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An Office and a Campus Interlocking of Dynamic Systems

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Both at Agilent Corporation office in Manesar and IIT Jodhpur campus, it was not only about operating energy, but was also about creating intricate life-like systems.

SHiFt is known more for the design of sustainable projects rather than intelligent buildings, but they are both intimately connected. “Intelligence in an inanimate object like a building or a campus can be seen as a purely engineering concept: the ability to install hardware and software that would make the space responsive to stimuli, adaptive, and well-controlled. However, in the hands of architects, intelligence also has to do with putting together spaces using objects and materials that can be responsive not just to stimuli but to demands of sustainability, not just adaptive but with an ability to have an aim, a target, to achieve comfort or efficiency or whatever, and not just well-controlled but also creating a certain meaning for the user. In other words, a living space, at least living like a pet or an animal if not like a human being.”

The only aspect of sustainability that can be said to not be covered by intelligence is the value of local resources: local economy, materials, skills, climate, and technologies.

“It is in this way that we approached the design of our office building in Manesar for Agilent Corporation which was a facility for 1,800 people to work out of, in a tall, daylit space with underfloor air-condition.”

The most intelligent thing about the underfloor air-condition was that, since it was conceived as part of the building as the first concept (even before fleshing out the spaces in plan), it could integrate a system where the blend of filtered fresh air would increase from 5% to 100% depending on the temperature outside, thus making the air-condition system shut the chillers down in mid-season evenings and winter days. This is something that doesn’t commonly happen in Delhi any more except in the extreme winter, especially for dense working office environments which have high internal heat loads. In order to make this work well, the firm had to provide sufficient area for 100% fresh air to be sucked in from the façade of the building, therefore making the entire wall of the AHU rooms a filter to allow a large area of suction. And it is of course intelligent to work in daylight when there is ample outside; something that the relatively less deep floor plates (22m deep) allowed when assisted with some light shelves.

But this kind of thinking can be made to work in a campus as well. Therefore, in the master plan for the campus of IIT Jodhpur, the designers conceptualized the workings of all parts of the campus as an interlocking, integral network of complex dynamic systems, like the metabolism of a living organism. This meta-system shall be actively studied and monitored (partly to generate intelligent control instructions and partly to mine data) and in that sense is a settlement evolving through trials and tests, a “Living Laboratory”. The ideas for this “Smart Intelligent Eco-campus” encompass the ideals of social, economic and environmental sustainability, and integrate aspects of landscape and biodiversity, food, water and waste, solid waste, mobility, energy and ICT to create an intricate life-like systems of campus metabolism requiring no more than a 10 minute walk to work for all.

And the outcomes? At Agilent, it was possible to reduce lighting energy to less than half and the sir-conditioning plant to as little as 1 TR/65 sqmt, of which only 75% has been ever used! And at Jodhpur, one expects to be able to get a community that survives at a fairly high standard of living upon maturity with a smart grid and net-zero solar electricity, with near-zero water using rainfall harnessing, recycling and conservation, and with substantial self-sufficiency in food with on-site organic farming.

And it’s not about the fibre optic cables and the data crunching, which also exists but is not the core of the system. It is about deploying intelligence intelligently!

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