Sensing the city of the future

By Catherine

By Catherine Bolgar*

Absolute World TowersSay “architecture in the future,” and you’re likely to think of buildings with a radical design, like the Absolute World Towers near Toronto, which twist some 200 degrees from base to top. But while architecture in the future might still be a feast for the eyes, other senses and feelings are likely to get more satisfaction as well.

Over the last 100 years, architecture has been a conversation about style,” says David van der Leer, executive director of the Van Alen Institute, a New York-based nonprofit architectural organization dedicated to the belief that design can transform cities, landscapes and regions to improve people’s lives. “What still largely is lacking in the conversation is how do we actually respond to the spaces we inhabit. If we know how the mind or body responds to the city, we may look at completely different ways of designing buildings.”

Recently, the institute undertook a project to understand people’s reactions to the city around them. The researchers walked around New York with residents of that city to find out how one, for instance, responds to a busy intersection. Often the subjects, who were wearing brain monitors, would respond that everything was fine, but “their brain activity says something else,” Mr. van der Leer explains. “If we don’t respond well to structures, why do we build them?”

The growing field of environmental psychology attempts to better understand the link between people and their surroundings. But scientists and architects still tend to work separately. “Research is happening, but there’s a disconnect between people being trained as designers and this type of knowledge,” Mr. van der Leer says.

Eventually, such research may lead to a different type of design, the way computer-aided design led to a surge in curvy buildings, and in the 1800s cast-iron structures allowed buildings to go higher without the need for thick walls.

In the 1960s we were so excited about the car in cities,” he says. “We put big parking lots and highways in the center of cities. We believed in speed. Sixty years later many still love the speed of the car but think about these particular design interventions in the city very differently.”

Today, the focus is on resilience and sustainability. “We need to know what is working and what isn’t, so buildings and cities become more sustainable to run,” he says.

Understanding how people react to architecture requires data, and sensors offer a new way to collect that data.

Masdar is a sensor-thick city being built from scratch near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates that is expected to be home to 40,000 people. Movement sensors, rather than switches and taps, will control lights and water. Transportation will include a driverless, point-to-point personal rapid transit system. Masdar will be the “world’s largest cluster of high-performance buildings that, together create a real-time laboratory to monitory and study how cities use, conserve and share resources,” the city’s Web site says.

Christchurch, New Zealand, also intends to carpet its infrastructure with sensors. The city’s downtown was almost completely destroyed by a series of earthquakes in 2011.

What are the issues facing Christchurch as it’s being rebuilt and what kind of data would be needed to help make decisions?” asks Roger Dennis, who founded Sensing City, a project to collect data to drive Christchurch’s rebuilding. “We’re creating the first place in the world where you can measure lots of variables in real time,” from air and water quality at a granular level to footfalls and traffic on major streets.

I’m interested in things like the air quality outside my son’s school between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.,” he says. “Data on a citywide level averaged over a year doesn’t tell me anything.”

Christchurch is aiming to become not just a smart city but a “sensing city with smart citizens,” he says.

Modern city at night with technology background
Mr. Dennis is counting on Christchurch’s 340,000 citizens to use ever-cheaper technology and ever-smarter phones to deliver crowdsourced data. He says although top-of-the-line sensors deployed by governmental agencies will give more accurate readings, they are too expensive to put everywhere. The richness of crowdsourced data can make up for lower accuracy. “Information from lots of people can give you better accuracy than from one government agency,” he says.

An early project is water quality testing, using paper-based kits that test levels of potassium hydride, nitrite, hydrogen and hardness in the rivers. Called “the Little Water Sensor,” the kits were designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Little Devices program and cost only a couple of dollars apiece. Residents can use them to test water in the city’s rivers and upload the data via smart phone to MIT, where it will be interpreted, geotagged and added to the crowdsourced database.

Another project involves using sensors on inhalers of patients with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. When someone takes a puff on the inhaler it will send information and a geotag to the cloud. The data can be compared with air-quality data, which could help doctors understand which conditions provoke patients’ symptoms.

*For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

What Is BIM Level 3?

By Akio

The following is an excerpt from End-To-End Collaboration Enabled by BIM Level 3: An Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industry Solution Based on Manufacturing Best Practices.

Download the full paper here.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been the Design & Construction industry’s answer to improve the flow of data through the building process, and, therefore, help to create efficiencies.

Industrialized practices work well when design information is structured appropriately for downstream application by builders, fabricators, and operators. BIM data standards have been gradually maturing to meet this purpose.

Building owners and operators are driving the industry to achieve higher levels of BIM maturity by demanding process improvements and technological innovations that reduce costs, increase value from suppliers, and increase sustainability.

Much of the industry is now moving from BIM Level 1 to Level 2, thanks in part to a directive by the U.K. government to adopt BIM practices by 2016.

