How A.I. Is Helping Architects Change Workplace Design

“I have been a workplace designer for the last 24 years,” says architect Arjun Kikar. “I have seen more change in the last 24 months than in my entire career.”

Kiker co-runs Zaha Hadid Analytics + Insights (ZHAI), a five-person team that uses data and artificial intelligence to design workplaces.The team is the following members Zaha Hadid ArchitectsThe firm was founded in London in 1979 by influential architect Zaha Hadid.

“The pandemic has really accelerated innovation in the workplace,” Kiker said in a recent video interview from Atlanta.

In the past, “most office buildings had one-size-fits-all desks that everyone could use, the same environment around them, everything was the same,” he said.

Back at their desks, “people want more choice, more personalization, more mobility.”

To address the changing work landscape, the company has turned to AI to help architects design better office buildings and spaces that cater to the individual needs of employees.

Many architectural firms around the world, such as Foster & Partners, also headquartered in London, and US companies HOK and NBBJ, have introduced digital data in this way, but Zaha Hadid Architects has a dedicated team in-house. is one of the few companies with

Historically, offices have been designed based on organizational charts and observational studies and staff surveys to “see who reports to whom and which departments should sit next to each other.” said co-author Jeremy Meyerson. “Unworking: Reinventing the Modern Office”” he said in a phone interview.

Currently, staff often work from both home and office, and “companies cannot afford to have extensive real estate underutilized during the week,” he said. Many companies are using algorithms and machine intelligence to “read more dynamically what’s happening in space in real time.”

Sensors track people and environmental conditions such as temperature, air quality, noise levels, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and sunlight. Architects and workplace designers can cross-reference that data to better understand actual needs.

And they’re using that data to move coffee spots and pantries to more popular corners, rearrange furniture and desks, redesign lighting, seat people at desks better suited to work, I am using partitions in a smarter way.

Why isn’t workplace design more popular as an in-house arm of architecture firms? I think that’s because. (Hadid died in 2016.) While they favor museum and residential designs, offices are actually “where wealth and prosperity are born,” he said.

Led by architects Ulrich Blum and Kiikker, ZHAI has worked on more than 100 building projects since its foundation in December 2015, at least 60% of which were offices.

Speaking at the company’s London headquarters, Blum explained that unlike cars and electronics, 21st-century buildings aren’t as responsive or forward-thinking as one might hope.

Many buildings have state-of-the-art air conditioning, lighting and security systems, but “getting all these systems to communicate seamlessly with each other remains a challenge,” says Blum. ZHAI aims to change this situation with a number of new tools and technologies.

As he spoke, an AI-generated office floor plan flickered on the large screen in front of him, with green and red dots representing the least desirable desk positions.

Bloom said ZHAI has a computer tool that can come up with 100,000 designs for the building’s interior in 27 hours. To offer an architect so many options, he would have to make 40 drawings a day for 10 years. He clicked open one fluid, futuristic chart after another. Infinitas Plaza It is located in Guangzhou, China, designed by the company. AI was used to devise options for determining the location of core parts of buildings such as pipes, stairs, and elevator shafts.

Privacy is a major concern when it comes to AI-powered workplace design. If a company can see in detail who did what, when and where, it can compromise employee privacy and use data against employees.

Even though the data is compiled and collected anonymously, some people worry that “there’s a monitor inside the machine,” Myerson said, even if it’s a collective in the office. He noted that people are reluctant to have their data collected, even when it comes to personal experiences. .

He gives an example, in January 2016, The Daily Telegraph of London installs a desk monitor Heat and motion sensors have been installed under each employee’s desk to improve energy efficiency in the office, but these have resulted in privacy complaints from the United Kingdom’s leading journalists’ union, the National Union of Journalists. It was later withdrawn soon after.

Schumacher pointed out the need for safeguards in any tracking system. “Companies have to take responsibility,” he said. “If these systems are used in offices to draw conclusions and remedy problems, we need to make sure it’s not some sort of alien control system that tracks and penalizes individuals.”

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