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It has been a banner year for Kate Simonen and her burgeoning band of embodied carbon busters, bent on reducing the negative environmental impacts of building production. On Nov. 19, Simonen and her EC-reduction champions debuted the first free-to-use digital tool to calculate EC in materials. The same day, Marin County, Calif., approved the nation’s first low-carbon concrete building code. And after a slow start in 2017, the free-to-join Embodied Carbon Network finally gained traction.

As founding director of the decade-old Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) at the University of Washington, Simonen has been stirring all three pots. “Kate is our figurehead,” says Wil V. Srubar, a professor of engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and an ECN co-chair with Simonen and Erin McDade, senior program director of Architecture 2030. “It’s been a wild ride the last 12 months, and Kate has been a great driver,” he adds.

EC, the sum total of greenhouse gases emitted from material extraction to the jobsite, “is an entry point to acknowledge that we need to completely decarbonize” the buildings sector—not just operational carbon, says engineer-architect-researcher Simonen, also a professor in the university’s department of architecture.

Perhaps Simonen’s biggest EC-reduction coup is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator. “EC3 is transformative,” says Ari Frankel, assistant vice president at Alexandria Real Estate Equities, one of six developers piloting EC3.

CLF incubated EC3 through a $713,000 grant from the Charles Pankow Foundation and other sponsors. Simonen is lead investigator, with teammates Phil Northcott, Change Labs CEO; Stacy Smedley, a director of sustainability for Skanska USA; and Don Davies, president of Magnusson Klemencic Associates.

While incubating EC3, Simonen also helped create Marin County’s low-carbon concrete code—spearheaded by Top 25 Newsmaker Bruce King—by leading its steering committee. She was “instrumental” in creating consensus among diverse stakeholders, says Alice Zanmiller, a planner for Marin County’s sustainability team.

In 2017, CLF created ECN to scale up the movement. A global and virtual communication platform for practitioners, educators, government officials and material producers, ECN is driving grass-roots change, including local policy initiatives.

Last year, the group grew from 600 to 1,800 members, located in 166 cities in 22 nations. Local chapters that hold in-person workshops sprang up in Seattle, the Bay Area, New York City, Boston and Vancouver, B.C. Chapter discussions are underway in Austin, Atlanta, Toronto and the Denver-Boulder area.

A native of Livermore, Calif., Simonen studied architectural engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and then received two master’s degrees from the University of California, Berkeley—one in structural engineering and the mechanics of materials in 1991, and the other in architecture the following year.

While in practice, Simonen learned about using fly ash to lower concrete’s cement content. Later, she tried calculating the carbon footprint of green prefab homes imported from China. Eventually, she realized she was interested in research. In 2009, she landed at the university. Soon she had mastered environmental-impact life-cycle analyses for buildings.

Funded by its 42 member firms, CLF is “informing, inspiring and enabling” buildings professionals to reduce and ultimately eliminate EC. Currently, CLF is rallying green-building groups to collaborate and reduce duplicate efforts.

Even with EC-reduction progress, Simonen doesn’t expect to see any meaningful impact on the environment for at least 10 years. Still, she soldiers on, saying, “we have to try to make a difference.”
Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won permission for the world’s first timber football stadium in Gloucestershire at a second attempt

Forest Green Rovers Football Club’s 5,000-seat stadium was approved by Stroud District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (18 December).

In June, the same planning committee refused the plans, citing noise, traffic and impact on the environment. The proposals were subsequently altered.

Changes include swapping one grass pitch to an all-weather pitch with access to local clubs, a revised landscaping strategy, increased matchday transport and clarifications regarding noise.

The application also includes landscaped parking and two pitches, one a 4G playing surface with access for the local community.

Zaha Hadid Architects won a competition in 2016 to design a sustainable home for the now League Two side, which is the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football club.

The club, which serves vegan food and is powered by renewable energy, is chaired by environmentalist Dale Vince, owner of green energy firm Ecotricity.

It is claimed the practice’s proposals would have created the first football stadium in the world to be built entirely from wood.

Every seat had been calculated to provide unrestricted sightlines to the entire field of play, maximising matchday atmosphere.

Forest Green Rovers, formerly known as Stroud FC, has been based at the New Lawn stadium in Nailsworth since 2006.

Following Vince’s acquisition of the club at the start of this decade, the venue received a flurry of green upgrades including solar panels, a solar-powered robot grass mower and the world’s first organic football pitch.

Vince said, when choosing the Zaha Hadid Architects proposals three years ago: ‘The really standout thing about this stadium is that it’s going to be entirely made of wood – the first time that will have been done anywhere in the world.

‘The importance of using wood is not only that it’s a naturally occurring material, it has very low carbon content – about as low as it gets for a building material.

‘And when you bear in mind that around three-quarters of the lifetime carbon impact of any stadium comes from its building materials, you can see why that’s so important, and it’s why our new stadium will have the lowest carbon content of any stadium in the world.’
Sean Airhart
NBBJ returns to a 1989 Seattle project and creates a wow moment using parametric design and cardboard models. gn and cardboard models.

Parametric design and the geologic processes that formed the rock bluffs of the Puget Sound region may seem unrelated, but Seattle-based NBBJ senior associates Sarah Steen and Daniel Cockrell believe the processes share a—relative—independence from human hands. In creating a feature wall that abstracts the bluffs for the third-floor lobby renovation of the 56-story Two Union Square, also in Seattle, Steen says the designers aimed “to use technology in an unpredictable manner,” similar to the way tectonic activity is uncontrollable by humans.

The office tower, designed originally by NBBJ in 1989, features a curving reinforced concrete building core, which had been finished in a faceted wood veneer. NBBJ wrapped the core on the building's third floor in approximately 1,650 curved panels of pale travertine—selected due to its lightness in both color and weight—which were quarried and custom fabricated by the Poggi Brothers in Tivoli, Italy.

Because of the lobby’s prominence as the pinnacle of a grand staircase leading from the building’s first- and second-floor entrances, the architects saw a need for a focal point. “It just begs for something cool to be happening,” Steen says.

Instead of a surface treatment, the design team “started experimenting with something that could be part of the wall,” Steen says. They envisioned a sculptural element inspired by the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest, “sharp and angular with peaks and valleys.”

Using Grasshopper and Rhino, the NBBJ team established a set of parameters that would maximize the number of triangular sizes and shapes in order to keep them as irregular as possible. Next, they “allowed the script to connect the dots and create this network of angles,” Steen says. “That’s how we arrived at the patterning.”

The result is a nearly 20-foot-tall by 20-foot-wide 3D sculptural ribbon of 415 fractal panels that cuts diagonally across the wall plane like a mountain range. (A smaller tectonic wall feature arises near the elevator bank.) The angular stone panels emerge seamlessly from the more conventional coursing of the rectilinear wall panels, creating a monolithic central element that simultaneously feels divorced from its heft, floating above the floor. This juxtaposition is amplified by the natural banding in the stone, which was preserved meticulously by NBBJ working with the Poggi Brothers and local stonemason Synergism Stone. “It’s laid up on the wall as it [appeared coming] out of the Earth,” Steen says.

Ranging in thickness from 1¼ inches to 3¼ inches, the fractal panels are effectively pinned into place through pre-drilled holes in their top and bottom edges. The holes accommodate steel dowels welded to bent steel plates that are screwed into horizontal strapping, which, in turn, is secured to an 8-inch-wide stud wall covered with gypsum wallboard.

Though the concept of an abstracted cliff face came early, the final design required much refinement. “We did a lot of lighting experiments to make sure that we weren’t protruding from the wall too far and creating too many shadows,” Steen says. “And we did a lot of cardboard mock-ups [following the modeling]. We went analog.”

The light tests, conducted by NBBJ’s internal lighting studio, revealed that the panels, when positioned under overhead illumination from a recessed light cove, only needed to rise a maximum of 2 inches outboard to achieve the desired relief. This was fortuitous since the existing structure had to bear the additional dead load of the travertine panels.

Other design considerations came from the material restraints of the stone. The most significant deviation from NBBJ's 3D model followed the construction of a full-scale mock-up in Italy, working with the Poggi Brothers and Synergism Stone. Some triangular stone panel vertices chipped during installation. “We realized some of our acute angles were a little too fragile,” Steen says, “so we applied another parameter or two to control those acute angles.” Vertices had to be greater than 25 degrees and NBBJ specified filled travertine for panels with the most acute angles.

NBBJ ran a final mock-up with the stone on-site in Seattle, testing every aspect of the process, from fabrication to shipping to installation. Because the firm planned to preserve the natural coursing in the travertine, sp
Building on its launch last year of Autodesk BIM 360 Design, Autodesk announced Oct. 30 the addition of Civil 3D to the cloud solution platform. Users say the enhanced collaborative abilities with BIM 360 and Revit will streamline design of projects that include both civil and vertical components, such as airports and rail stations.

Collaboration for Civil 3D, now included with a BIM 360 Design subscription, allows subscribers of both to work collaboratively with project partners anytime and from anywhere, regardless of team locations and disciplines, says Theo Agelopoulos, senior director with Autodesk.

Customers can now collaborate using streamlined workflows on a unified platform and also perform their day-to-day data management activities in the same place, he says.

While Collaboration for Civil 3D on the BIM 360 Design platform does not yet offer the same worksharing capabilities as Revit, beta users say the ability to access, iterate, and mark up Civil 3D models in real-time in the cloud constitute a game-changer.

Stacey Morykin, design technology manager for Pennoni, says Autodesk gathered client feedback and brainstorming ideas before developing a beta for clients to test. “We’ve been waiting for this for a really long time,” she says. “We do have some projects that have a vertical infrastructure as well as horizontal. Before, when collaborating on a project, we felt like an outsider. Now we have a chance to be an insider.”

