Buildings used to be large, dumb constructions of concrete and steel designed with a specific utility in mind – usually to cram as many people as possible into the smallest possible space without sacrificing safety and productivity. Times have changed with a realisation that great buildings can be self sufficient, operating independently of electricity grids and other infrastructure, and incredibly comfortable.
Apple’s new campus, being built in Cupertino, is being constructed with their characteristic attention to detail. While choices about exactly what timber is to be used – all of the interior wood is to be harvested from a specific species of maple, and only finer quality ‘heartwood’ at the centre of the trees will be used – the 1600 metre round building that’s been dubbed “the spaceship”, will have its entire roof covered with solar panels and be designed so that it will be able to operate without air-conditioning 70% of the time.
Closer to home, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital will not only be one of the most expensive buildings ever constructed but it will also be one of the most advanced.
The 11 storey edifice, which will be finished during 2016, will be one of the country’s greenest and most technologically advanced hospitals, with a purpose-designed ICT engine that integrates patient records, and clinical, patient and facilities management support systems.
There is massive potential for these buildings to completely revolutionise the way we think about construction. Today, a team of network and communications engineers is just as important as all the other trades and skills needed for creating a building.
With the capacity to integrate and connect almost every element of a large building, we have the potential to construct facilities that can anticipate and react to almost any scenario. Climate, lighting, safety and security systems can all work together to create workplaces and homes that will meet our environmental and productivity needs.
Although there are some extra costs during construction, the potential to operate independently of power grids and other centralised infrastructure will lead to long term cost savings and environmental benefits.