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Data will lead to “Better Building”



At CrowdComfort, we’re huge fans of data. The more, the better; give us 100,000 pieces of input, and we’ll show you a trend that’s sure to have an impact on your business. So, it might come as no surprise that we got a bit sad last week while considering how few data streams architects can currently wield to gather insights about their work. A building goes up, and the architect’s connection to that work typically ends.


And yet, anyone paying attention will find seemingly endless ways that big data has transformed everything from manufacturing to the sport of baseball. Businesses everywhere are finding that trading “gut decisions” for “data-drive insights” tends to cut costs, increase efficiency, and improve long-term outcomes. And, according to a recent Forbes article, the values offered by big data might even become a competitive requirement fairly soon:


“87% of enterprises believe Big Data analytics will redefine the competitive landscape of their industries within the next three years. 89% believe that companies that do not adopt a Big Data analytics strategy in the next year risk losing market share and momentum.”


But, for some reason, architecture has been largely left behind. We think there must be a better way.


Naturally, data without proper organization is completely worthless (and, sometimes even a liability, as poorly groomed numbers can yield false insights and lead important decisions astray). So, we’ve started thinking about what a Content Management System for architectural feedback might look like, as well as what types of insights it might provide.



Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:


  • Real Usage: Architects could learn a ton by understanding the true usage of their buildings after people “move in.” By allowing tenants to opt-in on having location data shared during work hours, a strong CMS could show flowcharts of where people are actually working, and how they’re getting from one space to another. This data would provide invaluable insights on how to better fill space requirements (we have a hunch a lot of room is being wasted in many offices), and how to better organize layouts and accommodate workers’ needs.


  • Wear and Tear: Beyond simple usage, there’s a lot to learn from understanding how a building’s design impacts various systems (such as plumbing, air conditioning, and so forth). Are systems being routinely overworked because of an open floor plan? Would a more central location for heaters provide increased energy efficiency, and more consistent temperature regulation? Understanding how a building ages will help architects better plan for years upon years of usage, rather than a single day’s unveiling.


  • Ongoing Human Feedback: There’s a lot—especially relative to human comfort—that can’t be expressed without going directly to the source: people who use a building. Architects have been gathering this data for years, but typically through one-off surveys after a specified amount of time. Allowing people to send notes as they have them could be revolutionary, as many problems may only manifest themselves during specific seasons or under various work-related circumstances.


Data will ultimately tells us if architectural features within a building are doing justice to its occupants. Are the aesthetics pleasing? Does the thermal comfort meet the needs of everyone? Is the building safe to operate in? Did the architect do a good job? Is this a good building?


Society today has the tools and tech to address these questions, but it’s all a matter of the right professionals applying the tools and tech to the industry. 



Of course, these are just preliminary thoughts, and we welcome your feedback. What sorts of insights would be most helpful for your architectural firm?


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