In the past, project partners had to export civil 3D files for Pennoni to import into its drawings. “By the time I hung up phone, there would be another change, so I’m still behind,” says Morykin. “If the architect changes a building footprint or door location, now with this integration we can see it.”

Russ Dalton, AECOM BIM director for the Americas, says the enhanced collaboration can improve production efficiency by 32%. “We work on surveying, preconstruction, predesign, all through turnover and operations. We needed a single data source. When we looked at the total picture of delivering a product that looks the same inside the computer screen and physically, it had to come into play,” he says. Historically, there would be a delay in coordination between architect, mechanical engineering and civil design, he says. “Layouts change all the time. The HVAC and architectural teams are working at a fast clip.”

The development also improves collaboration with other programs, such as ProjectWise from Bentley, he adds. “We’re using Civil 3D on top of ProjectWise and that had never worked well. With the new Civil3D collaboration tool, we can add BIM 360 to the workflow, as BIM360 and ProjectWise do collaborate well.”
The new brand covers flooring, light fixtures, kitchen and bath plumbing, and more.

Katerra has launched a new brand of building products, KOVA, focused around plumbing fixtures, hardware, and other finish materials. It is one of many new brands and products Katerra set to launch in 2019, including the KES energy system, KTAC HVAC system, Apollo construction software platform, and Katerra-brand windows and bathroom kits.

According to the manufacturer, the KOVA line is built on a balance of design, quality, and value. Through Katerra’s direct sourcing model, KOVA customers can source multiple products from one partner and gain access the company’s aggregated purchasing power.

“As designers and builders specify and order their products, they may go through a lot of different partners for their plumbing, lighting, cabinets, countertops, etc.,” says Trevor Schick, head of the KOVA materials business. “KOVA is a one-stop shop where we provide all of these materials at a premium quality and great design, but at a better value and with a quicker turnaround. So, as a developer is looking at what they can do to drive cost down on a project, KOVA is now one of the levers they can pull.”

KOVA’s initial offering of home fixtures and finishing products includes flooring, light fixtures, door and cabinetry hardware, kitchen and bath plumbing fixtures, digital thermostats, and window coverings and accessories. The products are available in two series, KOVA and KOVA Select. All plumbing fixtures, hardware and accessories are available in a polished chrome or satin nickel finish; KOVA Select fixtures are also available in matte black.

All KOVA products are designed to meet high environmental and quality standards, including Cal Green certification across all kitchen and bath faucets and showerheads. kovaproducts.com
John Apicella
In his third post analyzing project delivery, Phil Bernstein discusses its tenuous nature as well as the unrealized potential of BIM.

This is the author’s third post in a series covering an Autodesk project delivery workshop series that explored the relationship between emergent digital collaboration technologies and the AECO sector. The six workshops were held worldwide over 18 months in 2018 and 2019.

Can a given set of data be trusted by both its creator and its users across the complex transactions that comprise the delivery of a construction project? Information reliability was a core theme that emerged throughout our project delivery workshops series. Technical, procedural, and cultural roadblocks combine to interfere with opportunities for substantial improvement in building this trust. In this article, I investigate the underlying causes of these roadblocks.

In modern design and construction, almost all information is developed on digital platforms. It is not surprising, then, that an underlying anxiety about technical problems and their root causes exists among designers, builders, and building operators. Multiple incompatible platforms for generating data in a variety of formats proliferate in the industry. Given that the building industry is one of the last enterprises to digitize, the development of these tools and their outputs seems to be moving far faster than users can adopt them—much less keep track of them and their subsequent updates. Developing “industry standard” formats for compatibility and interoperability, however, would slow necessary innovation. The Tower of Babel continues to grow accordingly.

The potential of BIM, touted since the approach reached widespread adoption in the U.S. market in the years following the global financial crisis, has hardly been realized. Everyone has a lot of interesting 3D data and accompanying metadata, but hardly anyone knows how to share the information in a meaningful, safe, and profitable way. Even when model-based data is generated in the same software tool, significant effort is required to establish the workflow protocols, sharing approaches, and levels of resolution necessary for trustable exchange. Digital deliverables derived from models are infrequent. As a result, BIM is often reduced to a sophisticated drawing management system, as drawings are well understood and present few technical challenges—their lack of detail, fidelity, and precision notwithstanding.

Even when model-based data is generated in the same software tool, significant effort is required to establish the workflow protocols, sharing approaches, and levels of resolution necessary for trustable exchange.

The real question posed here is one of chicken and egg: the generation of digital data and its proper use. As Barbara Heller, FAIA, president of Washington, D.C., firm Heller & Metzger, described in a 2008 DesignIntelligence article, buildings are delivered by an “immense aggregation of cottage industries,” where developing standard workflows, protocols, or even compatible business models is a challenge. Procedural incompatibilities at all levels are the result: Architects, builders, and facility managers have different needs and uses for data, making its coherent flow from design to operation almost impossible. This challenge is traditionally “solved” by re-representing that information in each subsequent interaction of the design-to-build process: concept drawings, construction documents, shop drawings, and then whatever hybridized or bespoke format a building owner creates to manage the resulting information flow after construction completion and the departure of the design-build team.

Further calcifying information flow is the structure of typical delivery itself, presupposed to be a strictly linear process of phases that accompany each of the deliverables described above, from schematic design through construction administration. Process loops—where insights from, say, construction logic might inform a design strategy—do not exist, so important information has no route to swim upstream against the current. While iteration of alternatives does occur within each phase “process silo,” opportunities for design strategy to inform construction or for technical insight to improve cost estimating are made almost impossible by both procedural and technical incompatibilities.

At the foundation of this tower of process-disconnects is a misalignment of management approaches. The overarching goals of a given project, establ
As our understanding of wellness grows more complex, designers are thinking about the full life cycle of products they are specifying for the workplace.

While our understanding of what is attributed to wellness has changed, we have far to go in practice. When they specify products and materials, workplace designers are thinking beyond occupant health to that of everyone throughout the cycle of production. Similarly, we’re not just concerned with indoor air quality or toxins, but also movement and social interactions as daily rituals—in short, our happiness, not just our safety. Our environment must take center stage: What’s good for the planet is good for us.

We asked specifiers at COOKFOX and IA Interior Architects—two firms with reputations for supporting well-being and sustainability—for examples of what products they turn to in support of wellness at work.

Through their selections, one can see the wide range of concerns and corresponding standards or certifications that are shaping workplace design today. Red lists of toxic chemicals, standards for emissions levels, and new strategies for recycling materials—these and other tools are proving to be vital in building spaces that help people be happy and work safely.

The nine products below represent selections by Bethany Borel from COOKFOX and by Robert Atkinson, Tanya Davis, and Steven South from IA Interior Architects.

BAUX Acoustic Wood Wool Panels Responsibly sourced wood fibers make up the “wool” woven into these panels, which are moisture resistant, fire retardant, and recyclable. baux.se

BENTLEY MILLS Wanderlust This cradle to cradle silver carpet tile takes the hazards out of its fibers, backing, and adhesives to protect installers and occupants alike. bentleymills.com

GEIGER Brabo Lounge craftsmanship, material transparency, and sustainable practices elevate this collection above industry standards, attaining Indoor AdvantageTM gold certification. geigerfurniture.com

KVADRAT Divina The textile boasts six environmental achievements in material composition that include GREENGUARD Gold and LBC Red List compliance. maharam.com

INTERFACE Visual Code This collection is made with 100 percent recycled-content nylon, is treated with EPA-approved preservatives for longevity, and has achieved Green Label Plus status. interface.com

MUSHLUME Trumpet Pendant This biofabricated pendant light is grown from mushroom mycelium and is completely biodegradable. flowandchaos.com

STICKBULB Bough Elegance meets eco-minded design: Made in New York City, these lamps are built from reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood. stickbulb.com

WATSON FURNITURE Tia Part recycled, part recyclable, this office system marries environmental health with the ergonomics of a standing desk, pro- moting movement throughout the day. watsonfurniture.com

UPOFLOOR Upofloor Zero Enomer®, the material used in this flooring, is free from six common toxins affecting indoor air quality, helping it reach M1, the most stringent emissions class. upofloor.com
Greentech Media
Developers of the 800-MW Vineyard Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts, set to be the first commercial scale renewable energy venture in the U.S., say they are committed to push through on its $2.8 billion in construction despite a sudden Trump Administration permitting setback.

The project, originally set to gain its critical environmental impact statement this summer so it could start construction by year-end to enable use of a federal tax incentive, now must do extensive additional studies before work can start, based on new mandates from the U.S. Interior Dept.

The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which leads the federal government project review, told the developer—a joint venture of Copenhagen Investment Partners and Avengrid Renewables—on Aug. 9 that it was expanding its analysis of Vineyard Wind to take into account the cumulative effects of other offshore wind projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements as well as state procurements of offshore wind generation that are expected to be awarded.

The agency said it expects a greater buildout of offshore wind capacity than was analyzed in the draft EIS for the project.

BOEM said stakeholders and cooperating agencies requested a more robust cumulative analysis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service said it does not concur with BOEM's decisions related to distance between its 84 planned turbines and their alignment because of claimed hazard to commercial fishing, said Michael Pentony, NOAA’s regional administrator. They currently are to spaced 0.75 nautical miles apart and aligned in a northwest-southeast orientatio. NOAA wants them further apart and aligned in an east-west direction “to minimize impacts to fishing operations.”

Lobbyists for the commercial fishing industry asked for a more comprehensive study that would show how the buildout of various proposed wind farms in the region—including New England, New York and New Jersey—would affect its operations.

“We are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated,” Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind said in a statement.

More than 50 design, construction and other companies have either been awarded project development contracts or were bidding on them.

Vineyard has not received any specific requirements for the expanded analysis from BOEM, but the company said the timing of such a study could not be completed within its timeline to begin construction before 2020.

