Architecture, design and intelligent systems: The Cybertecture Egg
Have you ever noticed that all the smart buildings recently coming up around the world are characterised by an innovative, futuristic design? It’s not just about the look, there’s a deeper explanation for it.
Professor Derek Clements-Croome, from the University of Reading, claims that “it is not all about high-tech digital design technologies; an intelligent building has to include other low-tech approaches such as passive environmental control.” A smart building is certainly marked by technology and digital services, but architecture is also an essential element.
Architect James Law coined the term ‘Cybertecture’ to identify the blend of architecture, environmental design, innovative engineering and intelligent systems needed to meet people’s needs and draw up a new urban environment.
“In this 21st Century, buildings will be different from 20th Century; they are no longer about concrete, steel and glass, but of the new intangible materials of technology, multimedia, intelligence and interactivity. Only recognizing this will bring a new form of architecture to light – namely a Cybertecture.”
An example of Cybertecture building is The Egg, at the heart of the business district in Mumbai, the most populous city in India and ninth most populous urban area in the world.
The concept of this building, designed by James Law himself for the client Wadhwa Developers, is to be a building unlike any other, something completely different from existing architecture. It was inspired by the idea of planets as sustainable natural ecosystems that grow and allow life to evolve with it over time, to provide people with the best environment possible to live and work in. It is intended as a symbol of optimism about the future.
The Egg, opened in 2010, is a 32,000 square meter building, made of reinforced concrete and steel, that offers 13 floors and three levels of basement providing car parking places for 400 vehicles. Its curved windows create a more spacious feel from the interior, facilitated also by its innovative main characteristic, which is the lack of obstructive columns over its wide floors.
To obtain the oval shape, it has been computer designed using evolutionary engineering for a high quality and geometric sophistication, which is not only for visual appearance, but it allows the building to have 10-20% less surface area compared to other traditional buildings. Its design is called passive solar design, which means it can distribute solar energy without the use of electronic devices, it can decrease heat gain and lower energy loads.
As we find with other smart buildings, the Egg is full of innovations focused on environmental sustainability. Its design allows the best use of natural light, resulting in an energy demand that is lower than the average. The Egg has photovoltaic panels on its façade and wind turbines on the roof, that provide it with an alternative electrical supply and make it self-sustainable. The rooftop is also characterised by another element: a natural elevated garden that helps the cooling of the building, provides oxygen and accommodates people when they need a rest.
Among the environmentally friendly initiatives in place across the building, there’s also a water recycling system, managed through a rainwater recovery system, waste water purification systems, filtration and wetland cell system.
There’s also a groundwater cooling system to provide natural cool water for the building’s air conditioning. Water saving actions can reduce the consumption up to 30%, and the initiatives implemented in the Egg can already achieve an effective 20% recycling rate. The recycled water is then used to irrigate the green section on the roof and the landscaping in the surrounding area.
If you are wondering how this building is actually influencing the experience of workers, here are a few examples:
- Health. Restrooms are designed to electronically monitor workers’ health through indicators such as vital signs, weight and blood pressure, that can be signalled to doctors if judged necessary.
- Augmented Reality. People can customise their office view by choosing a virtual real time scenery from all around the world to be shown on their office windows, to always feel relaxed and at their ease.
- Intelligent Building Management System. The building is designed to automatically reduce energy use in less utilised areas and rooms.
This is an example of how architecture need not be restricted solely to the physical attributes of a building, but it’s becoming a mix of design and intelligent systems to give people the best place to work and live in, improving both their experience and the environment around them. That’s exactly what being a smart building means.