The Building Systems Committee at the BSA recently held a charrette on the business of architecture. The charrette was part of a larger symposium titled The Changing Ecosystem for Design Services, which included presentations by American Institute of Architects’ economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA and Phil Bernstein, FAIA. Both presenters discussed current trends and new modes of collaboration that are crossing the traditional boundaries of practice.

The charrette was intended to provide participants an opportunity to consider how current trends may impact our profession in the future as well as challenge them to create new business models around those trends. The goal was to extend traditional areas of professional expertise and create new value propositions. The first exercise identified existing trends in our culture and classified each one into five different categories: technological, social, political, economic, or environmental. The following charrette included explorations of new business models that innovate around the profession, based on some of the identified trends in the first exercise. I participated in the group focused on economic trends.

Our new business concept was called Space +, a hybrid model that includes design services and product sales. The value proposition was that we would create intelligent environments that promote health for the occupants and reduced the cost of healthcare for individuals, health insurance companies, and healthcare providers. This was a response to the trends of an aging population, biometrics, rising healthcare costs, and alternative models of supply and production.

Space + would create intelligent environments to promote health by providing real-time, ongoing health-indicator monitoring through devices integrated in building materials, furnishings, casework, and appliances. Basically, your bed monitors the quality and length of your sleep; your medicine cabinet reminds you to take your prescriptions and renew them when necessary; your flooring monitors how active you are throughout the day; your computer keyboard monitors your stress level and your computer screen reminds you to get up and stretch. All of the data can be tracked and reviewed by the occupants and shared with their healthcare provider if they wish.

The business also includes cutting-edge architectural and community design for health along the existing trends of access to daylight, fitness, healthy food, and reduced exposure to harmful chemicals and electronic radiation. Our notional firm would be able to establish itself as the leading authority through its association and partnership with research institutions, medical device manufacturers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies in developing the products.

The day-long charrette was fun and definitely thought provoking. More detail about the business model can be found in the images.


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