Smart Buildings: Reimagining Construction and Design for Better Structures

The term “smart buildings” gets used often when people talk about real estate disruption. Often, this term calls to mind a computer like Amazon’s Alexa switching on your lights and fans, or even ordering you a pizza with a simple word.

However, some people in the space of architecture and design are asking if a “smart building” could be more than a traditional structure retrofitted with AI.

Trupti Doshi, an architect and integrated sustainability engineer from Mumbai and Pondicherry, recently discussed how innovations in design could make buildings more efficient and friendly to both humans and the earth.

Natural Lighting Provided by Filtered Sunlight

This innovation would touch categories from water and waste management to energy efficiency, sustainability and more. One such suggestion involved reimagining lighting design. Doshi showed several examples of large-scale buildings that filter lighting like camera apertures. Sunlight could be filtered into the room, more efficiently, cutting down on electricity bills.

Thermal Efficiency Through Disruptive Design

Using the Taj Mahal as an example, Doshi pointed out how a hot building could be kept cool using natural, energy efficient methods. The Taj Mahal is cooled, in part, by large bodies of water on either side of the stone structure. Other examples included wooden slats that capitalized on wind to cool buildings, or provide some insulation.

In addition to better thermal efficiency, Doshi explained how limestone could be used as a better alternative to concrete. Unlike concrete, which loses its strength over time, limestone condenses to become stronger. Not only that, the stone itself absorbs water and cools down the interior of the structure.

Why Hasn’t This Happened Yet?

Doshi pointed to numerous factors that, in her opinion, contributed to making buildings with smart designs like these a rarity instead of standard.

  • Lack of awareness about the possibilities
  • Ease of using standardized materials like concrete and steel
  • Lack of widespread skill working with less conventional materials
  • Lack of demand by users

What Happens Next?

Doshi’s work is happening at the same time as innovations in the speed with which buildings can be constructed, and the strength and sustainability of the materials that could be used. Should demands change, as Doshi suggested they might, and costs continue to become more manageable, we may see new types of structures moving forward.