Incentive credits for renewable energy projects, which have provided a 30% federal tax break for the last several years and factor in Vineyard Wind's financial framework, are set to expire this year.

Three bills now are pending in Congress to extend the credit for from five to eight years, with some observers speculating that the extension could be included in tax extenders legislatlon that passed the House Ways and Means Committee but whose passage this year depends on an uncertain level of bipartisan cooperation, says an Aug. 1 GreenTech Media report.
Building Design + Construction
With the rapid evolution of available technologies, and the integration of them into the profession, the role of an architect is changing faster than it ever has before.

The profession of architecture is one that dates back to ancient times, with a profound impact on the built environment of civilizations all over the world. The evolution of the practice has been relatively slow; while technologies and styles have evolved, the fundamentals today are not all that different than they were historically.

However, with the rapid evolution of available technologies, and the integration of them into the profession, the role of an architect is changing faster than it ever has before. At HMC Architects, we believe that the best way to stay relevant in our changing profession is to always be considering what the future holds, and pushing ourselves and the boundaries of the profession.


Taking a building from concept to reality is a long, involved process, with each project presenting its own unique set of challenges. For the sake of discussion, the core tenets of the architectural process can be simplified as follows:
  • Interpreting client
  • Developing a design solution
  • Submitting a design for approval from the local building agency
  • Conveying the design solution to the contractor via construction documents
  • Verifying that the construction is true to the documents provided
There are nuances to those responsibilities, such as code compliance and environmental considerations, but the core of our business is still solution-based, with a focus on problem-solving.

Looking forward, while the tenets may more or less stay the same, there will be less of a focus on the drawing process of the construction documents, and more of a focus on innovative solutions and how they affect as well as support the users of the space.

In turn, clients are becoming more sophisticated, and are demanding a higher level of understanding of the process and, in some cases, desire to be integral to its completion. Luckily, technologies are also advancing, allowing a higher level of information to be easily conveyed.


Technology is migrating into architecture more and more every day. The speed to market has increased significantly with the industrialization of construction with companies like Katerra and DIRTT. These firms are applying logistics via Google Maps to deliver materials to the job site quicker, along with the science of prefabrication to increase the efficiency of construction, which in turn delivers the project quicker to market.

While this is ideal from an operational and logistical standpoint, it also means that some of the traditional aspects of architecture, specifically the drawings, are going to fade away, and the next generation of architects will have a whole new type of deliverables.

These digital outputs, such as building information modeling (BIM), assist in achieving higher performing buildings by looking at regenerative design, renewability, life-cycle costs, and app-based maintenance programs. We also anticipate that, with the digital delivery of construction documents, they will no longer be plan checked by an individual, but by a program-based software; a virtual plan check of sorts. This will speed up the agency approval time, streamlining the path from design to construction while reducing the margin for human error.

The focus is shifting from pure architecture to an environment that is both architectural and user-focused to enhance the occupants’ experience. Our clients are looking for ways to get the most out of their buildings with user apps and sensors that allow them to gather data to determine which spaces are truly utilized, which will drive the need to design for more or less space. Clients will also be using technology and data analytics to determine the life-cycle costs of buildings, as well as forecast occupant experiences to drive future buildings and programs.

With this heightened emphasis on technology, the role of the architect has frequently come into question. While the human component of architecture can never be replaced, many of the once-manual processes can. Architecture and its practitioners must be willing to embrace the migration towards a wholly digital design experience. Adaptability, flexibility, and early adoption of new technologies and procedures will ensure that the collaborative minds at the center of the profession remain a fundamental component of archite
Bret Hartman/TED
The University of California, Berkeley, has named Vishaan Chakrabarti dean of its College of Environmental Design (CED). The founder of New York–based Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) will continue to lead the firm during his deanship.

Chakrabarti is a 1996 graduate of CED’s architecture program and member of the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council. He holds a Masters of Architecture from UC Berkeley and a Masters of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as dual bachelor’s degrees in art history and engineering from Cornell University. An AIA Fellow and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Chakrabarti has also been a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) since 2009, where he is currently an associate professor of professional practice. There, he has directed projects including a public-private partnership to redevelop Penn Station, and the adaptive reuse of Domino Sugar Refinery and Park, both in New York City. He also served as director of the Manhattan office of New York City’s Department of City Planning from 2002–2005 during the rebuilding that followed 9/11.

In this new role, Chakrabarti will succeed Jennifer Wolch, who stepped down at the end of the spring 2019 term after 10 years at the helm of the CED. Professor Renee Chow, chair of Berkeley’s architecture department, will serve as acting dean beginning July 1, 2019, until Chakrabarti begins on July 1, 2020.
Adobe / Gensler
Adobe Inc. on Monday held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new 1.3 million-square-foot downtown San Jose office tower, marking a symbolic milestone for the Bay Area’s largest city.

The glassy, 18-story tower is rising at 333 W. San Fernando St., across the street from Adobe's existing headquarters. The software maker is already downtown San Jose's largest private employer and will more than double its workforce in the city with the addition of the new building, which will be able to accommodate 4,000 additional workers.

Adobe co-founder John Warnock, who started the company in 1982 with co-founder Chuck Geschke, took the stage at the groundbreaking ceremony, explaining their decision in the early 1990s to move the company from Mountain View to San Jose. Despite being the Bay Area’s largest city, San Jose is still working to shake its reputation as a bedroom community for the rest of Silicon Valley.

“We worked very closely with (former San Jose Mayor) Tom McEnery and later with Susan Hammer, and the city of San Jose was the most welcoming city that we were able to deal with,” Warnock said at the event.

These days, Adobe is a Fortune 500 company with 21,000 employees worldwide and a market value of close to $150 billion. “It was John and Chuck's vision that put Adobe on the map in the business world, but actually it was also John and Chuck's vision that put Adobe on the map in San Jose,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said at the event.

That decision by Adobe 25 years ago to plant itself in downtown San Jose was visionary, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

“I know it's not obvious to us now as we see tech expanding in urban centers, but certainly in the 1990s that wasn't the pattern,” Liccardo said. “We saw largely the corporate equivalent of gated communities in suburban parts of our Valley. And that's the way Silicon Valley operated, with tilt-up buildings surrounded by a sea of parking. And John and Chuck had a different vision and that was the vision for an urban campus.”

A glassy pedestrian skybridge will connect the new building to Adobe’s existing three-tower headquarters, which is bounded by Park Avenue, Almaden Boulevard, West San Fernando Street and the Guadalupe River Trail and Highway 87. The new tower will be all-electric and, like Adobe’s existing campus, be LEED certified for environmental standards, company executives said at the event.

Adobe purchased the already-entitled 2.5-acre site for its new tower for $68 million in early 2018 from Bay Area investors and developers John and Phil DiNapoli and Lew Wolff.

“We outgrew our campus and we couldn’t pull the trigger fast enough on a new building,” Scott Ekman, Adobe’s senior director of global real estate, explained at a Silicon Valley Business Journal event in January. “Now we are ready to roll.”

The company expects construction to wrap up by 2022. San Mateo-based Sares Regis Group of Northern California is the development manager for the project. The company has in the past worked on the Silicon Valley corporate headquarters for Electronic Arts, Nvidia, Symantec Corp. and others.

Milpitas-based Devcon Construction is the general contractor for Adobe's new tower and Gensler is the architecture firm.
Plus, Katerra offers an update on its K90 project in Las Vegas, Google pledges $1 billion toward affordable housing in the Bay Area, and more design-tech news from this week.

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and UNStudio are working with digital agency Squint/Opera on the development of Hyperform, a design platform that facilitates collaboration in 3D augmented reality. Initially prototyped last year, Hyperform allows multiple users to work in scale models as well as immersive 1:1 environments. Users can also create still renderings as well as video recordings. "In the future every physical object will be connected to one another, sensing each other and everything in between," BIG founder Bjarke Ingels said in a press release. "For every physical object there will be a digital twin. For every physical space a virtual space. Hyperform is the augmented creative collaborative environment of the future which will allow an instantaneous confluence of actual and imagined realities—the present and the future fusing in our augmented sense of reality." [Squint/Opera]

In its latest project, New York–based SoftLab has created a "circular constellation" in Manhattan’s Seaport District that features 100 sensor-enabled glowing poles that emit different colors and sounds based on visitors' touch. [ARCHITECT]

This week, tech giant Google pledged to invest $1 billion in land and money to construct houses to help ease the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Over the next 10 years, the company has promised to convert $750 million of its land that is currently zoned for commercial development into residential property for some 15,000 new houses. Additionally, Google will establish a $250 million investment fund to assist developers in creating 5,000 affordable housing units. "In the coming months, we’ll continue to work with local municipalities to support plans that allow residential developers to build quickly and economically," the company writes in a press release. "Our goal is to get housing construction started immediately, and for homes to be available in the next few years." [Google]

Menlo Park, Calif.–based technology and construction company Katerra has released an update on K90—its ambitious garden apartment project in Las Vegas that the company is aiming to complete in 90 days. While slab-up construction typically takes 120 to 150 days, Katerra is believes it can deliver in a little over half the time using proprietary tools such as a material auditing app that alerts construction teams to incoming materials—which are delivered directly to installation point rather than a general project-site drop-off—wall panels that have pre-installed electrical wiring, and its bath kit that includes carpet, tile, plumbing fixtures, hardware, wood trim, light fixtures, light sources, and mirrors. [Katerra]

Researcher from Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in Japan published findings that adding a "self healing" protective layer of epoxy resin to perovskite solar cells (PSC) helps reduce leakage of pollutants, helping to push the technology toward commercial viability. “Although PSCs are efficient at converting sunlight into electricity at an affordable cost, the fact that they contain lead raises considerable environmental concern,” said OIST professor Yabing Qi in a press release. “While so-called ‘lead-free’ technology is worth exploring, it has not yet achieved efficiency and stability comparable to lead-based approaches. Finding ways of using lead in PSCs while keeping it from leaking into the environment, therefore, is a crucial step for commercialization.” [OIST]
Paul Seletsky, AIA, an independent Digital Design consultant who was one of the pioneers in the application of AEC technology in architectural practice, shares his experiences and insights in this Profile.

