Naomi Keena, Mohamed Aly Etman, & Anna Dyson
According to federal scientists, understanding the consequences of climate change on the US involves studying the interconnections between the natural, built, and social systems we rely on and their vulnerability to cascading impacts. Not with standing this complexity, as pointed out by AIA’s “Designing for Integration” measure, individual design strategies can offer multi-faceted value across social, economic, and environmental systems. Managing interconnections between systems poses many challenges, including linking siloed streams of heterogeneous data, uniting various stakeholders, and necessitating intellectual agility to respond to societal, economic, and environmental shifts. This paper outlines ongoing interdisciplinary research, exploring the harnessing of big data in mapping interconnections within the Built Environment Process (BEP). By tracking carbon, energy and material flows, it aims to surpass the concept of a building, in abstraction, fixed solely in the operational phase, but rather as a system which undergoes multiple journeys of carbon, energy and material transformation in its initial construction and future dismantle. Such a system includes many stakeholders who represent each phase of the BEP. According to the Department of Energy, the compartmentalization and lack of communication between building professionals in each sector results in sub-optimal designs and less than optimal building operations while contributing to environmental impacts. A McKinsey report on the construction sector echoes this view, defining the sector’s lack of productivity and predicting that, faced with sustainability demands, the sector will need to reassess how it builds to reduce waste and abate carbon emissions.
Methodology: A Data to Knowledge Framework
Bridging the gap between building stakeholders and navigating a multi-scalar expanded scope of design may have been unforeseen in the 20th Century, but with a transition from industrial societies to knowledge societies, today data to knowledge frameworks offer unprecedented opportunities in decoding complexity. This paper attempts to map the BEP through a new data to knowledge framework named SEVA (Socio-Ecological Visual Analytics), which has been designed to link heterogeneous data. It describes the methodology used to map the BEP in SEVA. This involves the deployment of semantic web ontologies to generate a knowledge graph of the BEP; virtually connecting each phase and its associated stakeholders, thereby, conceivably acting as an overview tool for the BEP. The mapping is projected within a 360O immersive environment which acts as a situation room adding visual clarity to the multi-scalar complexity while bringing various stakeholders together.
Results: Visual Mapping and Semantic Linkages towards a Seamless BEP
Alongside highlighting gaps, redundancy and environmental impacts within the BEP, the results show cross-cutting opportunities within BEP activities.
This research has significance in multi-stakeholder engagement and evidence-based decision-making, especially within work which strives to find solutions to grand challenges such as environmental issues. By unlocking the potential of big data, it aims to facilitate in projecting future scenarios towards a sustainable and progressive future. It offers potential value to circular economy methods, amendments to policy and building codes, and the creation of incentives for cross-industry collaboration.