Presented at the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference, Hong Kong, June 2017.

We are experiencing more disruption than ever with artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and autonomous vehicles are no longer science fiction. So what does this mean for construction? Will the building you’re thinking of designing today be obsolete even before it’s completed?

The only way we can avoid obsolescence is through embracing sustainable development. Sustainable development by its very definition helps guide us: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” So how do we firstly ensure our buildings meet the needs of the time in which they will be completed without compromising future generations?

Here are five critical factors to ensuring your building has a future.

1. Flexibility and adaptability

Buildings being designed today need to be built to accommodate the changing way we live and work. The ability for buildings to meet their short term multi-purpose use and then be quickly re-purposed will ensure long-term viability. Building a single-use building with a 50-year life span is no longer sustainable or financially viable.

2. Integration into place

Connecting and integrating our built environment into existing and future infrastructure creates a walkable city with improved productivity and commercial benefits. Buildings need to be integrated vertically into their environmental context. However, the asset’s long term value is enhanced if it is also integrated horizontally, creating pedestrian connection points to infrastructure, adjacent buildings, amenities and public spaces.

3. Physical resilience

Environmental factors are having an ever increasing impact on the buildings built today. Designing buildings with resilience features geared for the future is more critical than ever.

4. Digital engagement and communication

As technology becomes more integrated into the way we live and communicate, incorporating technology into buildings will rapidly evolve. By implementing the right technology, we will be able to increase efficiency, productivity, enjoyment and desirability of place. Your building will no longer be a static object but an organism of connected information that works to improve our way of life.

5. New revenue streams

Thinking beyond the traditional revenue streams is imperative to the financial success of our built environment. One such example is the collection and selling of data. Asset owners can benefit financially from capturing data from occupants and visitors and selling new services and products to truly create “high-performing” buildings.

By embracing future change with sustainable development now, we will make sure any investment in buildings will not be rendered obsolete.

Originally published 07.11.2017

Author: Marc Colella