"...it's human nature to want to choose the winning horse when selecting tools as critical as BIM, but without competition, new software that could truly impact our practice simply won't see the light of day."

What is your educational and professional background?
I graduated with a B.Arch. from Cooper Union in 1982 and then went to Italy, working for two years as a designer for Vittorio Gregotti Associati in Milan. Our documentation back then was done in pencil and ink.

Returning to New York in 1984, I joined Emery Roth & Sons to learn construction drawings. Documentation was produced in ink on mylar, with notational errors corrected using a chemical eradicator. Roth had one of the first CAD systems, McDonnell Douglas GDS, the precursor to Revit. In my role there, however, I did not get to work with it.

In 1987, I joined the Port Authority of NY/NJ, spending ten years in the public sector. In 1990, I did receive the opportunity to work in CAD and learned Architrion, MicroStation and AutoCAD; eventually being named their first CAD Manager. I also began setting up PCs, Mac, Windows and CAD, a small network and a pen plotter—learning "in the trenches." After seven years there, I returned to the private sector.

HLW Architects hired me in 1997 as their IT director. I built a staff of eight people and installed a network of servers and routers across four offices globally. I gradually came to regard this work as too laborious and costly, and falling outside the core competency of an architecture firm. In 1998, Revit came out and they demonstrated their software to us. BIM had arrived and I immediately saw it as a game-changer.

In early 2001, I joined my cousin's startup company to develop an early iteration of the smartphone. Nine months later, I was hired as Director of Technology by Davis Brody Bond Architects. There, I decided to outsource IT, leasing a new phone system, all printers and plotters, and eventually MS Office (but not AutoCAD). My colleagues gently teased me as "Mr. Outsource." In 2003, we began using BIM, trying ArchiCAD on one project, followed by another in what was now Autodesk Revit.

I began to write and lecture about BIM, describing what I foresaw as its impact on architecture and construction. In late 2001, I became chair of the AIANY Technology Committee, and for the next 14 years curated a monthly lecture series about AEC Technology's impact on practice, culminating in a symposium held in October 2012 called Bits+Mortar. The event featured a two hour conversation between Frank Gehry and Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab.

In 2005, SOM New York sought to fill a new position, Digital Design Director, and hired me. A senior partner and I created a new department called the Digital Design Group, recruiting 25 architects as AEC technology gurus and BIM mentors. Over the next five years, we created two student research programs, tested environmental analysis software, created our own massing study tool, and held in-house lectures with AEC Tech luminaries. It was an exciting time.

In late 2010, I journeyed outside New York to work for KieranTimberlake in Philadelphia, then spent a few years selling online AEC software and BIM training. In 2017, I happily moved back to New York. I spent 2018 focused inward, exploring what I wanted the last thirty years of my career to look like, since I don't intend to ever retire.

What is your current role? What are the main projects you are involved with?

I'm currently an independent Digital Design consultant in New York, seeking new clients. I greatly enjoy the environment and interaction of working in an architecture office, so if anyone out there is interested, feel free to contact me at pseletsky@gmail.com.

When and how did you get interested in AEC technology?

In 1983, I was sitting at my desk in Milan, drawing the seating floor plan for a redesign of Barcelona's Olympic Stadium. I was using a beam compass that must have been at least 3 feet long. It was at that moment that I said to myself, "Someday I'm going to be doing this on a computer so I can focus more of my time on design versus the mechanics."

How much of what you do today is related to AEC technology in some form?

Ninety-five percent analyzing client needs and deploying solutions, and five percent lamenting BIM software churning
In-app ticketing aims to make Uber a better last-mile solution

With options to rent scooters and electric bikes via its Jump subsidiary, a ride with Uber no longer means getting into a car. Now, thanks to a new feature launching in Denver, it could also mean jumping on a train or bus.

Starting today, Uber’s Transit feature will allow Denver users to plan their trips with public transportation in mind, including paying for rides on buses and trains in-app. Tickets will cost the same via Uber as they would using other payment methods.

“For the first time ever, taking an Uber trip can mean taking public transit,” said David Reich, Uber’s head of transit, in a statement. “With this step, we are moving closer to making Uber’s platform a one-stop shop for transportation access, from shared rides to buses and bikes.”

Uber users in Denver will be able to select “Transit” as an available transportation option, and then be able to plan their trip utilizing bus or light rail. The new feature will include real-time transit information for the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), as well as step-by-step directions. Developed with technology from Masabi, a mobile ticketing service that began working with the ride-hailing giant last year, this new service will allow users to purchase and validate fare passes using a QR code from within the Uber app.

Uber and RTD are banking on the fact that this collaboration both allows more users to utilize Uber as a last-mile solution, and gets more passengers on transit.

“This exciting next phase of RTD’s collaboration with Uber is yet another way our transit agency is leading the dialogue about mobility strategy, not just for the Denver metro region but for cities across the globe,” said RTD CEO and general manager Dave Genova in a statement. “This project broadens our reach and stays at pace with the public’s needs, allowing people to plan and pay for trips from start to finish.”

This launch highlights both the push by transit companies to create all-in-one mobility solutions—what Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has called the “Amazon of transit”—and the increased competition between Uber and Lyft to broaden their offerings and incorporate more multimodal options they go public, as Lyft did in March.

Uber, which is planning an IPO, has already made partnering with transit agencies worldwide a part of its growth strategy, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, collaborating with cities such as New Delhi, Cairo, and Sydney in a bid to increase ridership.
A conversation with Kristy Tillman, who is all of us.

Slack is the ubiquitous digital tool that’s making our workplaces virtual. Thanks to its hyper-efficient chat room software, telecommuting has never been easier. Which is why it may come as a surprise that Slack is paying particular attention to its physical office design, too. Kristy Tillman is Slack’s head of workplace experience design, and she is thinking about how people at Slack work beyond the Slack window itself.

Tillman is also a judge for our 2019 Innovation by Design Awards (get in your entries by May 10!). And so we sat down with her to talk about her career, her role at Slack, and what it’s like to use Slack at Slack.

Fast Company: So you spent some time at Ideo, you build a millennial investment brand with Mass Mutual. Then you wind up at Slack. You started in their communications department, but quickly landed this gig around the workplace. So . . . what do you do? What questions are you asking at Slack?

Kristy Tillman: Right now I think about a couple of things: How do we build standards around buildings and offices? What experiments have we tried in architectural phases to tweak and make offices better for our employees? How do we service our guests and our employees from a design-thinking perspective? That’s been really, very challenging for me.

We have a big workplace vision we’ll be able to start to make and understand how our employees are really using our spaces and operations. One of the big things I’ll do in the next quarter is our first workplace foundational study where we’ll survey the entire global workforce and get a system of analysis . . . what new phases we need to build? What new services we need to offer as we scale?

FC: There’s a certain irony of being at Slack, this digital business company, and focusing on built environments, no?

KT: It would be a lost opportunity if we didn’t–if we said we’d change the way people worked digitally, it would be a lost opportunity to not be interrogating ourselves internally! It’s my opinion, and I think lots of people’s opinion, that one of the best ways to sell Slack will obviously be having an internal culture that is a shining example. And I think that one of our advantages will be we use Slack [as an example], here’s how it affected us, here are the processes we put in place, workflows we have, innovations we use, to make operations more efficient, handle security, or triage medical emergencies. [I want to] be the best example of a culture when people come to visit us.

KT: Honestly, things that the Workplace team works on have the best ability to leave an indelible mark on Slack. The workplace teams in most companies are not tasked with this type of work. They’re more like facilities, make sure the lights are on, we have lunch. So any way you can contribute to operational efficiency is [hugely important].

Maybe I’m an optimist. I believe there’s not some objective future we’re trying to get to. The future is whatever we make it. So in that sense, there’s not this lofty goal we’re trying to reach. We’re just incrementally trying to make our workplaces better for our people . . . that doesn’t make it more difficult, if anything it makes it more easy.
Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG
The four-bedroom, mostly vertical units are priced from $845,000 to $900,000 and range in size from 1,868 to 2,171 square feet.

Townhomes now selling in Irvine provide one vision of California’s homes of the future.

Each unit in the three-story, multi-hued complex will generate as much power as they consume over a year, making them “zero-net-energy” homes.

But CitySquare goes a step further: It’s also one of the latest housing developments to be both zero-net-energy and all electric.

The 44-unit building — in the heart of the Irvine Business Complex — is the vision of innovative developer Meritage Homes.

It’s also another sign that all-electric homes – once a futuristic vision of the late 1950s – are making a comeback as state leaders, energy officials and environmentalists seek alternatives to fossil fuels in dwellings.

Natural gas, some energy activists say, is on the state’s endangered list.

“We are at a turning point in this state from a zero-net-energy goal … to a zero-emission building goal,” said Kristin Driskell, efficiency chief deputy for the California Energy Commission. “CitySquare shows us how we can build a clean-energy future with the homes that we are building today.”

Meritage Homes has been at the forefront of energy-efficient homebuilding, unveiling its first zero-net-energy homes in Buckeye, Ariz., in 2011 and building its first zero-net-energy community in Fontana in 2015.

But this is Meritage’s first all-electric, zero-net-energy townhome community — built, developers say, to help curb global warming.

“California and other utilities nationwide (are) looking to decarbonize,” said C.R. Herro, Meritage’s energy efficiency and sustainability vice president. “If you can source (electricity) from wind, water and solar, you can effectively power communities with no carbon footprint.”

Sales began this month for the four-bedroom, mostly vertical units with prices from $845,000 to $900,000. Homes range in size from1,868 to 2,171 square feet.

