Wylie Associates won the national design competition to design an ‘Infotheque’.

Sponsored by Architecture Today magazine and Hewlett Packard, the competition sought ideas on the design of the intelligent building of the near future.

We define an Infotheque as a new form of architecture - it is not a building but a concept. It cools, it warms, it protects - a link, a processor, the Infotheque acts as interface between the greater environment and a 'dependant pavilion' it serves. As a network to a P.C., an Infotheque opens up a building to a greater world of interaction and communication.

First, what is an Intelligent Building?

We at Wylie Architects define an Intelligent Building as being architecture that is capable of continuously responding and adapting to changing circumstances to allow a more efficient use of resources and improving the comfort of its occupants.

The elements that an Intelligent Building respond to are:

1. Change in external climate - temperature, lighting levels etc.

2. Change in internal climate - heat gain due to increased occupancy, equipment etc.

3. Change in the demands put upon it - changes in use, occupiers' preferences etc.

An Intelligent Building can be both reactive (to instructions) and pro-active (by having an ability to respond without the need for human intervention).

The Infotheque Competition

The Infotheque Competition offered us the ideal vehicle to explore ideas that we had already been developing in relation to Intelligent Buildings. We saw the development of information technology providing a rapid growth of systems able to measure, evaluate and respond to change. As a result of these innovations, we saw a corresponding evolution in the way we could design our built environment and the demands that we put on our buildings. Intelligent Buildings we believe are capable of incorporating the opportunities offered by these developments.

A condition of the competition was that the submission should occupy the site of an existing building of the entrant's choosing. We selected the Victorian water pumping station at Kew in West London as our site.  We chose this site as we wanted to demonstrate how an Intelligent Building could act as an interface for another building and respond to its local environment by plugging into any local beneficial facilities it could find to service its dependant pavilion. The pumping station with its underground water pipe system and tall stand pipe tower offered just these opportunities.

Linking Building Systems:

The Infotheque acting as interface responds to its local environment by plugging into any local beneficial facilities it can find to service its dependant pavilion. Here, the water pipe system will provide cold Thames water for the cooling tank. The adjacent 'stand pipe tower' will provide a 'stack effect' air extraction system. The green house will allow solar gain to heat the pavilion or help the stack effect ventilation.

Information Technology enabling

Many of the systems described above have been used in the design of buildings for centuries. The Infotheque however, with its use of modern IT. systems that can enable a building to measure, evaluate and respond to change, was able to make a more effective use of freely available resources. Sensors inside and outside the building would measure not only temperature, humidity, wind speed and lighting levels, but ensure that the building responds to issues such as occupancy levels and mood changes of its users.

What of the future? What sort of people and buildings can benefit from the use of these ideas?

Although we used our ideas to design an exhibition centre, in fact offices, homes, museums, factories, shops, public buildings - nearly all building types stand to benefit from the principles of Intelligent Building design.

The driving issue that will make Intelligent Buildings concepts the ideas of tomorrow is cost; cost to the client and cost to the environment. When asked the price of a building, most designers will quote its initial capital outlay i.e. how much it costs to erect. The true price of a building however, should be measured over its life time i.e. the amount that it costs to build it, to run it and the cost of its impact on the environment.

The object of incorporating Intelligent Building concepts into the design process therefore is to reduce the real price of a building by not only reducing its costs of erection but also by minimising its running costs, its impact on pollution, and at the same time, improve the comfort level and quality of living of its occupants.

Wylie Architects and Intelligent Buildings

Wylie Architects specialise in the design of Intelligent Buildings. Our innovative approach and expertise in this field resulted in us winning the Infotheque competition and we are now developing these ideas with like-minded designers, engineers and clients.

Our work has generated much interest and we have been contacted by people as far apart as South America, Northern and Southern Europe and the Far East.

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