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Lifetime Optimisation: putting people first at every stage of the building lifecycle

On the 15th May Hurley Palmer Flatt hosted a panel discussion as part of Green Sky Thinking. The panel discussion was introduced and chaired by Associate Director and Head of Advanced Building Optimisation Division at Hurley Palmer Flatt, Gustavo Brunelli. Panellists included Carlo Benigni, Design Architect at Brookfield Properties; Mark Tynan, Architect at Make Architects; Mike O’Mahony, Managing Director at Andrew Reid & Partners; and Jason Clark, Head of Property Management at UBS.

Two years ago, in our Green Sky Thinking event the audience was asked to answer the question ‘In your opinion, what is more important to drive design?’. Results were: People (57.1%), energy (21.4%), space (7.1%), none of the above (0%), all of the above (14.3%). The need for people centric design is still true today. Gustavo used the example of the Lifetime Optimisation cycle to emphasise why people have the greatest impact through all the stages of design, all of which have their involvement:

Gustavo’s introductory presentation highlighted that offices, although having the same purpose of an establishment for work, can require entirely different needs dependent on the end user. Thus, there needs to be a focus on the occupier so that the office can adapt to their needs. The solution should not be focused solely on the interior of the building, it also ensures that people are made comfortable outdoors, which can be guaranteed by techniques such as mapping thermal comfort, building physics analysis and modelling. Interior comfort comes primarily from the building envelope, but is greatly impacted by ventilation strategies, lighting and circadian rhythm and processes which ensure the most comfortable and productive environment for the end users.

The panellists then answered questions from the audience, including:

What are the key opportunities to optimise the building?

The answers for this question included the understanding of the building’s context and type, and from this cater for the range of users within the building. The experience is not just the building it is all the in-between, from leaving their house, the mode of transport to get to the building, all the way to their desk. Another element was the use of benchmarking of buildings across various aspects to see what might be achieved and then look at competitors and industry standards to ensure the best possible outcome. Different types of spaces need to be provided, such as open spaces, meeting spaces, and quiet working spaces. This means that it is not so important that everyone has individual control; people can move around to suit their needs.

How important is it for people to have control over their environment?

People controlling lighting and temperature at their desk is not feasible, however, comfort factors can be set to suit the vast majority and can be constantly monitored and updated. By giving occupiers different spaces there is more diversity and options. It is important for people to have perception of control and with moving around and other elements such as adapting their workspace with sit/stand desks it gives them a degree of control. The concept of plug and play environment gives versatility to occupiers, and with the introduction of apps to monitor placement it gives the end-users the ability to book spaces, monitor more sociable or quieter spaces and have the constant ability to control their own movements. If the end user is given too much control it de-optimises and changes the purpose of the space leading to the building becoming completely out of sync.

What are the things that drive design away from focus on people’s needs?

As the process of design goes through stages, the end user isn’t always in mind due to focusing on systems and processes which can be distracting. A step back needs to be taken to remember that behind all the data is a human being sing the space. End users need to be engaged from the outset and provided with feedback with real time data so that they know their environment is continually getting monitored for their comfort. The budget is also a big element, and is often dependent on the currency the company trades in. For example, a bank can sometimes focus on systems to enable trade rather than people, whereas a more artistic industry may have more of a focus on the people and aesthetics.

Our Green Sky Thinking  panel discussion was a success and Hurley Palmer Flatt hope to host these events in future so that the design industry can come together to discuss important and constantly changing topics.