And there’s not a single pilot light in the complex. The gas line stops at the curb.

That means no more gas stoves for simmering spaghetti sauce; no more flame-generating burners in the furnace; no more gas hookups to the clothes dryer; and no more matches to relight the water heater each time the pilot goes out.

Live Better Electrically

The all-electric home seems like a throwback to the 1950s and ’60s when actor Ronald Reagan pitched “Gold Medallion” total electric homes on the General Electric Theater — long before he became governor and president.

“Live Better Electrically” was the motto of a campaign backed by organizations like the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association and the Edison Electric Institute.

Billed as the epitome of clean energy and modern living, an estimated 1 million Gold Medallion homes were built, each with a bronze “TOTAL ELECTRIC” medallion emblazoned on its doorbell, according to the electrical manufacturer’s association. They featured electric ranges and water heaters, baseboard heaters and plenty of outlets.

The 1973 oil embargo ended the Gold Medallion campaign by driving up electric rates, said Sean Armstrong, managing partner of Redwood Energy, a zero-carbon consulting firm based near Eureka.

Nearly 50 years later, electric homes are on the rise, the latest U.S. Energy Department survey shows. As of 2015, 25% of U.S. homes were all-electric, up from about 19% in 1993. They made up more than 40% of homes in the South, the latest survey showed.
Andrew Tallon/Vassar College
As the donations pour in to aid the reconstruction efforts of the fire-damaged Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and the French government opens the question of whether to rebuild the 850-year-old landmark as it was, engineers, architects and contractors can turn to 3D laser scan data of Notre Dame to help with the government’s pledge to reconstruct the building within five years.

“Having laser scans [of Notre Dame] is critical in shortening the reconstruction time frame,” says John Russo, president and CEO of Architectural Resource Consultants and president of the U.S. Institute of Building Documentation. “If you don’t have that data, where do you go? You are going back to hand drawings that may not exist and those are going to be two-dimensional and not have as much information. As far as answering questions and shortcutting the timeline on doing the repair work, 3D scans are going to shave an incredible amount of time off.”

The late Andrew Tallon, an art history professor at Vassar College in upstate New York, worked with colleagues in 2015 finish a laser scan process at Notre Dame. Using a tripod-mounted Leica ScanStation C10 laser, Tallon spent five days mapping Notre Dame. Combining scans with high-resolution panoramic photos, Tallon added color to his data, giving potential project engineers and contractors an even greater amount of information.

The Notre Dame project from Tallon, which saw him reposition the scanner 50 times, created more than one billion points of data — a high-resolution digital blueprint of Notre Dame.

“Laser scanning can measure places and surfaces with tremendous accuracy that you could never hope to get to in person, such as the curvature of a flying buttress,” says Michael Davis, chair of architectural studies, professor of art history at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and a former colleague of Tallon’s. “I think the laser scanning offers a really useful document of the state of the structure. You can see how it is behaving, if it is out of plumb, if everything is where it should be.

“It creates or documents with great precision the building as it stands.”

Russo says this 3D image of the space contains all the dimensional information on the existing conditions. “You’ve got information on the colors, you’ve got very precise measurements,” he says. "The scans are accurate enough to pick up the slight deviations in the structure, important from an engineering standpoint to understanding what the loads are doing through the structure.”

Tallon once said the scans offered accuracy to within five millimeters.

Russo says that while 3D scanning does require a trained individual to get useful information, “what academics are doing can absolutely be valuable to engineers and contractors.”

While the scans provide much precision, they won’t answer every question when it comes to an ambitious five-year rebuild of Notre Dame. Already the discussion has started on whether the building should be recreated as it was or if it should have a different spire. Also, with so many imperfections within the construction, Russo wonders how close officials wish to adhere to original construction methods. Will officials allow more modern construction techniques to counter imperfections? “There are probably very passionate debates on how that would get done,” Russo says.

“Which Notre Dame are we going to rebuild?” Davis asks. “It is a kind of beautiful Frankenstein of all these different parts, 12th, 13th, 14th and 19th Century parts, so is that the one we are going to restore or is this an opportunity to undo some of the restorations of the 19th Century where we think they got it wrong and rectify errors we have identified? It is a ticklish and complex decision.”

Davis pointed to an example of a rebuild of York Cathedral in England following a 1984 fire where officials had the building reconstructed to previous aesthetics, but with the addition of a fire-suppression system.
Philippe Starck collaborated with an algorithm to design this chair, which will go on sale soon.

This summer, the furniture company Kartell will start selling chairs designed in a collaboration between the famed French designer Philippe Starck and an algorithm.

Generative design describes a process in which a designer defines technical constraints, like weight, strength, and stipulations for manufacturing, through a computer program; then an algorithm comes up with designs that fit all of the designers’ specifications. The software company Autodesk has been working on generative design for years, and when Starck approached the company with the idea of doing a project, the group decided to use Autodesk’s experimental generative design software platform to create a chair using as little material as possible. That meant inputting Starck’s creative vision and the technical constraints of the injection molding process to Autodesk’s software, which dreamed up hundreds of different chairs before Starck settled on one design–soon to be mass-manufactured this year.

The final design, which looks almost organic, with small tendrils acting as supports in unexpected places, is called “A.I.,” named so because the chair is a collaboration between a human and machine.

Over the past few years, Autodesk has worked with technical experts on generative design projects, but A.I. is unique to those conceptual proposals. None of Autodesk’s previous generative projects–like creating a space lander for NASA, car parts for GM, and a proof-of-concept super-light airplane cabin seat–have made it to market. Instead, they act as experiments to show off the company’s technology and help it design for more futuristic scenarios, unlike A.I., which is being produced within just a few months. Likewise, one of Starck’s concerns–that, ultimately, the chair was beautiful–doesn’t usually come up in more engineering-focused applications for generative design. “Those are very different requirements versus the performance-driven engineering requirements that we’re used to talking about, whether it’s high-performance motor sports or aerospace,” says Mark Davis, senior director of design futures at Autodesk.

Using software creatively comes with its own challenges. Davis says that Starck had high expectations of the software; he imagined being able to “just say what he wanted or describe what he wanted and out it would pop on the other end,” as Davis puts it. But generative design, and software that enables it, is still in its early stages, and the design process required much more human input than something made purely by a computer. As a result, much of the design work was done by people, who piggybacked on the software’s organic formulations–similar to the way machine learning algorithms are used in other creative situations. An animation of some of the different iterations shows just how mangled some of the tool’s ideas were before humans went in and refined them with clean lines, symmetry, and balance. Similarly, the software can’t do things like design chairs to be stackable, so people had to manually ensure that the finished chair would be able to stack.

While Davis’s idea for what generative design could eventually do sounds relatively similar to what industrial designers do today, that technology is still a long way off. Humans are much more creative than robots, and may always be. Still, one day, star designers like Starck may only need an algorithm to do their grunt work.

DamienGeso/iStock, David von Diemar/Unsplash]
In a broad new set of sustainability commitments, the company wants to use its tech to develop tools to monitor and find insights in environmental data.

In 2012, before declaring your company “carbon neutral” was de rigueur, Microsoft committed to that standard across its operations. Since then, Microsoft has continued to take steps toward cleaning up its own act, purchasing enough green power to equal its electricity consumption, investing in reforestation projects, and setting the target of reducing its emissions 75% by 2030.

Even though Microsoft has worked diligently to advance sustainable practices, its approach, says Lucas Joppa, the company’s chief environmental officer, has remained fairly internal. “We’ve been so focused on reducing the environmental footprint of our own operations–that was really the traditional focus,” Joppa says. Now, the company feels that it’s time to expand its its approach. Through a new set of sustainability commitments, Microsoft wants to turn its sustainability efforts outward, through making its artificial intelligence and tech tools more widely available for use in environmental research, and through new research and advocacy efforts in the environmental field.

“The reason we’re doing this is almost perfectly correlated with impatience,” Joppa says. “The reality shows that no matter how successful we are, sustainability actions inside of our own four walls are entirely insufficient for moving the world toward an environmentally sustainable future.” The same logic applies across the corporate world: No matter how much an individual company works to achieve personal sustainability goals, it’s not going to create the kind of large-scale change we need to combat climate change.

Microsoft’s plan is to turn what it does well–technology and AI–outward to support climate action. It will aggregate and host environmental data sets on its cloud platform, Azure, and make them publicly available (it’s also using AI to make its Azure data centers run more efficiently). Those data sets, according to Microsoft, are too large for researchers to use without advanced cloud computing, and hosting them on Azure should ease that issue.

The company will also scale up the work it does with other nonprofits and companies tackling environmental issues through a data lens. Microsoft has already worked in concert with the water management company Ecolab to develop a tool to assess and monetize a company’s water usage, and how much they would save–both in financial and environmental terms–by driving down their consumption and waste. They’ll also work with The Yield, a company that uses sensors to assess weather and conditions for farmers, to improve the operations of their tools and equip them with AI that will help them predict weather patterns and soil conditions in advance. And they’re equipping SilviaTerra, a startup that uses AI to monitor global forest populations, with the tools it needs to store and analyze vast amounts of data.

Alongside these partnerships, Microsoft is also working to prove that these types of data-driven projects can deliver enormous benefits to both the environment and the economy. Through research conducted with PwC, Microsoft looked at how AI could be applied across four sectors with implications for the planet: agriculture, water, energy, and transportation. “Even just for a few different sectors, and a few different levers in those sectors, a rapid adoption of AI-based technology has the potential to not only make significant gains for the environment, but also for the GDP overall,” Joppa says. Microsoft found that advancing AI usage across those four sectors could boost global GDP by as much as 4.4% by 2030, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 4% in the same time period. “We need to get past the idea that acting on climate will slow economic growth,” Joppa says.
Civic-minded techies are finding ways to digitize, demystify, and improve local government

The latest buzz-phrase catching fire in planning and technology? Smart city concepts. The various strains of reactive infrastructure and efficient transportation that make up these new ideas for smart cities suggest a cleaner, less crowded, and more clever version of urban life is right around the corner.

