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Designing with Big Data

Designing with Big DataThroughout the course of history, a series of milestones have shaped the fabric of human life. The 15th century saw the beginning of the Renaissance, the 18th century had the Industrial Revolution, and the 21st century has seen the Technological Revolution, bookmarked by the rise of Big Data. All key moments throughout history, but perhaps none more so than the latter, with an exponentially growing impact upon day-to-day life for the masses.

It’s difficult to quantify the exact scale of Big Data, but it’s estimated that in 2023, humans will create roughly 120 zettabytes of data, meaning that over 90% of all data recorded will have been created over the past decade. Whilst it can be argued that this level of data collection isn’t always beneficial, particularly when it comes to individual privacy, it’s impossible to ignore some of the more positive aspects of Big Data.

When it comes to the workplace, technology has of course come a long way in a short period, with computers and systems now enabling us to work from anywhere in the world. However, the utilisation of Big Data is now woven into the fabric of interior design as well, creating spaces that are completely optimised for human performance, right down to the temperature and lighting.

The COVID pandemic completely shifted the thinking for a lot of organisations, who saw that their previous workplaces were both inefficient and antiquated in the modern landscape, now that occupancy was down, with many opting to downsize their workplaces. The implementation of Big Data within interior design has now given us the ability to evaluate how and where employees spend the majority of their time, guiding the overarching design of a space, and the products that sit within.

A recent study, conducted as part of our accredited CPD, The Hybrid Workplace found that even at peak occupancy levels, most offices only tend to be three quarters full, a far cry from the almost maximum capacity a decade or so ago. Not only is occupancy down, but working patterns have now shifted, with a need for companies to factor in the usage of their spaces to deliver a workplace that meets the needs of the workforce, now that the majority of work is completed away from the desk.

By analysing heat maps and digital tools like booking systems, interior designers are able to efficiently design and execute workplaces that work for the needs of the employees and employers alike. Our study suggests that 54 percent of interviewees believed that working patterns should be mutually agreed upon, with a widely accepted view that the workplace has shifted irreversibly, and that generic cookie-cutter solutions are no longer fit for purpose.

When it comes to creating aspirational, inspirational, yet functional workplaces, the devil does lie in the details. Within offices, there are several key considerations taken into account by architects and designers, beyond the thinking of occupants, that make significant differences to their working days. Big Data now gives us the ability to analyse zones of high activity, and optimise the temperature, lighting and air quality in real time. The intelligence of this technology provides dual benefits, creating conditions that ensure the workforce can work to their optimum level throughout the day, whilst monitoring wasted usage of amenities like air conditioning, ensuring a sustainable and efficient space.

Regardless of the wider perception and persistent debates about ethics, it’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, and the influence of Big Data within all aspects of design will only increase in the future. The opportunities presented to create more sustainable, and more efficient spaces should be capitalised upon as we look to build the products and workplaces of the future.