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We’re sharing inspiring and influential project solutions to increase the presence of design in our practice as we have the responsibility of shaping environments in the world for ourselves and the future.
Friday, May 22, 2015
The Three-Dimensional City: How
Drones Will Impact the Future Urban Landscape
Many have come to associate drones with
the looming unmanned aircraft deployed in the defense industry, but as technology continues to improve drones
have gotten smaller and progressively less expensive. Consumers can now
purchase their very own drone for as little as $600 or less and the technology is already proving to be useful
for a wide variety of purposes, including possible uses for architects in
everything from site analysis to construction.
However, this technology could have much broader
consequences on not only the airspace above our streets, but also in how we
design for increasing civilian and commercial drone traffic. Just as other
technologies such as cars and security surveillance have shaped our urban
infrastructure, so too will an emerging network of infrastructure for pilotless
technology. Particularly as drones become ever more
precise and nimble, opportunities arise for their increased use in
urban areas. If these devices can be programmed to learn from repeated
maneuvers with the use of cameras and sensors, it is not unrealistic to say
that they could soon learn how to navigate through increasingly complex
vertical cities. But if drones become fixtures of our urban environment, what
impact will they have on exterior spaces? And could they become as ubiquitous
in our city’s skies as cars on our streets?
technology in cities may take a number of decades to fully develop, as
designers of smaller drones currently struggle to incorporate the battery life
and power required to navigate the unpredictable wind patterns created by tall
buildings. However, assuming technology continues to improve, we could begin to
see drones used in cities for everything from delivery services to window
cleaning. Curiosity for such services was first sparked last year after
Amazon’s unveiling of a new delivery system using drones, and since then the uses for
drone technology has become increasingly promising. Uses in the architectural
realm include site analysis by realtors and architects in order to stitch
together photos for 3D maps, monitoring construction site progress, producing dramatic
photography of completed projects, and much more. As other industries begin to
make use of this emerging technology, an increasing number of drones will carry
out services hundreds of feet above our streets, and we currently lack the
necessary infrastructure to benefit from and sustain this increased aerial
traffic. Independent urbanist, designer and futurist Liam Young tells City Lab, “When you have services coming at people from
different cross-sectional heights, you can’t have a city planned solely around
the ground. Buildings would have to adapt to the kinds of visual cues and
parameters those drones are programmed to respond to.”  The task of
creating visual cues for drones in cities is particularly complex and is an
area still under development.
acrobatic moves that some smaller drones can be programmed to perform often
rely on powerful sensors placed around the area in which they are flown. In
order for a drone to be called “smart” and fly on its own it must have advanced
processing capabilities to analyze its environment in real time. Some of these
visual cues such as QR codes are simple, whereas the ability to identify shapes
and track movements is far more difficult. Urban three-dimensional space
designed with drones in mind could address some of these obstacles by providing
locations for sensors and consistent access to wireless networks for drones to
maintain communications. Wireless signal attenuation caused by tall structures
and even materials such as glass has already proven to be an issue in urban
areas, and improving these communication services will be a crucial step in
encouraging better drone infrastructure. Architects will play an important role
in designing cities that appropriately respond to this unprecedented
multidimensional urban space, making buildings that work to facilitate drone
navigation and communication rather than inhibit it.
have already begun to creatively envision how cities could adapt for this
increasing array of technological uses for airspace, including Liam Young in
his drone-based art installations.
As many such visions of the future suggest, the infrastructure designed around
drones could give architects a chance to reimagine how exterior vertical
surfaces are used to suit the needs of drones. The devices would most likely
require charging docks at regular dimensions, and if they are used for
shipping, one could imagine drone delivery docks on each floor of tall
As for how drone technology could
further change our urban experience, driverless vehicles have long been a
staple of depictions of the future, and some researchers speculate that if
driverless cars become a reality, driverless aircraft could soon follow. 
Smaller drone technology could be the key to unlocking the potential of larger
pilotless vehicles, and even developing science fiction’s long-awaited flying
cars. This reality could be even closer than we imagine, as some Boeing and
Airbus jets already take off, land and brake to a stop without human hands on
the controls. Just as architects have already contributed to the notion of a
technology-filled city with driverless vehicles, exemplified by BIG’s proposal
for the Audi Urban Future Award, architects may also play a role in
developing such an infrastructure for urban airspace. Responding to how
pilotless vehicles navigate cities is essential if we are to create safe and
flexible spaces that change based on traffic patterns and time of day.
