A building is a machine that can be upgraded

We tend to think of buildings as fixed assets - inanimate, static objects that are just there. But view a building as a complex machine that humans use to live in, undertake work and play in and they become something else entirely. They become something we can tweak, change, improve and update to be better than as built.

Today we are sold on this concept with things like our smartphone. We expect it. We get excited when the next OS version is due or our most used apps update. Conversely, we get disappointed when our platform falls behind in the feature race to another. We can't wait for that upgrade.

 This concept, thanks in the main to Tesla, is now being applied to cars. High value, complex machines that were once just built, driven and scrapped (or recycled to be accurate). Now, however, the cycle of use is changing for cars. Between driven and scrapped is upgraded - in fact driven-upgraded becomes a repeating loop in the cycle that sees multiple upgrades happening over the course of the cars life. Upgrades are different from part replacement - they extend the utility of the car, making it faster, better, safer or just last longer. Crucially, the upgrades don't touch the physical asset - just it's software brain. Upgrades in this context are delivered as better software with new and improved features derived from analysis of incredible amounts of data. Of course most of the data is being collected by the cars themselves. It's a very good feedback loop that delivers a better car each time it's upgraded.

 Applying the upgrade concept to buildings should not be any more difficult than with cars. There are a few things missing however. The first and perhaps most important thing is the building OS - the standard software platform that is the building brain. Today each building is unique and to start thinking about the upgrading it, we need to get to a platform approach that offers scalable implementation and feedback potential. The technology is all there - what's missing is the ability to view the building as a "space processor" and build the equivalent of the Linux kernel to operate it.

 

 

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