I was invited by Dietmar Leyk to participate in a workshop as part of the ANCB Metropolitan Technologies Programme in Berlin. The attendees were a mix of students from all over the world and experts from the fields of architecture, design, engineering and behaviourial science.

Aedas Network Campus

Sponsored by Busch Jaeger the workshop aimed to “create an opportunity map for the development of energy efficient intelligent building control and to examine its premises and consequences with regard to architecture, urban space and human behaviour”. There was an excellent bunch of people attending and some great presentations. My highlights are below:

Dietmar [leyk wollenberg architects] kicked off the presentation by introducing Villa Girasole “the house with no shadows”. What i loved here was the complexity of a whole house rotating around a central axis so that it tracked the sun but the UI was a single button.

Dietmar Leyk

Bernhardt Dorstel from Busch Jaeger showed how slow resource use can change by looking at the light scape of Los Angeles over a decade from 1908 to 2010 – it is quite phenomenal to see how our consumption of resources has increased. He showed some interesting work they have been doing in the Yas Hotel including collaborations with Bang & Olufson but I was most intrigued by one of his final comments “the user interface is the most important part of room / building energy optimisation”. I don’t think I have heard a controls company say that before.

Bernhardt Dorstel

Reto Wettach, Design Director Interaction Design, at Potsdam gave an excellent talk on strategies for eco-vis. I loved one of his example projects – “the [credit/debit] card scanner increases the resistance of sliding the card through the reader based on the cost of the purchase”. Was curious to hear about the move to more gestural interfaces when the interaction required has a spatial context (e.g. driving in a car) – interesting implications here for “imprecise” interaction with information objects.

Reto Wettach

Dieter Kunz from Sleepmedicine, Inst. of Physiology, Charite in Berlin [ http://www.schlafmedizin-berlin.de/ and http://www.dgsm.de/ ] gave a really interesting talk about the psychobiology of light and darkness. Loads of interesting research results in the past ten years (schools kids being exposed to less than 100 lux for 50% of time in class room) and how lack of sleep is causing illness and disease etc. but the take away was that we need bright and blue light in the mornings and “unblue” light in the evenings (he showed some great graphs showing the brain is more receptive to doing cognitive work in the morning and this tails off through the day – see photo below). His best comment however was “I am not aware of any substance that can help deep sleep better than the correct light through the day”. We intuitively know that natural light is good, so why do we design bad lighting in our schools, offices etc.

Dieter Kunz

Winfried Heusler from Schuco walked us through examples of facades have evolved over the past 30 years and their influence on building performance. I liked his comment on the need to develop the structure of a building based on the context of its location and queried why we forget about the historically different shape of buildings worldwide. He also showed some interesting new product which embeds screens, phase change materials and / or PV into facade panels – they are then using the PV to feed DC grids in the building.

Winfried Heusler

Marcel Bilow from TU Delft extended the double skin facade story and showed some work they have been doing with Solarlux and Imagine Envelope to create a naturally vented office space. They interestingly reverted back to a very manual form of “teaching” the occupants of the building how to use the facade system (they created a poster) and commented that this approach has inherent scaling issues but that the client loved it. Marcel was also a winner on the http://cloudscap.es/ competition being awarded that evening for his entry based on a windmill based solar shading device inspired by his observation that when you look at a rotating desk fan the eye can see through it.

Marcel Bilow

Next up was Jan Christoph Zoels from Experientia talking about enabling sustainable lifestyles by rethinking demand management. He gave an excellent overview of the Low2No project (of which Arup is a partner) and introduced the “c_life” work done to develop scenarios exploring how behaviour change may be realised. I loved the simplicity of the “three core smart metering activities” of check (mine), compare (with others) and act (on something).

Jan Christoph Zoels

Up last was Carlos Alarcon from Sauerbruch Hutton Architects. He spoke about the architecture of the Low2No project and some of the issues surrounding the pervasiveness of new media technology (the trend towards a new soft architecture) and the implications this has on the traditional divide between architecture and technology. Also of interest was the tension between the social vs economic goals of the project: flexible vs marketable, spatially generous vs spatial efficiency, innovation vs standardisation, and most interestingly public facilities vs private facilities.

Carlos Alarcon

I did a presentation on “unfolding resource use” which generated some really interesting discussions with the students in the breakouts – am looking forward to hearing about the outcomes of the workshop! More photos are on Flickr.