All of these speculations about
drones in our urban environment raise important legal questions regarding the
ownership of three-dimensional space in cities.  The Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) already regulates consumer remote-controlled aircraft to a
maximum height of 400 feet. Amazon and many other commercial interests are
still waiting for the FAA to grant permission and establish regulations
regarding the use of drones, and without these laws in place it is difficult to
predict how the technology will continue to progress. However, many daring
filmmakers and hobbyists have proven that it is difficult to enforce these
regulations, prompting lawmakers to consider how enforced provisions would be
put into practice. In the coming years, we may witness an increasing number of
legal battles over the rights to airspace just as conflicts ensued with the
emergence of automobiles at the time of the Model-T.
Some urban designers have already
proposed rough ideas for possible zoning laws for drones. A post on his blog Humanitarian Space by Mitchell Sipus, an
urban designer who has worked in Kabul and Mogadishu, reveals an early attempt
at creating possible zoning for the airspace in which drones fly.  Sipus
developed representations of color coded areas of Chicago,
with green being flat and open public areas in which drones could fly freely,
and orange, yellow and red areas delineating various restricted or prohibited
spaces. The airspace over commercial stadiums, for example, may be restricted
to advertising and television drones, and barred from civilian aircraft. Since
his initial speculations, Sipus tells ArchDaily he has been involved in
expanding the idea, including some recent work with NASA, suggesting that
these ideas are ripe for real-world implementation.
If municipal governments
established these zones, drones could then be programmed to respond to sensors
that would either grant them full access to select areas, or alternatively
automatically redirect their paths when approaching restricted areas. This digital
infrastructure mapped over three-dimensional airspace would be completely
invisible but play a crucial role in the deployment of infrastructure such as
“highways” for delivery drones and more open recreational spaces for civilian
Concerns over the use of pilotless aircraft
and privacy have been another driving factor in developing legislation to
regulate the use of drones through zoning and other means, following reports of paparazzi using drones to capture photos of
celebrities in their private homes. Zoning may be one tool to approach these
issues, but the design of homes themselves could also potentially transform to
respond to increased needs for privacy from aerial viewers. This may include
the design of outdoor spaces that simultaneously offer the open qualities of
being outdoors, but take advantage of innovative canopy systems to provide
increased privacy. Alternatively, private residences may return to Roman-styled
central courtyards to improve protection from drones and perhaps create an
entirely new “McMansion” typology designed around ensuring optimal privacy.
In everything from the design of
skyscraper façades with integrated drone landing pods, to invisible urban
infrastructure for government zoning, to the nuanced design of private
residences, it is clear that the technological revolution sparked by drones
will have widespread architectural ramifications. Drones could have a great
many positive and negative effects on how we experience our cities, and we have
yet to see the true extent of these effects in practice. In this complex
multidimensional future, architects will face the challenge of working with
both tech industries and government agencies more closely than ever before to
develop truly pioneering urban design.
Finish elevator manufacturer KONE has unveiled a new hoisting technology that will enable elevators to travel heights of one kilometer – twice the distance than currently possible. The new development implies that the Burj Khalifa, whose longest elevator travels a distance of 504 meters, will not remain the world’s tallest building for very long.
Currently, the fastest elevator in the world, made by Toshiba, takes passengers from ground to roof in thirty seconds, rising 33.7 mph through the Taipei 101. This surpasses the speed of the Burj Khalifa’s Otis Elevator, which travels at a mere 22 mph. At 828 meters tall, the Burj Khalifa would still be nearly 300 meters shy (equivalent to the height of The Shard) of the elevator journey that this new technology proposes. This advanced vertical transportation will allow building ever-taller skyscrapers to become even more feasible.
UltraRope, the new hoisting technology developed by KONE, will replace the conventional steel rope used for lifting with one that is developed with a carbon fiber core and a high-friction coating. This rope is extremely light, reducing energy consumption in high-rise buildings as well as reducing the weight of its moving components, such as the hoisting ropes, compensating ropes, counterweight, elevator car, and passenger load. This means, at 800 meters, the weight of the moving masses using KONE UltraRope is a fraction of the weight accumulated with the conventional steel rope.