But with developers and technologists anointing everything from digital signage to entire neighborhoods with the smart city label, it can be hard to figure out what the term really means. Who gets to decide what these technology-infused visions of urban life look like—and how they operate? Even the best-publicized smart city concepts, like the Toronto waterfront project from Sidewalk Labs, have generated significant blowback when it comes to issues of data privacy.

More importantly, what makes them “smart”? Convenience is one thing, but there’s a big difference between data and wisdom, between the information gathered by smart cameras and the vision of lifelong citizens. That’s why a new raft of technological advancements being adapted for cities can be so transformative.

Over the last decade, programs like Code for America and Startup in Residence have become incubators that help civic-minded techies find ways to digitize, and demystify, local government. Successful case studies have saved cities money and made strong cases for increased investment in better tech. In California, Sen. Kamala Harris recently proposed a plan to invest $15 million annually in tech for local government.

Here are a few examples of how cities have used technology to shape development and improve neighborhoods.

Tech is fostering civic engagement—by letting citizens suggest their own development policies

When Mesa, Arizona, launched Imagine Mesa, a digital forum for community engagement, in 2017, Mayor John Giles hoped to create a more “bottom-up government.” Two years later, the crowdsourcing platform, where residents make suggestions for proposals and click on the ones they support, has led to a number of initiatives and projects, including a new farmers market and the conversion of a historic home into a restaurant that promotes locally sourced ingredients.

Carrier Johnson
Aside from equipment innovations, the building industry has remained largely unchanged for the last 100 years. Beginning about 10 years ago with building information modeling (BIM) software that began to change, said Daniel Reeves, president of the San Diego–based community and government affairs consultancy Juniper Strategic Advisory, who served as moderator of a ULI San Diego/Tijuana event in March.

Like other business sectors, innovative technology is having a disruptive impact on building construction, operations, and management, according to event presenters, who discussed new technology used to cut time for project due diligence; make cost estimates accurate and construction more precise; improve building operations and efficiency; and enhance tenant engagement, comfort, and satisfaction.


San Diego–based Scoutred offers software that simplifies and speeds up early-stage due diligence for real estate developers and their associates, reducing time for research from days to a few minutes, said founder Alexander Rolek. He explained that Scoutred organizes property information on millions of parcels in San Diego County and visualizes the data in a report designed to help parties make informed decisions.

Simply put in the parcel address and receive an immediate report that details property and zoning information, including subdivision name, parcel size, legal description, the owner’s name and address, tax assessment, map location, use type, building height limits, floor/area ratio (FAR), and setbacks. This information is exported to a PDF format, which also includes the following: a high-resolution aerial photo; zoning and other applicable overlays, such as parking and mass transit; a description of the community plan; details on the property’s attributes and any improvements; and all permits pulled on the property on record with the city.


Based in Sydney, Australia, Willow, a global software developer, is focused on creating easy-to-use systems that facilitate smart building construction, optimize building performance, enhance user experience, and open new streams of revenue by turning data into value.

The company has partnered with Microsoft to create Willow Twin, a scalable platform that leverages the power of the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence to create 2-D or 3-D digital, geometrically accurate replicas of real estate assets that contain all asset information and live operational data.

“Data is the new gold,” said Casey Mahon, digital coordinator, Willow North America, explaining that the program collects building data and uses them to transform a structure into a living, evolving asset that learns from experience. The program harnesses building data, tracking user behavior and building performance to improve the tenant experience and drive savings through actionable insights and predictive maintenance.

Five years ago, Willow partnered with Investa, one of Australia’s largest developers, owners, and managers of commercial real estate, to develop Willow Twin 2.0, an intelligent digital twin that integrates 3-D visualization with data to allow a building to learn to operate itself efficiently.

Over time, the system learns to effectively manage energy and other resources used by assets: using data analytics and intuitive reporting, it improves assets’ triple bottom line by increasing their cash value while reducing their impact on the environment.

Since then, Willow and Investa have used Willow Digital and Willow Twin to innovate multiple areas of building development and operations, ranging from complex digital design and construction management to use of intelligent digital twins to manage buildings efficiently and enhance the tenant experience.

Mahon noted that Willow Digital 2.0 identifies which assets to track long-term, and lessons learned can be applied across an entire portfolio using Willow Scan, an OR, code-driven solution designed to identify and manage all assets in a portfolio.

​It also provides a completion tracker and model auditor that validates subcontractor and data, including operations and manuals, asset registers, and warranty information and gathers and stores operational manuals for the building or infrastructure network, which Mahon stresses is especially important when handing off building management to a n
Mancini Duffy
From photo-real renderings to the proliferation of architecture-orientated social media accounts, digital tech has transformed the way designers envision the world and the way the world engages with design. With today’s tech, the sky’s the limit for what an architect or interior designer can imagine. One firm in particular has realized digital tech’s revolutionary potential and has ran with it, creating multiple new services that promise substantial ROIs and a more collaborative, expedited design process.

That firm is Mancini Duffy, a veteran powerhouse in the New York design scene. At a recent lunch and learn hosted at Interior Design’s New York City headquarters, Mancini Duffy principal Michael Kipfer and his team presented several digital services that are already impacting the physical world. “Over the last five years, we’ve really embraced a startup mentality in our R&D department,” explained Kipfer. “Our end-goal is to spread this tech to other firms and completely transform the way the way our kind of work is done in the future.”

Over the course of the hour-long lunch, Kipfer elaborated on the boundary-pushing services Mancini Design Lab has developed between when it opened in June 2018 and now. These include a 360-degree design session, aided by top-of-the-line augmented and virtual realities developed using a popular video game engine called UnrealUnity. Clients are invited to participate in the design process, speeding up the time it takes to get a final client sign-off down from a few weeks to a single three-hour collaborative session. In this way, Kipfer said, everyone’s time is respected. They most recently used this technology at Pier 17 for the ground floor public spaces and restaurants.

VR is also used in the Mancini Duffy’s Mancini:Tool Belt. Powered by the HTC Vive, designers can grab and move objects in a Rhino and Revit-created space, “paint” them with different finishes, measure them, and teleport freely through the proposed project, picking up on design flaws long before they have advanced to stage where they would be costly to fix. This tech was first developed when Boqueria’s owner Yann de Rockfort and Chief Executive Chef Marc Vidal approached the firm about designing a new kitchen for their staff. Today, it’s a standard tool embraced across Mancini Duffy’s project teams.

Mancini Duffy makes use of new tools outside of simulated realities, as well. They recently completed a parking study for a national financial client using drones to survey the number and flow of cars across a 157-acre site. What ordinarily would have taken a team of three humans a day to accomplish was completed by the drone in five minutes. Realizing this, the team used the drone to map the site twice an hour day for two days, taking in LIDAR data and importing it into a 3-D software. From this data, heat charts and flow diagrams were made available to the remote Mancini team, speeding up the process for the client and cutting down on the design team’s time wasted on travel.

So what’s next for the Design Lab? “On the whole, we foresee 2-D drawings and construction documents completely disappearing from the design process,” said Kipfer. That could be accomplished by licensing or trademarking the aforementioned services to be used by the wider architectural community. “We see a huge potential to make the design process more expedient, more collaborative, and ultimately more creative with what we’ve invented at Design Lab. It’s not about keeping it all to ourselves and outpacing the competition. It’s about creating a new competitive environment that stimulates better design and ultimately gives the end-user something better than they could have ever expected.”

The Smart World suite of 5D software platforms map and visualize data provided by metropolises to an intuitive real-time 3D simulation.

When people talk about digital twin, it’s usually in the context of a single product or building. But Michael Jansen’s ambition is to digitally replicate the entire world, or at the very least every smart city.

Jansen is Chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Cityzenith, whose Smart World suite of 5D software platforms map and visualize data provided by metropolises to an intuitive real-time 3D simulation.

Cityzenith brought Smart World to market in 2009 and rolled out its latest version, Smart World Pro, last year. Users of the newer product can aggregate BIM, CAD, GIS tools, spreadsheets, documents, sensor feeds, and even social media posts, all of which can be dragged and dropped onto the platform.

Jansen describes Smart World Pro as “a design-to-demo digital twin,” whose features include an all-in-one dashboard, universal data importing, a natural language search, and a “Mapalyze” app suite of analytical tools that allows users to run project analysis “on the fly” and export and share results quickly. An application from Unity Technologies that powers the platform’s back end provides greater flexibility, says Jansen.

Smart World Pro pulls data from a variety of sources, including large building owners (one of the platform’s users is Cushman & Wakefield), large AEC firms, data streams from IoT sensors, and public information services for cities, counties, and states.

Cityzenith has amassed curated public and commercial data sets for “several thousand” cities, and fully loaded 3D models for “hundreds” in a dozen countries. Last December, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh selected Smart World Pro as its 3D City Information Model for the development of Amaravati, a new $6.5 billion smart city capital that Foster + Partners and Surbana Jurong have designed.

“Amaravati will be born as a digital twin, the first entire city that I know of to do that in the world,” says Jansen.

Smart World Pro is also being used for Hinkley Point, a 3.2-gigawatt power plant that is the largest infrastructure project in the U.K.

Cityzenith takes what Jansen calls an “enterprise approach” to its pricing. First-time customers can get their foot in the door with a $20,000 package. Using the platform for projects costs between $30,000 and $75,000, and mapping metros can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The company has raised more than $10 million and is profitable to the point where currently it isn’t seeking investor capital. As for growth, Cityzenith has somewhere between 30 and 40 customers, but Jansen is thinking much bigger when he says his platforms target “everyone in the building industry” that manages assets.

