Smart Cities: How holistic design approach and connected sensors will revolutionize the cities we live in.

SolarLeaf Façade of the IBQ House in Hamburg. Credits: Johannes Artl for IBA Hamburg

It is no secret that the global human population growth will cause the level of urbanization of all major cities to increase drastically in the upcoming decades. The fact is that this phenomenon will require us to design our cities in a smarter way, if we want to guarantee a decent and comfortable housing for everyone while controlling air quality, reducing urban heat island effect and manage noise pollution deriving from urbanization.

At first glance, if the relationship between environmental urbanization issues and Building Information Modeling may not seems particularly obvious, the truth is that BIM can provide a lot of innovative solutions to the challenges of modern cities. We all know that BIM is not only a software and hardware matter; it is also gathers a variety of technologies and processes whose purpose is to increase efficiency of a building project, from the pre-design stage to the end-of-lifecycle. On a larger scale, having a number of high-performing buildings clustered together and interconnected via technologies such as GIS, IoT and ultra-sensitive sensors can present several major benefits on urban ecosystems and building monitoring. Bioreactive façades such as the SolarLeaf façade of the BIQ House in Hamburg, are a good example of the application of technologies arising from the development of sophisticated sensors combined with advanced energy management systems. It is a well-known fact that the integration of green envelopes (façades + roof) to existing or new construction can bring significant improvements to a city’s overall environmental scorecard. However, what is new is that the parallel use of such applications with the latest developed BIM technologies has the potential to bring smart cities to a whole new level of efficiency.

Using parametric modeling, architects and designers can now analyze the impact of urban morphology (i.e. the orientation, disposition, grid, shape and alignment of buildings in a cluster) by conducting different simulations on a numerical model and measuring the responsivity of a group of buildings to various criteria. One great example is the Cities Alive – Green Building Envelope report, published by Arup last year. In this paper, the urban morphologies of five cities (London, Berlin, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Melbourne) are compared with regard the following criteria: Air Pollution, Acoustics, Urban Heat Island Effect. Added to this, performance analysis of green façades and vegetal envelopes existing in those respective cities were carried out with the help of high precision measuring instruments, defining the impacts of those parameters on the cities’ average temperatures, energy consumption, air mass, and much more.

The results are clear: green envelopes not only bring aesthetical advantages to the concerned buildings, they revolutionize the environmental performance of the whole city while increasing the citizens’ comfort on all levels. If the latest cutting-edge technologies allow the construction professionals to extract a large amount of valuable data about the behavior of a building during its whole lifecycle, BIM models act as unified management platforms for the monitoring and control of building’s health. The benefits of such tools, on a city-wide scale, can have a significant impact on the quality of life of many people.

If planning a whole city from scratch is not something that most of the professionals have the chance to achieve during their careers, one thing is sure: every construction project relates to a specific framework outside the boundaries of the project itself

and providing an integrated, innovative and environmentally friendly urban design is something that we should all be concerned about. Now that BIM has arrived, it is much easier to create smarter, bigger and greener cities!

 

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