An Updated Building Information Modeling (BIM) Maturity Model

From Computer-Aided Design to Building Lifecycle Management

BIM Maturity Model, Updated

Tweet: An updated #BIM Maturity Model: From CAD to BLM @Dassault3DS #AEC to tweet: “An updated #BIM
Maturity Model: From CAD to BLM”

Some companies are trying to find efficiencies with BIM Level 2 processes, traditional workflows, and point solutions.

The industry innovators are rethinking collaboration and leveraging integrated BIM Level 3 technologies to become more competitive.

Construction teams that successfully adopt BIM Level 3 processes benefit from strategic advantages: they create less waste, deliver in less time, and produce a better outcome while retaining a healthy profit margin.

BIM Level 2 vs. Level 3

In 2013, the U.K. government mandated that all government projects utilize BIM Level 2 by 2016 in order to reduce information ambiguity. While BIM Level 2 has indeed brought significant benefits to architects, Level 2 tools tend to focus on design coordination problems, and do not maintain much of a role in construction processes.

Models produced using Level 2 point solutions are ultimately exported and imported into disconnected systems. This handoff can create unintended consequences: data silos, errors, version control problems, and rework.

Tweet: #BIM Level 2 still requires exporting data, creating data silos, errors, rework, etc. @Dassault3DS #AEC to tweet: “#BIM Level 2 still requires exporting
data, creating data silos, errors, rework, etc.”

Data produced by the design team at the beginning of the project does not flow seamlessly through to the rest of the project delivery.

Architects ultimately miss the opportunity to adjust for means and methods, lose control of their design intent, and are pulled into a reactive process of responding to Requests for Information (RFIs).

Under Level 2, with no integrated system to leverage BIM data, builders and suppliers are removed from fully collaborating on the model and are left to absorb the cost of rework.

BIM Level 3 is the only approach that fully connects the data chain from start to finish, helping to create end-to-end efficiencies.

In a Level 3 system, BIM data is not converted into files and emailed or sent via FTP sites to various parties. A Single Source of Truth is established, stored in a database on the cloud, and accessible by all project contributors through web services.

BIM Level 3 allows data to be transactable for construction, fabrication, and even facility management purposes, enabling open collaboration and building lifecycle management.

A robust Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system creates an efficient environment for coordinating complex Architecture, Engineering & Construction data.

Adding BIM data to a PLM system creates a Building Lifecycle Management (BLM) system, which enables BIM Level 3.


Tweet: #BIM + PLM = BLM @Dassault3DS #AEC to tweet:
“#BIM + PLM = BLM”

Cover: END-TO-END COLLABORATION ENABLED BY BIM LEVEL 3 An Industry Approach Based on Best Practices from Manufacturing

Related Resources

Download the Dassault Systèmes whitepaper, “End-To-End Collaboration Enabled by BIM Level 3: An Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industry Solution Based on Manufacturing Best Practices”

Modul’Air: Design Thinking and Simulation Technology Help Redesign Public Transportation

By Akio

Tweet: The Future of #UrbanMobility: Pods, Cables, and In-Building Stations #AEC @Dassault3DS

Click to tweet: “Designing a #Sustainable and
Painless Public Transportation System”

Modul’Air, a finalist for the prestigious International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), offers a radical rethink of the urban mobility experience.

A central goal of the new public transportation system redesign was to harmonize human activity and nature in the French city of Grenoble.

The result is an innovative system of pods, transporting passengers and freight, which seamlessly connect, scale up and down according to volume patterns, and integrate with ground transportation modes.

The resulting passenger experience is extraordinarily painless and transparent—an obvious solution in hindsight. By design, Modul’Air lowers the barriers to utilizing public transportation and frees up ground space for a healthier environment and higher quality of life.



Eiffage’s Foresight Lab, Phosphore, and Dassault Systèmes Design Studio collaborated on the development of the Modul’Air experience.

In the process, Eiffage forged strategic partnerships with new business partners, in particular cable infrastructure builder POMA. Modul’Air project contributors leveraged the 3DEXPERIENCE® platform, which is now available on a cloud environment.

The Dassault Systèmes Design Studio provides holistic design innovation and implementation services for any industry. Design Studio partners become actors of innovation, bringing human understanding to the design process through advanced visualization, social collaboration, and decision-making applications.


The Design Studio will be presenting alongside Kerenza Harris and Becher Neme at the upcoming 3DEXPERIENCE Forum in Las Vegas, November 11-12, 2014.

Learn more or register for this event.

Tweet: Designing a Sustainable and Painless Public Transportation System #AEC @Dassault3DS

Click to tweet: “The Future of #UrbanMobility:
Pods, Cables, and In-Building Stations”


Related Resources:

International Design Excellence Awards

Industrialized and Collaborative Construction

3DEXPERIENCE Forum, Las Vegas, November 11-12


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