Voices From The Industry - Hurley Palmer Flatt15/05/18
Gustavo Brunelli, Associate Director, Hurley Palmer Flatt
As I was organising our event for Green Sky Thinking 2018, whose very relevant theme this year is ‘people first’, the following questions came to mind; why is ‘people first’ is not the norm in design? Why do we need an industry-wide event dedicated to the topic? and surely, we all design for people first already?
To show how we have been designing for people first at Hurley Palmer Flatt, our event this year will showcase our Advanced Building Optimisation methodology. This is our people-centric approach to design (and particularly engineering) that follows the project from inception to occupation. We want to show examples of how we have scrutinised every opportunity in design as well as in operation to optimise building to suit its occupiers – keep an eye on this channel and I’ll post some case studies soon.
But why is it that the occupier is not always placed as the main priority? The facets of building (and indeed city) design are multiple. The economic pressure and the need to maximise area or the need to tick all the boxes of the regulatory framework as well as multiple certifications and planning requirements can quite often overwhelm the designer. So, let’s not use this as an excuse; although it makes it harder, we all should still be able to focus on the occupier. After all, why do we need a building if not to serve the people who use it (or the goods it shelters!)?
A couple of years back on GST 2016 I asked the audience ‘what is more important to drive design: people, energy or space?’. Unsurprisingly over 70% of the audience voted for ‘people’ or ‘all of the above’. I personally think that the three should drive design, but they can only be truly tackled if we use a people-centric approach to design. Our optimisation method uses a lot of building physics analysis to be able to understand how the building performs, but also quantify how it can be a better environment for the people using it. It is one way to put people first at the design, but it does not stop there: buildings need to be optimised throughout their lifetime.
It is important to consider that a building or a place should evolve with time, so although a lot can (and must) be done at the initial design, it is only by understanding how the building is built, how it is used and how this usage pattern changes over time that we can truly make the building suit the users for its lifetime. User surveys are essential, but more important, the changes that are implemented because of these are critical to make sure the building follows it users. This continuous optimisation process allows adjustments to be made so that the building remains at its best, serving the dynamics of its occupiers. This is what we call lifetime optimisation, using continuous commissioning (in our case provided by our sister company Andrew Reid & Partners) rather than just seasonal commissioning to adjust the building to its true use.
We hope that our GST2018 event allows us to discuss the success and pitfalls of our building and lifetime optimisation methodologies and get the opinion of industry peers and different stakeholders on other ways to ensure we keep people first throughout the building lifetime.