously updated to make sure the product serves the changing needs of the user. Design decisions are based on measured information. Iterative research and design cycles are constantly informed by real-time user and financial input; optimizing the effectiveness of development dollars.

The emergence of a “sharing economy” is changing the way we use expensive assets. Take, for example, how companies like Airbnb and Zipcar have utilized connected technology to revolutionize the way people find and share resources on an as-needed basis. Complex facilities like those in education and healthcare could learn a valuable lesson from the sharing industry. Specialized equipment and supplies require substantial front-end investment and require valuable square footage to accommodate, while often being used relatively infrequently at tremendous cost.

21st Century facilities need to be:

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