‘Net zero,’ modularity set trends for future buildings

‘Net zero,’ modularity set trends for future buildings
Building automation, enhanced security, energy efficiency – these are some of the features we’re seeing in modern buildings. But what about the future? A recent blog post by ASSA ABLOY offers a glimpse into what we can expect of buildings in the decades to come.
The blog post cited remarks by Nora Wang, technical lead for an American research effort called A Vision for Future Buildings, which maps out an ideal version of how buildings could evolve in the next 100 years. The post began by saying construction of buildings that meet the user’s requirements and needs of the future requires a paradigm change.
“With rare exceptions, buildings today are still being planned, constructed and managed in the same way as they have been for decades. To avoid becoming obsolete and inefficient, current practices need to change. Net zero buildings, automated control systems and multi-functional design are examples of critical enablers when developing buildings for the next 100 years,” it said.
According to the post, net zero sustainability will be seen in for all new buildings in the future; this means buildings will consume zero energy – what it consumes is made up for by renewable energy created on the site. Other features will include complete smart building technology, automated control systems – from HVAC to door security, multi-functional design to ease flexibility, technical cooperation between entire building blocks, intensified integration of private buildings with public utilities and transportation, improved relationships between buildings and their environment, healthier work-live-learn spaces and increased work productivity by up to 10 times.

Different purposes

It also pointed out how a building of the future is designed and constructed will differ according to the type and purpose of the building. Residential and commercial buildings, for example, will be built with different features and functionality in mind. “The home sector is already experiencing an improvement in energy efficiency. But connected homes will push that even further with technologies to coordinate lighting, heating and cooling, and all other functions. Using technologies that already exist, connected homes will also become more intelligent and secure, with appliances and door opening solutions that are digitally, remotely, and collectively controlled,” the post cited Wang as saying. “(For the commercial sector), the market forces will soon encourage the construction of more multi-function and adaptable buildings, thus extending their lifespans beyond the 40 years that many current buildings have. Modular design and construction technology can allow owners to easily change parts of their buildings for different tenants, allowing a single space to morph from an office to a restaurant to a living unit without major reconstruction.”
According to the post, the challenge will include a continued focus on return on investment, as these types of buildings won’t come with a cheap price. “When we looked at 100 years, it really freed up our imaginations. But, if you look at 10 to 20 years, there are more practical factors. Return on investment in technology is a major hurdle,” it cited Wang as saying
However optimism still remains. “Just 20 years ago, LEED buildings were rare and expensive. Now they are common and operate with embedded sensors. You need to prove that it works and that it does have a market value. It just may take a long time because of the slow turn-around in the building environment,” she was quoted as saying.

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