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From outside infinity to inside infinity – Opportunities of an Artificial Intelligence in the building


Here is the platform in its entirety whose summary was published on October 18th, 2017 in Le Monde. (Read the article)

The transition from « building » to « smart-building » could have a greater effect than the « phone » to « smart-phone ». It is an opportunity that requires attention and means, so let’s be ready!

Towards a local internet

The arrival of digital technology has accelerated the emergence of a globalized world. We all access the same services and information. Geographical barriers have been erased, distances reduced, space contracted, time desynchronized, speed accelerated. Infinity is developed outside. Our « living space » or our « sphere of action » increased with the digital. The GAFA conquered it. It is the outside infinity : the world as global.
Nowadays, the main quest is no longer in an outside deployment but it is inside ; in the Web structure to allow the transition from globalization to globality : a universe that sees itself as a world both multiple and unique (Édouard Glissant). It is about exploring the potentiality of the inside: the infinite inside a finite hollow because just as there is an infinity of numbers, there is an infinity of possible divisions between 0 and 1.
This structuring of the virtual world of / in space could produce a digital subspace for geographically circumscribed uses through smart-building or smart-city. A new tool for a more local world. The digital in a circumscribed space opens a window on a new relational infinity from inside. It is by digging into the reality that new opportunities appear.
The power of digital deeply changed our global approach. It could deeply spread our local approach. This will begin with the construction of new buildings mixing physical and digital architectures able to connect spaces amongst themselves, but also spaces with their inhabitants. And therefore all the inhabitants of a place amongst themselves. It is because a digital application becomes an essential tool linked to the use of a « physical subject » here a building (elsewhere a car: Autolib or a scooter) that it will carry in its wake all its users, here 100% of the inhabitants.
This tool will potentially transform the building into resources (transition from passive to active building) and will open a new gateway to the web and its services. An entrance no longer exclusively individual but also collective. With this objective and in this sense, a reasoned development of Artificial Intelligence (energy management, surrounding atmosphere, connections, spaces, exchanges, security, serendipity management etc.) ) at the scale of the building seems to me an opening key. It is a transformation with high potential that Cédric Villani and his commission should explore.

An organization of decentralized groups

Ordering the web requires creating sets and subsets. It is easier to be physically close to help each other and share services in the physical world (loan, babysitting, sharing meals, exchanges etc). This is why one of the main sets, after the individual, is the building and the block, the place where we live. It is about mixing the advantages of village proximity with the ones of metropolis anonymity.
This decentralized internet model is similar to a blockchain system. It is because this « local internet » (in addition to and in relation with the global internet) will be linked to spaces that it will spread with at least two properties. On the one hand, it will connect all the inhabitants of a place and will participate in a « fair local trade » where everyone can be a consumer and producer of services ; on the other hand, towards the outside it will propose a compact and solid set more resilient and better armed than an individual facing alone the increasing number of external requests (services).

A stimulating change of our ways of building

If this transformation opens on possibilities, it also requires to change our perception of new spaces. It will lead to the passage from a single-functional type of architectural conception, with the multiplication of modules with identical properties (for example housing), to a much more diversified conception. Because the complexity of uses generated by the gathering of singular models will be simplified by the digital tool allied to the human and through the appearance of new jobs.
This implies to rethink the legislative framework, our standards (accessibility, minimum space size, data management, environmental standards, ventilation, etc.), our labels, our conception (frames width, size, nature and multi-use spaces, circulations role, access, etc.), our ways of building (constructive frameworks, training, revalorization of craftsmen and their old and new skills in the digital age etc), our management (new roles of caretakers, maintenance, use management etc) and our preconceptions.
For example, a higher amount of charges does not necessarily mean higher expenses. It can lead to savings if it implies a reduction of our common external expenses. Many economic ratios should be reviewed : the cost of a parking space construction is still linked to a surface and not to its use. It may be attractive to increase this spending if it allows to increase the occupancy rate, etc. Finally, a sustainable answer to a continuous housing crisis will be through an attention to quality (intrinsic and urban) and not to quantity as it is the case today.

This will be possible by the transition from a system organized around a building cost to a system around a global cost (cost of conception + construction + exploitation) with an economy mixing both goods and uses. Some people will remain owners but not necessarily of the space in which they live in. As well as the industrialist invested to design a new product that can be multiplied, the builder or the manager should invest for a model, part of which will be reusable. We know the brand and the name of our smartphone, what about our building?
The building and city industry must change and be reorganized. Building in a new way is an opportunity to invest in the future : to experiment, develop, evaluate and finally export new skills. Moreover, the smart-building is built in a place, it creates a place and will request an ecosystem with high economic potential not easily outsourced.

An expansion of places’ life

To better urbanize and better build is a sign in time. France remains one of the most visited countries in the world thanks, among other things, to a centuries-old recognized architecture and urbanism. It is appreciated for its quality of life and the beauty of its landscapes, its cities (centers) and its past villages mixing organic and organized approaches. This sustainability is the result of our elders’ work. We keep on capitalizing on their wealth, while for decades the ancestral complexity gaves a way to a simplification that favors quantity and produces peri-urban areas without attraction whose value is decreasing. The thoughtful introduction of new technologies in real estate through the emergence of « increased » architecture and urbanism could be an opportunity to renew with this glorious past and attract tourists and locals with the quality of our cities.
Finally, the new local digital networks, embedded in the conception of smart-buildings, will free resources and mutual aid. They will facilitate and accelerate the setting up of a social and solidarity economy that will improve the buying power of everyone. The films Local Solutions For a Global Disorder or Tomorrow showed a way. Well-designed, linked to humans, the artificial intelligence and digital associated with built spaces could be a way to facilitate the use and multiply local resources fields by restructuring our digital links with new solidarity spatial subsets. They would open a new entrance to a virtual world with diversified and better organized spaces. The challenge is great, but the opportunities are huge.


Eric Cassar 2017


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