Environmental "bubble", tailored to each individual, could slash energy use by up to 40%.
The new system which follows occupants as they move around the building, like an individually-tailored environment bubble, gives shape to a workplace that naturally learns and is synchronized to its users' needs, thus optimizing space usage and limiting energy waste.
"Today, a lot of energy is wasted heating or cooling empty buildings", says Carlo Ratti, professor at the MIT in Boston and founder of Carlo Ratti Associati: "By synchronizing energy usage and human occupancy within buildings we can create a more sustainable and responsive architecture – theoretically slashing energy consumption by up to 40%."
"Sensors and localized climate control are already established features in the car industry", explains John Elkann, Vice Chairman of the Agnelli Foundation and Chairman of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. "With Carlo Ratti Associati we are now exploring how such solutions can impact architecture, using the Internet of Things. The project for the Agnelli Foundation will transform a historical building into a new center open to the city, devoted to learning, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship".
The new building's IoT sensors collect data that can be used for both environmental control and a variety of other functions. An internal positioning system – similar to GPS – is the platform on which a range of applications can be developed going forward. "This open platform for occupants, employees, and guests will further evolve over time, through crowd-developed apps and software updates", adds Ratti. In the last decade, mobile apps such as Foursquare have changed the way we experience open-air urban space. The Agnelli Foundation project aims at transferring the bottom-up approach of these mobile apps to the workplace, fostering creativity and productivity in the office and creating new communities at the intersection of physical space and digital information.
The knowledge of internal occupancy also allows to reconfigure offices over time. The new workplace will also feature a set of movable glass walls, sound-absorbing curtains, and foldable partitions made of wooden panels, all of them permitting endless reconfiguration of the interior. Hence a large open space can quickly turn into a series of small meeting rooms – each of them with its own individually-customizable thermal bubble. This kind of flexibility is essential to the building, which will contain not only the headquarters of the Agnelli Foundation, but also a co-working space, a Fab Lab, workshop areas for students and entrepreneurs and a café.
Construction is set to commence on 6 June 2016, and the renovated Agnelli Foundation building will be inaugurated in Spring, 2017.