The Impact of Innovative Design

A recent article in The New York Times looked at how universities are using architecture to foster innovation through great design. This brought to mind several conversations we've had over the last couple of weeks as we've talked to various groups about computational building information modeling (BIM), generative design, and the future of how we work. Here are three things we've been thinking about related to this article:

How we spend our time

We presented last week at Stanford's Center for Integrated Facilities Engineering(CIFE), and we started our presentation by pointing out that 93% of our time is spent indoors. This is important for our work because a vast majority of our time is spent surrounded by pipe, conduit, and duct. We rely on these systems to be comfortable, connected, and safe. In the context of innovation, the occupants of academic buildings spend more time in these environments than they do anywhere else. If great design can promote better thinking, the rewards are much greater than the added cost per square foot of great architecture.

Great design makes us happy

Danish people are regularly regarded as some of the happiest people on the planet. We recently spent time with MT Højgaard, the largest general contractor in Denmark, and were reminded that great design plays a part in making us all happier. The interesting thing about Danish style is the contrast to American style. For work environments, the Danish hew to a modern Scandinavian aesthetic – open spaces, lots of light, and incredible finishes. The new headquarters of MT Højgaard, opened in August 2016, is a great example of this style. For private spaces, however, they have a completely opposite aesthetic. "Hygge" (pronounced "hooga") roughly translates to "cozy" and is just as well-known as the modern aesthetic. The New York Times piece points out a similar dichotomy at one of the most revered institutions in the United States – MIT. The legendary status of MIT's Building 20 and its "ramshackle aesthetic" contrasts with the Gehry-designed Stata Center that took its place. Both are equally great designs despite their differences, perhaps because they make us think.

Build better, build more

We presented at a conference in Stavanger, Norway in September, and we ended our presentation by pointing out the outstanding opportunity we have as building professionals. Martin Fischer from Stanford University also presented, and once again noted the labor productivity problem we have in construction. While this is not a great or proud historical trend, we as building professionals have an opportunity to change and improve how we build. If we can lower the cost of construction through better productivity, we can build more great buildings. The New York Times article illustrates the types of buildings that we can all be proud of – amazing structures that promote and nurture innovation.


Make sure to check out the work we’re doing in computational BIM and the automation of MEP modeling. BuildingSP is at the forefront of the application of generative design to AEC, and we look forward to better tools changing how we specify BIM on projects. You can contact us at 

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