“The problem that Smart World Pro solves is the complete lack of interoperability among tools,” says Jansen. “The industry needs a single pane of glass for all of the tools being aggregated.”
Today at Nvidia GTC 2019, the company unveiled a stunning image creator. Using generative adversarial networks, users of the software are with just a few clicks able to sketch images that are nearly photorealistic. The software will instantly turn a couple of lines into a gorgeous mountaintop sunset. This is MS Paint for the AI age.

Called GauGAN, the software is just a demonstration of what’s possible with Nvidia’s neural network platforms. It’s designed to compile an image how a human would paint, with the goal being to take a sketch and turn it into a photorealistic photo in seconds. In an early demo, it seems to work as advertised.

GauGAN has three tools: a paint bucket, pen and pencil. At the bottom of the screen is a series of objects. Select the cloud object and draw a line with the pencil, and the software will produce a wisp of photorealistic clouds. But these are not image stamps. GauGAN produces results unique to the input. Draw a circle and fill it with the paint bucket and the software will make puffy summer clouds.

Users can use the input tools to draw the shape of a tree and it will produce a tree. Draw a straight line and it will produce a bare trunk. Draw a bulb at the top and the software will fill it in with leaves producing a full tree.

GauGAN is also multimodal. If two users create the same sketch with the same settings, random numbers built into the project ensure that software creates different results.

In order to have real-time results, GauGAN has to run on a Tensor computing platform. Nvidia demonstrated this software on an RDX Titan GPU platform, which allowed it to produce results in real time. The operator of the demo was able to draw a line and the software instantly produced results. However, Bryan Catanzaro, VP of Applied Deep Learning Research, stated that with some modifications, GauGAN can run on nearly any platform, including CPUs, though the results might take a few seconds to display.

In the demo, the boundaries between objects are not perfect and the team behind the project states it will improve. There is a slight line where two objects touch. Nvidia calls the results photorealistic, but under scrutiny, it doesn’t stand up. Neural networks currently have an issue on objects it was trained on and what the neural network is trained to do. This project hopes to decrease that gap.

Nvidia turned to 1 million images on Flickr to train the neural network. Most came from Flickr’s Creative Commons, and Catanzaro said the company only uses images with permission. The company says this program can synthesize hundreds of thousands of objects and their relation to other objects in the real world. In GauGAN, change the season and the leaves will disappear from the branches. Or if there’s a pond in front of a tree, the tree will be reflected in the water.

Nvidia will release the white paper today. Catanzaro noted that it was previously accepted to CVPR 2019.

Catanzaro hopes this software will be available on Nvidia’s new AI Playground, but says there is a bit of work the company needs to do in order to make that happen. He sees tools like this being used in video games to create more immersive environments, but notes Nvidia does not directly build software to do so.
For contractors and developers that are on a tight schedule and need to map large swaths of land or expansive projects, sometimes the only thing better than the convenience and insight that unmanned aerial system (UAS), or drone, imaging provides is getting the shots back in a few hours versus days. Engineering and environmental consulting firm Dudek, which provides drone imagery services to contractors, has found an effective solution for turning around image projects for construction clients fast.

Dudek provides mapping, inspection and construction project monitoring services across the U.S., including Hawaii, where its drone operations are based. The company began using drones several years ago through outsourced services, but brought the function in-house almost two years ago. Brian Nordmann, Dudek's chief information officer, told Construction Dive that the firm now has eight full-time pilots as well as a “supporting cast” that processes data.

Dudek counts both public agencies and private developers among its drone imaging clientele, and the company's construction-related work includes pre-permitting mapping and monitoring of large infrastructure, utility and power plant projects.

For example, the firm captures drone images for the California bullet train project that has been whittled down to a $15 billion to $16 billion segment through the state’s Central Valley.

With a growing roster of drone imagery clients and most of its data processing work done at its Hawaii office, the system Dudek was using was becoming inefficient. In the case of a large development, Nordmann said, a drone flight could encompass many acres of land. After the flight, a team would upload images and data collected to a workstation and then run a series of applications to process the information into the finished product for the customer.

“The big part of that,” he said, “ is essentially stitching together all these photos that it takes into a huge map.”

High costs could be the last straw for contractors that are either hesitant to adopt technology or struggling to get teams on board. But technology usually takes the trajectory of becoming more affordable as it advances, and as more spherical lens cameras have been coming onto the market at a lower-price point, Matterport has been able to offer a lower-cost solution.

Cloud 3.0, which debuted in January, supports a wider range of entry-level cameras and scanners than before. As more data is added to the Matterport database, the platform’s AI image-processing engine will improve in speed and accuracy via machine learning, the company claimed.

Joel Jacobson, integrated construction manager at Mortenson, told Construction Dive that Matterport played a key role in the contractor’s strategy of using technology to meet an aggressive schedule for the $505 million Mercyhealth Javon Bea Hospital and Physician Clinic-Riverside, which was completed in January.

An intuitive tool on its face, “we liked the idea that this was a lot of backend cloud-based computing power to stitch individual images [into] a fully immersive environment,” he said.

Matterport doubles as a “low-fidelity laser scanner,” Jacobson added, by capturing point cloud data along with immersive imagery. The Mortenson team used the virtual environment captured by Matterport as an overlay with the coordinated 3D model to hold field teams accountable to delivering the intended design, he said.

Matterport’s growth plays into a broader demand for immersive virtual technologies. Creating a virtual representation of a physical asset, or digital twin, allows for a more seamless exchange of data between the two. San Francisco-based startup Indus.ai, for example, captures jobsite activity in a digital environment via mounted cameras and can offer real-time visibility into data like delivery times, task durations or the number of workers on site.
Smart, eclectic, and multifunctional kitchens are permeating residential design this year.

Whether you are designing your clients' kitchens from scratch or updating their outdated features, it's worth knowing that kitchens are increasingly smarter, eclectic, multifunctional, and more importantly, used as a central hub for entertaining for families, gourmands, and avid cooks. As seen on fashion runways and trade show floors, this year's trends are urging bright colors, bold patterns, and warm, familiar looks. Here are six finishes, fixtures, fittings, appliances, and more to consider for your kitchen designs.

Gold and Copper Metallic Accents

"A nod to chevron" is what Belwith-Keeler's trend manager Knikki Grantham says inspired the design behind this asymmetrical cabinet hardware collection. Manufactured from zinc, this modern, minimalist collection is suitable for use in kitchens with a contemporary style. Veer comprises six pull handles, ranging in length from 3" to 8.8"; a 1.37”-diameter knob, a 1.37"-square pull, and a 1"-long pinch knob. Offered in polished nickel, brushed golden brass, black nickel, matte black, and satin nickel finishes. belwith-keeler.com

Marble and Terrazzo Countertops

Handmade in East London by local industrial designer Robin Grasby, this contemporary take on classical terrazzo surfaces can be used in many applications, including countertops, walls, and furniture. Each Altrock slab is made from 87% reclaimed marble flour, chips, and broken slabs and 13% resin, and then finished with wax oil for a matte look. Altrock solid surfaces are waterproof, stain-resistant, and durable, according to the designer. Available in custom colors, shapes, and sizes. altrocksurfaces.com

Rich, Saturated Color

"Bold" and "saturated" are how Benjamin Moore describes this classic green. As part of a palette of 15 harmonious colors that complement Benjamin Moore's 2019 color of the year, Hunter Green 2041-10 can bring warmth and depth to a variety of interior spaces and exterior façades, doors, and shutters. In kitchens, this rich shade could be used on cabinetry paired with a light-hued countertop surface, creamy white backsplash tiles, and black, gold, or brass metallic accents. benjaminmoore.com
Design Ingelligence
We sat down with technology thinker, practice educator and architect Phil Bernstein to talk about technology and the future of design.

DesignIntelligence: Leaders of firms, chief technology officers, and designers seem to be looking for the technology that will follow BIM. What do you think comes next?

Phil Bernstein: First, let’s contextualize BIM. BIM is a set of knowledge structures that will empower new uses of technology in designing, making, and using buildings.

Where CAD mechanized the means of representation, BIM creates a formal knowledge structure that can organize the enormous array of digital data piles and processes that are becoming part of building industry practices.

What comes next is the digitization of a lot of processes, which means two things. First, there will be new ways of organizing and integrating information so it can be leveraged and interconnected. Right now we have piles of unrelated digital data. We need strategies for integrating it.

Second, now that we have all this data, what do we do with it? A wave of rationality will create a different context for design, because the ability to use this information will change the designer’s obligations. Plus, the ability to collect information allows you to learn from how the building was constructed, how it’s being used, and how that will inform the design going forward. There will be a shift from relying entirely on judgment and intuition to rationality.

DI: So what comes next is more complicated than BIM 2.0.

PB: There isn’t going to be a BIM 2.0 in my opinion. Application-centric work is going away. Everybody’s using 30 or 40 different applications. New technologies will be more about putting the project in the center and less about what platform you’re focused on.

DI: It sounds like the focus will shift not only to how design is accomplished but also the designer’s role in it.

PB: Yes. Designers will have a lot more information. What does that information mean for your strategy as a designer and your value proposition as a practice? If your firm’s doing healthcare work and your clients are leveraging information from their electronic medical records systems to correlate actions and outcomes, the architect must transfer those expectations onto the design process. The old “I’ve done 17 hospitals so trust me” model isn’t going to work anymore.
Varjo Technologies/Umbra
Could new technology that simplifies the transfer of BIM models to augmented reality push AEC firms to go all in on extended reality?

xtended reality (XR) is in a unique phase of its life cycle. The technology is readily available for anyone and everyone who thinks they can do something with it. And for better or worse, it is anyone and everyone who thinks they can do something with it.

New applications for AR and VR are more ubiquitous than superhero movies. Unfortunately, they are just as vapid. The trick with XR is to shift it from novelty to necessity, and the AEC industry has proven to be the one that offers the best opportunity to do exactly that.

