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Technology is key to better buildings and happier cities

(Top L to R) Scott Farmer, Richard Betts, Julie Alexander,
(Bottom) Boudewijn Ruitenburg, Stewart Taylor, Susan Aitken.

Better buildings make for a better and more cohesive community, experts agreed at Real Asset Media’s Thinking Cities briefing, which was held online this week.

Technology is the key to better buildings and happier cities, said Scott Farmer, leader, Stirling Council: “We want to be a leader in digital innovation because data and innovation are enhancing the quality of city living and sustainable growth leads to social cohesion.”

Stirling is “a small city with big ambitions”, Farmer said, because, regardless of size all cities can transform themselves and become more environment- and citizen-friendly.

“You have to start small but think big,” said Cees van der Spek, public affairs and global corporate relations director, EDGE Technologies. “Start with a small project and then scale it up. There are more and more community initiatives popping up all over the place and a sense of collaboration between the owners of a private building, local authorities and local schools and universities.”

In EDGE’s Amazon headquarters in Berlin, for example, in order to bring in the locals the first two floors will be full of art made by people in the area, while in the firm’s new project for ABN Amro in Amsterdam there will be a community space given free of charge to the local authority to be used 24 hours a day which will include a library open to everyone.

Work to improve existing stock is essential

It is important to build new sustainable and high-tech buildings, but it is also essential to work on existing stock to improve it.

“Future-proofing buildings with technology, health and environmental sustainability means creating places that connect to people and deliver better lives,” said Julie Alexander, director of technology, innovation and environment, Places for People. “Digital connectivity is a key to access services, education and more.”

Technology is often associated with the young, but it can also benefit the elderly and make them more self-sufficient.

Places for People pays particular attention to older age groups.”They are hesitant at first, but technology works because it helps them stay in their homes and it gives their families peace of mind too,” Alexander said. “45% of our customers are over 55 and that percentage is only going to grow. Our goal is to keep them where they want to be, in their homes, and support them.”

The focus tends to be on urban dwellers, but many people do not live in cities. Technology solutions to provide services and connect to others can also help people who live in rural locations feel less isolated.