Engineering firm ARUP has asked us to imagine the building of the future in its latest Foresight publication. In the article entitled “It’s Alive,” the design team envision a city building in the year 2050 that includes flexible modular pods, urban agriculture, climate-conscious facades and intelligent building systems. ARUP hopes the proposal will ultimately answer the question, "As city living takes center stage, what will we come to expect from the design and function of urban structures and buildings?".
ARUP’s futuristic skyscraper will be a “smart” building that will plug into a smart urban infrastructure, and cater to an expanding and technological society. The Foresight article predicts that by 2050, the global population will reach nine billion, 75 percent of which will live in cities. Significantly, this date will also mark a generation of adults that have lived their entire lives engaging with smart devices and materials. The design theory is that the population of 2050 is likely to be in constant flux, and therefore buildings and materials that surround this urban lifestyle must also be capable of evolution and change.
The 2050 building will feature a timber–based structural frame and floor slabs which cater for modular building components that can be moved or changed at any time. On the interior surfaces, phase change material will be used that has the capability to facilitate heat recovery. Also, what skyscraper of the future would be complete without robots? They're featured as an integral part of the building, designed to assemble and maintain its components.
There will be no more trudging in the rain between the station and office in ARUP’s future vision; seamless transport and city links are integral to the design, along with ample space to park and charge a fuel cell car during the working day. Once occupants are inside, ARUP has designed individually-operated climate and lighting controls, whilst the intelligent building manages itself using data collected from a membrane wrap that converts CO2 to oxygen via nano-particles.
Excitingly, ARUP has imagined a building of the future that produces more than it consumes. Alongside the sustainable construction, the design will feature photovoltaic capability (which will apparently be available in paint form by 2050) to capture and transmit energy using on-site fuel cells. In addition, energy will be harnessed from elevators or similar internal systems, along with wind turbines and algae-producing bio-fuel pods.
ARUP has also recognized that demand for space in cities is already under pressure, and the proposal continues the current day trend of vertical planting. Designed as integral parts of the building, the 2050 skyscraper's green spaces encourage interaction with plants, birds and insects whilst utilizing vertical farming techniques such as hydroponics to facilitate food production.
ARUP’s skyscraper design acknowledges that urban areas are under increasing pressure, and responsible development should already be considering the sustainable and functional features that the 2050 building visualizes. It is worth noting that the technologies proposed are not all that fantastical, either – most of the ARUP design features have already been considered in various projects, and who knows what innovations are yet to come that can improve upon the design.