David Schwarz, founder and Creative Partner of design agency HUSH, began the keynote presentation that kicked off the ISE 2020 Smart Building Conference, From Data to Emotion – Smarter Stories for Smart Buildings, by saying he wouldn’t be talking about technology, engineering or architecture.

Instead he focused on “the human factor” and how people working in a building experienced its design. “We are an experience design firm,” Schwarz said. “It’s the worst language we can use to describe what we do but it is specific to us.” HUSH works with what Schwarz calls “dynamic organisations” and aims to take the complexity out of the technology behind a building. “We want to make it simple and direct for the people who have to work in the environment,” he said.

This involves finding the “weird space” between not only architecture and technology but also between the high-end engineering of a building and the software powering it. Companies that have employed this take on the design of new premises include Google, Uber and Capital One. The project Schwarz used as the main illustration for his keynote was HUSH’s work on biotech company United Therapeutics’ Unisphere.

Claimed to be the largest commercial net zero building in the US, the Unisphere is located in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington DC. Schwarz explained that the building was designed according to the philosophies of United Therapeutics’ founder, Martine Rothblatt, as well as HUSH’s approach of considering the space people are in and how it makes them feel.

“There are three aspects that drive the Unisphere,” Schwarz said. “The social; how people behave in a group. The motivational; how and why they do things. And the educational; if they know more about something that might bring about a behavioural change.”

The Unisphere comprises three areas. The Atrium is described as a “centrepiece for social change” and is centred round a 40-foot ‘Energy Wheel’. This displays information about the building’s power usage and presents data “ebbing and flowing”. The Hall displays data within and about the building, while the Exhibition presents all of this and allows employees to interact with it.

Schwarz said the aim was for people to be motivated by their environment and see how they can contribute towards saving energy and improving conditions. “We want to create a series of buildings around the world that communicate better with their inhabitants,” he concluded.

Smart Building Conference took place on 10 February 2020 at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. Please find the image gallery here. See you next year at Integrated Systems Europe 2021!