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Neil Billett – Global design and technology director, on how tech is ingrained in every aspect of our work
From the beginning, BuroHappold has always strived to deliver an enhanced outcome. What makes our offering so special in 2018, is that our designs have the power to transform; the client’s business, the user’s experience and performance, and increasingly, opportunities for future projects and investment.
When we started out 41 years ago, our main role as engineers was in solving complex technical challenges. The challenge then was to understand materials – steel, plastics, concrete, glass, fabrics. By gaining deep understanding of a material’s strengths and limitations, we were able to exploit each to the limit, creating awe-inspiring structures with unique lines, long roof spans and breath-taking elegance.
This was only the beginning. BuroHappold’s engineers and consultants graduated to focus on passive design which avoids the use of natural resources, minimising any negative impact on the environment. We sought to use materials more efficiently and make construction as easy and safe as possible.
How did we do it? Through integrated design and evidence-based data, leveraged by inquiring and entrepreneurial people. This was, and is, fundamental to our client offering. It is multi-faceted, and work ranges from looking holistically at future scenarios for a project, to tracking people movement, to mining our vast bank of project knowledge for relevant, useful data and insights.
The advancement of new tools like big data, coding, machine learning and BIM mean that every project lead now incorporates data and computational analysis in the design process. Augmented and virtual reality enable us to experience environments as yet unbuilt.
As part of our design process, we demand of ourselves to explore and define not only expert vigorous technical solutions, but also breakthrough solutions for our clients. It is through the constant collection, analysis and use of project data that allows us to transform and elevate a design.
Combine the use of data, computational analysis and human behaviour studies, and we authentically deliver transformational outcomes for users and the environment.
Our work is becoming even more exciting as we increasingly realise the future potential in computational design and engineering. In a space where we are among the leaders in our field, we apply expertise to challenges few can overcome, and technology is at the heart of that. Three channels guide our work:
Improving internal workflows and efficiency, generating more time for thinking, consulting and collaborating – time for application of holistic ‘intelligence’,
Innovating to add value to clients’ core business drivers and increasingly, using our consulting engineering inquiry to establish new insights that create additional value through the built environment,
The creation of new opportunities within and outside the built environment, broadening our reach to include industry, academic, client and user organisations.
By focusing on each and every project in this way, we continue to accelerate our learning, informing and improving our future work.
As a practice, we are committed to unlocking the full potential of people-focused, data-informed design. Our Technology Steering Group, and our Computational Collective are evidence of that focus. Perhaps unusually, we don’t see computational engineering as a preserve of the few. Reflecting our company structure, owned and led by people who do the work, we are all committed to a culture where intelligent enquiry of data, technology and transformational design ideas are at the very heart of
what we do.
We chose the medium of the built environment because our work can positively impact society as a whole. Our work influences literally billions of people. It is our role and responsibility to deliver built environments that succeed of every level, for every user, into the distant future.
DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY IN ACTION
Design Crit for Hyde Park Picture House in progress. Making time to challenge the constraints, explore the big project outcomes and discover breakthrough opportunities. Leveraging global sector knowledge and technical experience into the key moments of the project.
Visualisation of the networks at play within our unique code environment. Leveraging our global community of coding capability, co-creating advanced tools to improve our work flows and define new offers for the client needs of the future.
Design sprint discussion:
co-generation of future opportunity and potential responses working with our leading experts and industry gurus and stakeholders.
Using fan-generated sound analysis modelling to maximise stadia design for the home advantage.