Recent years have seen lots of changes in the area of design tools for architects. Whereas in the past we worked offline, seated at drawing boards, today we all work within digital environments and BIM models, to which everyone has online access.
What has often changed little is the way (interior) architects collect information from the client. Naturally, the most sensible thing to do is to talk to the client and future users of the building being designed about their wishes and ideas for the future. In addition, for years we have been making use of questionnaires and design briefs, and we accompany the end users to gain better insight into their working processes.
We are currently expanding this process with new tools to gain a better understanding of how people use a building. This will enable us to develop even better possible scenarios for the future use of a building and take them on board in our design work. An example of such a tool is Indoor Analytics.
With Indoor Analytics, we make use of so-called beacons. Beacons are small devices that use Bluetooth to communicate with tags (in smartphones, for example), and collect and send data. By placing these devices throughout a building, we can learn how users behave inside the building. One issue of great importance to us in this regard is to ensure the privacy of users. That is why we are only interested in the overall picture, and not in the behaviour of individual users. We discovered that the collected data often threw up figures that differed from those acquired through questionnaires. That is because people cannot accurately estimate how much time they actually spend in their place of work.
In the data generated for an office building, for example, this might concern the occupancy rate for certain workspaces or conference rooms. But the data can also help determine the most frequently used circulation routes or the best position for the coffee machine. By linking this information to data about temperature, light intensity and sound levels, we can discover the possible reasons why spaces are used in particular ways.
Using this data, we can then simulate future scenarios in which we adjust the current situation, or adjust a new design. We can even allow virtual people to move through the design on the basis of information we supply. In short, we can deploy these new tools to gain more insight, and thus a more suitable design, for our end users.
To us, therefore, the role of the designer is shifting from player in an orchestra to conductor. From draftsman and calculator, we are moving towards a role in which we select which input (data) we consider important for a design. We then choose the best design approaches to elaborate further.
Today’s architect combines the expertise of designing hospitals with the expertise of using new design tools. That results in an ideal balance that ensures a good overview based on analyses, thereby allowing us to come up with the best design for the future.
Do you have a question about this subject? Or would use like to avail of our expertise in one of your projects? Then contact AnneMarie Eijkelenboom.