The carbon fiber rope has a number of other advantages. KONE says that since “carbon fiber resonates at a completely different frequency to steel and most other building materials,” elevator downtime caused by building sway will be reduced. In addition, the rope will have twice the lifetime as steel rope, requiring less maintenance and thereby reduces material waste and environmental impact.
This comes as a breakthrough in elevator technology, as Antony Wood, Architect and Executive Director, Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) states, as one of the major limits of single elevator travel distance was that at a height of approximately 500 meters the weight of the rope became unsupportable. Check out this website for a more in-depth look at this technology.
Trimble Partners with Microsoft to Bring Microsoft
Wearable Holographic Technology to the AEC Industry
Trimble to Integrate Microsoft HoloLens with Selected
Trimble Solutions for
Mixed-Reality Design, Construction and Operation Processes
SAN FRANCISCO, April 29, 2015—Trimble (NASDAQ:TRMB) announced today that
it is working with Microsoft to develop a new generation of tools, integrated
with the HoloLens holographic
platform on Windows 10, which are intended to improve quality, collaboration
and efficiency in the design, construction and operation of buildings and
structures. A proof of concept was demonstrated at Microsoft's Build Developer Conference held
this week in San Francisco.
Microsoft HoloLens is a head-mounted, holographic computer that provides a
mixed-reality experience for a range of commercial and consumer applications.
When used by architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals, the
HoloLens device extends interaction with 3D models beyond the confines of a 2D
computer screen, creating new ways for the many stakeholders of complex,
multi-phase construction projects to visualize, collaborate, share ideas and
Demonstration Highlights Design and Collaboration Scenarios
During the Build Conference keynote session, Microsoft demonstrated how the
integration of HoloLens with Trimble's SketchUp 3D modeling software and the
Trimble Connect collaboration platform could improve design and construction
processes. Using HoloLens, architects were able to experience their SketchUp
models as holograms placed in the real world—enabling them to quickly analyze
various "what if" design scenarios in the context of the physical
environment. The demonstration also illustrated how using Trimble Connect with
HoloLens holographic technology enables remote teams to effectively review and
collaborate in order to resolve constructability issues in real time.
"Trimble has a mission to deliver solutions that transform the user
experience and work processes in many industries," said Bryn Fosburgh,
vice president responsible for Trimble's Construction Technology Divisions.
"We believe that HoloLens is a game-changer for design and construction
teams by facilitating improved communication, and enhanced transparency. We're
excited to partner with Microsoft in creating what could be a new era for
technology in the AEC market."
"Microsoft HoloLens is a revolutionary tool for people and businesses
enabling professionals in industries like design and construction to do more
and achieve more," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, devices
& studios, at Microsoft. "Trimble's deep knowledge of design and
construction processes makes it a natural partner in bringing holographic
computing to this industry."
Initial Development Focus
Trimble's initial research is focused on the integration of HoloLens with three
Trimble® Connect -
a collaboration environment for design, engineering and construction
projects, based on Gehry Technologies' GTeam™ software acquired by Trimble
in in 2014, Trimble Connect enables teams to access and manage project
data via a cloud platform.
SketchUp - the
world's most popular 3D modeling platform, used by millions around the
world to create, update and communicate designs in 3D.
Trimble V10 Imaging Rover - an integrated camera
system that precisely captures 360-degree digital panoramas for efficient
visual documentation and measurement of the surrounding environment that
can be transformed into data-rich geospatial deliverables.
Trimble's HoloLens-enabled solutions are currently under
development. Details on availability were not disclosed at the Build
Conference. Information on Trimble's broad range of existing solutions for the
design, construction and operation of building and infrastructure is available
Trimble applies technology to make field and mobile workers in businesses and
government significantly more productive. Solutions are focused on applications
requiring position or location—including surveying, construction, agriculture,
fleet and asset management, public safety and mapping. In addition to utilizing
positioning technologies, such as GPS, lasers and optics, Trimble solutions may
include software content specific to the needs of the user. Wireless
technologies are utilized to deliver the solution to the user and to ensure a
tight coupling of the field and the back office. Founded in 1978, Trimble is
headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif.