Fifteen years ago, with the advent of the “new economy”, brick and mortar businesses embodied the ancient world. But the energy transition has just turned the tables: the construction sector is going through a phase of unprecedented innovation. And the industry of brick and tile is at the heart of this revolution – a revolution which focuses on the energy performance of buildings but also on the life cycle of materials.
20 years ago, they were considered a true revolution. Today, ecodistricts are growing fast and in many ways it seems they constitute a promising solution towards inventing the ultimate sustainable city. But they are also a cause of debate, and their ability to prevail outside Europe is also in question.
The open data movement has reached a significant and ever-growing number of states and governments. From New York to Paris, from Nairobi to Singapore, an increasing number of territories offer open sets of data. To fully understand the stakes of this movement, one of the first techno-political ideas to spread at the network speed, one has to track its origins.
How does one manage fire hazards in a hospital, an airport or on a plane? If detection technologies are evolving, the key today lies in consolidating and processing information, with Danger Management Systems which also monitor security breach risks and transit management. By specializing in the design of system architectures, major industrial players have evolved into becoming service providers. Fire protection, thus, increasingly appears as one of the most technical elements of a wider business line: security.
For a long time, the one and only mission of public water service was to provide the best possible supply, both in quantity and quality. But the increasing stress on water resources and the rise of other environmental issues now force suppliers and local authorities to completely rethink their approach. Technical innovation is part of the solution, but the whole models are to be reinvented. Along which lines?
The urbanization of the world now takes place in the digital era, where connectivity is a core feature of urban functions. New, smarter cities are emerging. But technology falls short of creating urban dynamics by itself. Rather than just implementing smart devices, the challenge is empowerment and participation.
How do we ensure that exponential increases in demand for bandwidth continue to be met both today and tomorrow? What hurdles must be overcome in the race to deploy ultra-high speed networks in the face of a less than favorable economic climate? Reflection on Europe provides fertile grounds for debate over some of the more delicate issues which, at their heart, revolve around new approaches toward network management and a more pragmatic idea of the network neutrality principle.
The first automated metro lines opened over thirty years ago. Today, new projects are being launched and older lines are being upgraded to automatic systems. These choices are driven by technical as well as economic reasons. But do the edges of the automated metro live up to the investments? Recent projects in and around Paris provide some valuable feedback.
As a theme, social innovation emerged in the 1960s, driven by management theorists like Peter Drucker and social entrepreneurs such as Michael Young, founder of the Open University. But only in the last decade has it really taken off, by redrawing the sometimes blurry line between business and civil society, one drawing inspiration from the other and vice versa.
Mobile phone communications have provided fertile territory for research into the spatial dimensions of communities. Studies of calling patterns have shed new light on the complex nature of networks. The analysis of billions of calls across a number of countries has led to a surprising conclusion: telephone exchanges are still largely dictated according to administrative boundaries laid down long before the arrival of the mobile handset.
Construction is an age-old activity but the interest that architecture evokes -like the interest that other arts generate- is cyclic. Why? Today some reasons appear to be quite obvious: the growth of cities means increased construction, technological advances open up new possibilities, and the need for sustainable development calls for a drastic change in habits. All the ingredients are in place for an architectural creation. And this should be enough. But some countries, cities, and organizations still feel the need to express wealth, power, progress, or ambition through buildings. This desire does not ignore, at least in general, the functional aspect of construction. But it is no longer able to completely justify itself through this feature alone. Architecture becomes "a means of communication" and architects become "stars" like the great communicators. This article, a contemplation of forty years of private practice, does not judge this evolution. But it can help in understanding and eventually guiding it.