8 ways to inspire innovation in the business of architecture


The following is an adaptation from the book ” Busby: Architecture’s New Edges.” 

In architecture, as with almost every business, innovation is the most valuable ingredient for success over time.

When designing for clients — whether it is a university facility or a workplace — it is important to nurture a culture of innovation.

This is particularly important in sustainable design, as the impacts of climate change increasingly require architects to demonstrate ingenuity in environmental problem-solving. Investing in innovation is sure to reap healthy returns on business and the planet.

Here are a few best practices for architects to encourage creativity and innovation:

1. Use the office as an innovation lab

Successful architecture firms allow people the time and physical space to chase new ideas, do research, and exchange meaningful ideas with their peers whenever and wherever the mood catches them.

Provide a thoughtfully designed, stimulating work environment for staff that encourages this behavior. Examples might include staircases with wide landings as group seating areas, standup coffee stations where people linger and talk, or a wall of white boards and writable glass.

2. Engage the community

It used to be that a developer would buy property, assemble a plan for how to use it, hire an architect who would obtain the approval from the city, and then the project would get built.

Today, it is essential to consult the entire public — not just city planning departments, but also end-users, occupants, and community groups. Engaging all parties in the process of how a building takes shape encourages idea sharing.

3. Collaborate with an engineer

On their own, designers can come up with virtually any idea for new and different structures. But without well engineered performance systems, even the most spectacular visual expressions are just ideas.

Together, architects and engineers can make ideas a reality by identifying new approaches, material efficiencies, cost savings, and operational systems that allow buildings to perform as well as or better than imagined.

4. Embrace technology

With the advent of powerful digital modeling tools, architects can now experiment more dramatically with form.

From structures that echo the shape of a native orchid to even more complex shapes developed with the aid of 3D design software, architects should leverage a growing suite of technological tools to meet the needs of both the client and the environment.

5. Work with wood

Used to build structures since the beginning of humankind, wood was largely replaced in the mid-19th century by steel and concrete, but it is in fact a far more sustainable design choice.

Steel and concrete both have significantly higher carbon footprints from manufacture and transportation. When wood is harvested responsibly, fewer logs fall to the forest floor and decompose, resulting in less methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Encourage design teams to find new and appealing ways to incorporate wood elements.

6. Experiment with innovation and new materials

Don’t hesitate to test out alternative material choices. From fiberglass and acrylic to curved glass and salvaged mechanical equipment, the use of nontraditional materials can result in unique, practical, and eye-catching designs that impress clients while minimizing environmental impact.

Innovation is at the heart of all successful businesses. Invest time and intellect in innovation around how you practice, and what you design.

7. Explore prefabrication and modular design

Working with modular and prefabricated designs allows architects to simultaneously achieve beauty, sustainability, and cost effectiveness.

By investing in higher quality repetitive elements, designers can accomplish more, aesthetically speaking, while minimizing environmental impacts and keeping overall project costs lower.

8. Seize every opportunity to learn

Internal research and education initiatives empower architects to develop innovative ideas and approaches that can be applied to all projects. Consider investing in and engaging in research projects whose results can be shared with staff, colleagues, and peers.

As time goes on, new technologies, materials, processes, and environmental data will continue to fuel the need for architectural innovation. It is up to architecture firms to prioritize innovation at every level. Doing so will ensure better buildings and, ultimately, better business.

Source: Green Biz

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Google Translate Now Has More Than 100 Languages And Covers 99 Percent Of The Online Population


Google’s online translation tool hit a major milestone today as it nears its 10th anniversary. After adding 13 new languages, including Hawaiian and Kurdish, Google Translate now includes more than 100 languages (103 to be exact).

Google claims that this means the service, which started in April 2006, covers 99 percent of the online population.

The idea for Google Translate was first planted in 2004, when co-founder Sergey Brinbecame frustrated with a translation program the company was licensing after it translated a Korean email into “The sliced raw fish shoes it wishes. Google green onion thing!”

Google Translate now uses a combination of machine learning and human volunteers to make sure translations are accurate and not ridiculous. The company said in its announcement on the Google Translate Blog that in order to add a new language, it must be a written language with “a significant amount of translations in the new language” already online. That way, Google Translate can apply machine learning to the texts. Three million volunteers also correct translations and suggest new words.

The new languages added today are Amharic (which is spoken in Ethiopia); Corsican; Frisian (the Netherlands and Germany); Kyrgyz; Hawaiian; Kurdish; Luxembourgish; Samoan; Scots Gaelic; Shona (Zimbabwe); Sindhi (Pakistan and India); Pashto (Afghanistan and Pakistan); and Xhosa (South Africa).

Source: Tech Crunch


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Verily Is Building A Google For Medical Information


Anyone can use a search engine like Google to locate the nearest seafood restaurant, or the best school in their neighborhood. But medical researchers don’t have an easy way to type in questions and receive meaningful answers.

Andy Conrad, who heads up Verily—formerly known as Google Life Sciences—is working with a coalition of academic hospitals, physicians, universities, and patient advocates to bring medical information into one place. He calls it the “Google of human systems biology.”

“Unfortunately, most of the information that scientists use isn’t easily available,” Conrad said on stage at the Future of Genomic Medicine conference in San Diego on Thursday. “That information sits around in difficult-to-crack domains.”

Conrad didn’t provide many specific details on how the product would work. But he did say that it would involve a library of sorts that leverages machine-learning technology. “It doesn’t work as wonderfully as a human,” he says. “But it can answer questions.”

He confirmed a rumor that Verily’s team is working out of a 500,000-square-foot campus in South San Francisco, just a stone’s throw from Alphabet’s corporate headquarters. The size of the workforce remains unknown, but Conrad said he is adding 1,000 people in the coming months.


Indexing the world’s medical information isn’t a particularly new idea. IBM Watson and other tech behemoths are developing artificial intelligence technologies to do just that.

But Conrad, who previously worked at Google’s research and development lab Google X, implied that Verily is taking a more human-centered approach. Medicine is as much an art as a science, so Verily is working with patient advocates, mothers, and doctors to determine how to aggregate data that can’t be found in scientific journals.

As an example, Conrad said he recently spoke with a high-profile doctor who used loosely veiled code like “TLS” (‘they look sick’) to describe his patients. These notes might mean a lot to an individual doctor, but they mean very little to anyone else. “How would you capture that in an algorithm?”


This isn’t Google’s first foray into health care. The ill-fated Google Health shut down in 2011 after it failed to gain traction with consumers.

But Conrad said he has learned from previous failures. “In our early forays into health care, we had a bunch of engineers that might not be wonderfully in touch with the rest of the world, especially at Google,” he recalled. “But the most interesting thing we did then was to gut an office and turn it into this sequencing lab filled with physicists.”

Going forward, Conrad suggested that Verily will explore how to incorporate data from devices, like smartphones, into its database. These tiny devices that we carry around in our pockets contain a wealth of health information beyond step counts. Conrad pointed to the potential of using smartphones to determine if a person is depressed.

“People often ask me about the future of medicine,” he said. “We think the most important tool is the computer.”

Source: http://www.fastcompany.com/3057455/verily-is-building-a-google-for-medical-information


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