“With a single button click, Umbra does all the heavy lifting so designers can share huge, complex models with anyone, anywhere,” says Shawn Adamek, Umbra’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Never before have people had access to view complete, full-resolution BIM models in AR on untethered mobile devices.”

Once the model has been optimized in the cloud, users can log into their Web-based account, where they can view the model in the browser, send it to their mobile device, or share it with others.

A big part of what makes this technology so helpful to end users is the fact that it is compatible with mobile devices like iPads and smartphones. AR-specific devices, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, are still relatively rare among even the largest architecture and construction firms. Expanding the point of entry by making common mobile devices compatible with the technology increases the number of users who can benefit from BIM-to-AR applications, while also advancing the rate at which the technology evolves and improves.

The AEC industry has already done a good job at helping XR claw its way out of the novelty category. Recent developments like Umbra’s new BIM-to-AR technology are a big reason why. This innovation uses Umbra’s cloud-based technology—adapted from the company’s tools for the photorealistic video game industry—to take 3D data of any size and optimize it so that it can be delivered and rendered on mobile devices.

The technology, called Umbra Composit, can be used with common design tools such as Revit, Navisworks, and ArchiCAD to upload 3D BIM models directly to the company’s cloud platform. From there, Umbra automates the process of optimization and prepares the BIM model to be shared with anyone on XR platforms.
From lavatory dramatics to connected cooking, kitchen and bath exhibitors at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—from January 8-11—are refining their smart-home strategies with real-time innovations.

Kohler unveiled several enhancements to its Kohler Konnect portfolio, including Numi 2.0, the latest Alexa-enabled edition of the manufacturer’s super-smart toilet. Lighting has been upgraded from static colors to multicolored, and new built-in speakers add to the immersive experience. Like the original Numi, the fixture boosts water efficiency while providing personalized cleaning and drying functions, including a heated seat.

New to the Kohler Konnect range is the Verdera Voice Lighted Mirror, fitted with adjustable LEDs, motion-activated nightlight and hermetically sealed speakers; and the Veil Lighted Bathroom Collection, a mood lighting system that seamlessly connects the toilet, freestanding bath, mirror, and three-piece vanity with personalized illumination.

Toto debuted a new generation of its Life Anew global brand campaign—Life Anew Next—including a template for fully connected public restrooms developed in collaboration with GP Pro. The commercial dispensing provider’s Kolo Smart Monitoring System promises secure monitoring and analysis that facility managers monitor via tablet or computer to keep tabs on water consumption, cleanliness, paper and soap supplies, and any malfunctions.

Whirlpool debuted multiple smart products across its four brands, including the Whirlpool Smart All-in-One Washer and Dryer, which allows the user to complete an entire load of laundry in a single machine, a welcome solution for urban apartments and other close quarters.

Introductions from the KitchenAid brand included Smart Oven+, featuring attachments for in-home grilling, baking, and steaming; and Cook Processor Connect, an all-in-one appliance that provides recipe guidance while weighing, stewing, steaming, mincing, or pureeing the ingredients.

As is typical in the kitchen and bath arena, water conservation played a key role in many of the smart-home introductions. Moen partnered with Flo Technologies to develop Flo by Moen, a water monitoring and leak-detection system that homeowners can access via smartphone. Daily tests calculate real-time water pressure, flow rate, and temperature, while also differentiating between regular and irregular water use, which would signal a leak or over
Rudin Management Company
It’s common to associate the term “big data” with targeted advertising and invasions of privacy, but for New York City-based commercial real estate management company Rudin, the massive sets of numbers can help save the world.

In response to requests from utility companies and government entities to reduce emissions and prevent catastrophes like the northeast blackout in the summer of 2003, the firm launched a tech startup, Prescriptive Data, to find a way to use big data sets, technically referred to as silos, to answer these calls.

The startup combines data from Rudin’s buildings with numbers from utility companies into an operating system they call Nantum, which regulates heat, elevators and other property machinery. The results, Rudin found, include more comfortable conditions for its tenants, along with a massive reduction in carbon emissions. At the end of 2018, the 19 properties using Nantum together achieved a 44% reduction in emissions, more than half of the 80%- by year 2050-goal established under the New York City Carbon Challenge.

However, since data collection is still a relatively new science, and a confusing one for many, I asked Rudin’s executive vice president and COO John Gilbert to explain how Nantum used it to achieve the recent sustainability milestone.

How did you get the idea for a data tech startup?

In 2009, President Obama put together a stimulus package following the recession of 2008, and a chunk of that money was to go to utilities to create some innate intelligence within the grid. It was really to prevent the big blackout in August of 2003, when 55 million people in the northeast and southern Canada lost power, from ever happening again. We were reached out to by Con Edison and they said, “Listen, we got this chunk of [money] and we want to talk to some smart customers of ours. You, Rudin, have had a history of integrating very innovative technology within your portfolio, will you act as the smart technology petri dish for us?” And we said sure.

Amazon just over a year ago launched its first in-home furniture brands, with private labels Rivet and Stone & Beam. This past fall, it began experimenting with a new, more visual way to shop for furniture and other merchandise with its Pinterest-like recommendation service Scout. Now, Amazon is venturing further into home furnishings with the debut of Amazon Showroom, a visual design tool that allows you to place furniture into a virtual living room, customize the décor, then shop the look.

The retailer didn’t formally announce the launch of Amazon Showroom, but a spokesperson confirmed it’s a recent test that’s now available on Amazon.com and in the Amazon mobile app.

You can access it from the “Accounts & Lists” drop-down on the web; the Home, Garden & Pets department on the web; or the Home & Kitchen department on the mobile app.

Currently, the new feature is focused on helping Amazon shoppers put together a living room. In a virtual setting, you can make adjustments to the wall color and the flooring, then swap out each item in the space with one of your own choosing — including the sofa, coffee table, chair, end table, lamp, rug and even the art on the wall.

To do so, click on the piece in question, then pick another from the right-side panel where a scrollable list of options are available, along with their prices. This selection can be filtered by a number of factors, as well, like price, style, color, material, brand and star rating.

Not surprisingly, Amazon’s own home furnishing brands are heavily featured here.

As you work on your project, you can save your room design to pull up later. And you can save more than one room design, if you’re trying to decide between different styles. When satisfied, an “Add to cart” button lets you place all into your cart for checkout with just one click.
Dive Brief:

Autodesk Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire construction bid-management platform BuildingConnected for $275 million net of cash, according to an Autodesk press release. The transaction is scheduled to close during Autodesk’s fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, ending Jan. 31, and is subject to customary closing conditions.

BuildingConnected, whose customers include Turner Construction, McCarthy, Mortenson, StructureTone, Skanska, Clark Construction, Ryan Cos. and AECOM, is a network in which real estate owners and general contractors can connect with and hire qualified contractors. BuildingConnected also brings with it TradeTapp, a subcontractor risk analysis platform, and Bid Board Pro, a platform that claims to help subcontractors manage and win more bids. Under Autodesk’s umbrella, BuildingConnected CEO and co-founder Dustin DeVan is looking to “expand the platform’s capabilities and scale globally.”

This move, which is Autodesk's third major acquisition this year, furthers Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost’s mission to “connect construction processes across design, build and operations.”

Dive Insight:

Although Autodesk is involved in related industries, such as architecture and engineering, as well as manufacturing, media and entertainment, when Andrew Anagnost took over as CEO of Autodesk last year, he saw construction as the company’s next big growth opportunity.

Autodesk has made strides in that goal this year, with three major acquisitions. Earlier this year, Autodesk absorbed Assemble Systems for an undisclosed amount, a company that provides software-as-a-service licenses for construction firms to “condition, query and connect BIM data to key workflows across bid management, estimating, scheduling, site management and finance.”

Last month, Autodesk acquired PlanGrid in an $875 million cash deal that PlanGrid CEO Tracy Young said will “completely change the construction technology landscape.” Although Autodesk’s BIM 360 product addresses quality and safety issues on the jobsite, the company wanted to accelerate its field efforts even further, which is where PlanGrid came in.
Building “envelopes” seal off our living and working space. It’s time for a more living architecture.

Traditional buildings are designed to provide protection against a savage world, with us safe on one side and our waste on the other. Architects have long relied on “hard” materials such as masonry, aluminum and glass, specifically chosen to prevent the outside environment from getting in. Impermeability was, and is, a driving goal.

It is time to rethink that approach. Our current built environment squanders too much fresh water and other vital resources, and tips too many poisonous substances into our surroundings. To develop a more sustainable relationship with the natural world, we need to allow chemical exchanges that take place within our living spaces, and between the inside and the outside. We need to embrace permeability.

Until the rise of modernity, a certain amount of the outside world always leaked into our living spaces, entering through crumbling brickwork, broken seals and open windows and doors. However, with the rapid growth of industrial cities in the mid-19th century, pollution, overcrowding and disease posed new external threats. The remedy was to exert tighter control over our habitats, with the result that buildings became true barriers.

Today’s building “envelopes” seal off our living and working spaces to a degree previously unencountered. In many offices, it is no longer possible to open windows manually to let in a breeze. Automated air-conditioning systems (often answering only to sensors and software) blast summer heat out into scorching walkways, amplifying the urban heat-island effect and contributing to heat-related health risks. Such buildings ignore the metabolism that is the dynamic scaffolding of living systems.

During the 1970s, the ecologists John and Nancy Jack Todd and William McLarney founded the New Alchemy Institute–now the Green Center on Cape Cod in Massachusetts–to reconceive building spaces as part of a self-sustaining human ecosystem. Such spaces would not be hermetically sealed, but rather open to the flow of natural elements. The research institute experimented with integrating a range of sustainable systems, such as solar power, organic agriculture, aquaculture and bio-shelter design, which went hand in hand with the permeability of these living spaces. Their results pointed a promising way forward.