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In today’s age of rapid technological development, it is challenging to keep up with the latest trends as technologies are being replaced with new innovations almost every day. Gadgets like smartphones and computers are replaced by a new and more advanced version on a daily basis.

However, buildings are assets with a large footprint, both environmentally and economically, and can’t be discarded or disposed of like any other appliance. Buildings involve huge capital and long-term investments, which are supposed to last for a longer time; therefore, it is necessary to ensure that they are on the right side of the various upcoming trends.

Sthlm 01 in Stockholm
Sthlm 01 is a future-proof building in Stockholm
Image Courtesy: Skansa

What is Future-Proofing?

Future-proofing practices are not only for buildings and infrastructure, but communities, cities, and countries can also adopt ways to be future-proof. The term has acquired different meanings within different contexts, ranging from resilience to climate change to demographic change and resource security.

It is often also confused with sustainability concerns, life-cycle costing, and even wellbeing. Though these are relevant areas of consideration, but they are part of a more specific assessment process.

Future-proofing of buildings is an assessment process to maximize the whole-life value in the face of unpredictable, ongoing change. While it is beneficial to future-proof your building, it is equally important to ensure that it is done so for the correct scenarios after careful consideration. Future-proofing against wrong scenarios can prove to be a waste of time, money, and resources.

Principles of Future-Proofing

1. Flexibility and Adaptability

Future-proof designs try to prevent obsolescence by studying the decrease in demand for products/services. The ability of a building to be flexible and adaptable will enable it to be used despite changes in operational requirements, whereas an inflexible building might have minimal scope for use in the near future.

Flexible properties can include a flexible layout, moveable partitions, multi-use spaces, open plans, etc. Such elements can be incorporated based on the future objectives of the building after careful assessment with clients and designers.

2. Energy Efficiency

An energy efficiency building not only reduces the carbon footprint but also saves a ton of money. The right insulation, heating solutions, lighting, and appliances will make the building warmer and more comfortable for the occupants.

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With the increasing costs and growing need for electricity, energy security cannot be taken for granted. Thus, reducing future energy consumption or finding alternative sources of energy can help to future-proof a building.

Such measures can also be followed for other essential resources such as water or raw materials for manufacturing.

A green roof with solar panels
A green roof with solar panels
Image Courtesy: Greenroofs.com

3. Technological Responsiveness

The general perspective in terms of technology is the adoption of the latest and most advanced technology. But some technologies become obsolete over time; therefore, the building should have the provision to accommodate likely future advances in technology.

Long-life technological solutions might appear lucrative in the first assessment, but in practice, rapid technological advances might render a solution inefficient or even redundant within its useable life. Planning for regular replacement can be more efficient in such cases.

4. Resilience to Climate Change

Climate change is a matter of grave concern across the globe. Several metropolitan cities, especially in Southeast Asia, are prone to floods due to the rising population and lack of proper infrastructure.

A future-proof building must be able to function in case of climate change, such as a rise in temperatures or other extreme climatic conditions. The topography of the area must be studied in order to identify potential climate threats, and the building must be constructed to combat such risks.

5. Legislation

A building designed to meet the future needs must comply with newer standards in order to respond to the legislative changes in the coming years. While usually, such changes tend to impact new buildings, but retrospective changes can affect existing buildings as well.

On the other hand, buildings should also follow the sustainability assessment method outlined as per BREEAM or other building standards to create high-performing assets.

6. After Use

Developers should also consider the utilization of the building in case it becomes inappropriate as per their requirements. The resale value of the building or its components, alternative uses of the building, deconstruction conditions, and inherent disposal costs should be analyzed.

7. Panoramic View

Apart from the conditions listed above, a building should be able to adapt to the changing population and social needs of the general public. For example, the site for a residential building should be accessible to schools and universities, while an office building should have local transport services.

The building should be able to cope with the rapid urbanization and the changing requirements of the region. It should be able to support the evolving lifestyle as well as the changing infrastructure around it.

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