Exploring the Potentials of ICT Tools for Human-Centric Regenerative Design

Giulia Sonetti, Emanuele Naboni, Martin Brown
2018 Sustainability  
Aiming for sustainable buildings and cities is critical to achieving a future that is socially just, ecologically regenerative, culturally rich, and economically viable. However, our current concepts of sustainability often exclude the essential domains of data, information, and the knowledge relating to the relationship between buildings and people that inhabit them. Thus, the research questions at the core of this paper have been as follows: Can technologies and artificial intelligence (AI)
more » ... intelligence (AI) be used to create systems that enhance relationships between buildings and inhabitants? Can social networks and natural interactions support further research relating to human-centric design tools for the built environment? The Human Observation Meta-Environment (HOME) project was developed to address this question. The ICT architecture has been tested to observe and collect human behaviour data within a sentient room at the Politecnico di Torino (IT), where the inhabitants were strategically aware of their behaviours. Methods of analysis included technologies related to the domain of AI (such as Natural Language Analysis, Computer Vision, Machine Learning and Deep Learning) that have been used in social network analysis in connection with the word 'comfort', and definitions resonate strongly with the realm of regenerative design. Results were used to further research the role of users that could serve as leverages to design (both spaces and related smart systems) according to actual user needs. People from very different disciplinary backgrounds interacted with the prototype in a workshop and provided stimuli for further considerations regarding the possible technological, psychological, cognitive, cultural, social, political, and aesthetical impacts of the use of these technologies inside sentient buildings. The paper enriches the discourse on how ICT data can be organised and read in a human-centric regenerative design process perspective. Smart buildings are a significant evolving trend within wider technological development, often welcomed as the panacea for the climate change challenge. But even via smarter ways, the built environment and its operation use large amounts of resources. Looking at the overarching context, we are in transition from the concept of sustainability as the duty to limit the damages caused, to a vision of regenerative sustainability, that is the need to restore social and ecological systems to a healthy state and progressively toward the regenerative sustainability, which enables the social and ecological system to evolve (please refer to [1] and Storify). In this paradigm, sentient buildings are those that can share memories and stories from the past and send messages to current and future inhabitants. As noted by social network analysis, this is a crucial aspect of the stories humans share, not just related to thermal comfort, but to a broader feeling and a sense of wellness and wellbeing. An alternative 'regenerative sustainability' approach emphasises low-impact design with a small ecological footprint, organic design using natural materials and ecological engineering, nurturing the spirit of the place and recalling vernacular design as a healthy relationship to place [2], as the basis for the equilibrium of a building's thermal features and ultimately its sustainability performance. Here, the concept of biophilic design is introduced. Buildings that have biophilic aspects improve comfort levels and reduce related energy costs, since we need less heating, cooling and mechanical systems in buildings in terms of air quality, light, and materials used [3], further we need to 'listen' to the cultural human ecosystem living within them [4] . A social network semantic analysis of the word 'comfort' is also undertaken. Nevertheless, only a few studies exist in considering these 'human' domains when evaluating the sustainability profiles of buildings and cities [5, 6] . In today's anthroprocene era, climate change is a proper responsibility of urban living models [7, 8] , yet human experience and behaviours are still mostly unaccounted for by designers, informatics, engineers, and policymakers [9, 10] . This creates a severe gap in current research about strategies for mitigating built environment impacts, data collection, and the role of particular design elements in comfort perceptions. The potential for using these environmental associations as a performance feature to be measured, evaluated, and transferred as parametric elements in Regenerative Environmental Design (RED) is often under-evaluated [11] . The regenerative design concept is at the core of this spectrum as it does not exclude the possibilities provided through technology, shifting from a narrow focus on building energy performance, mitigation strategies, and minimisation of environmental impacts, to a broader framework that enriches places, people, ecology, culture, and climate [12, 13] . Therefore, the question of how social networks, advanced materials, and energy optimisation systems can support the change of paradigms remains a valid one to address. In this paper, we aim to explore the opportunities provided by current ICT tools in supporting human-centric inter-disciplinary research and the regenerative sustainability paradigm shift. Our enquiry seeks to understand which kind of technologies (social network analysis, natural interactions, and artificial intelligence) could be used to create systems that establish new relationships between buildings, mechanical systems, and inhabitants and that in turn support the research about human-centric design tools. The aim of this article is as follows: Rethinking Sustainability towards a Regenerative Economy'. More information can be found at www.eurestore.eu/. RESTORE is an E-Cost action seeking to affect a paradigm shift in built environment sustainability thinking within industry, practice and education. Core to the RESTORE action are Working Groups, Training Schools and Short Term Scientific Missions exploring the spectrum of regenerative sustainability state-of-the-art practice and future visions. COST is the longest-running European framework supporting trans-national cooperation among researchers, engineers and scholars across Europe. It is a unique means for them to jointly develop their own ideas and new initiatives across all fields in science and technology, including social sciences and humanities, through pan-European networking of nationally funded research activities. Based on a European intergovernmental framework for cooperation in science and technology, COST has been contributing-since its creation in 1971-to closing the gap between science, policy makers and society throughout Europe and beyond. As a precursor of advanced multidisciplinary research, COST plays a very important role in building a European Research Area (ERA)
doi:10.3390/su10041217 fatcat:jsugpokoejh6te7nusgdyfxzq4