A Tool for the Design of Facilities for the Sustainable Production of Knowledge

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Abstract

The aim of the study is to develop a ‘design tool’, that is a method to enhance the design and planning of facilities for the sustainable production of new knowledge. More precisely, the objective is to identify a method to support the conception of building complexes related to the long-term production of new knowledge. The tool is focused on the necessary spatial conditions pertaining to this end, especially the topological networks. Today, with profound developments in what has been called the Knowledge Economy and consequent changes in our society, new challenging design problems have to be faced. It appears that one of the most crucial of these is to design Sustainable Innovation Facilities which can meet the new needs and exploit the potential of the New Environment of our time.To solve this new problem, a new set of design methods is needed, in the form of a design tool. The concept of ‘Sustainable Development’ in the economy and the environment is applied to the production of new knowledge. The basic feature of ‘Sustainable Development’ is generalized as: the process of increasing or at least maintaining output in a changing environment by means of adaptation. One condition contributing significantly to such adaptation is knowledge ‘diversity’ of people interacting within what have been called ‘clusters’. There are two possibilities of achieving such clusters of high diversity: 1) through ‘virtual’ media and 2) through face-to-face interaction in ‘real’ places. Both are seen to be of value. Hence, facilities for sustainably producing new knowledge have to combine the advantages of both virtual and physical means. In certain situations, over-reliance on virtual media may to lead to ‘Cyberbalkanization’. This study thus concentrates on enhancing interaction in the ‘real places’ that exist in built environments. To measure physical diversity in clusters, three steps are suggested: 1. The identification of clustering locations in innovation facilities; 2. The identification of users interacting in such clustering locations; 3. The measurement of the diversity of the agents interacting in such clusters. To provide a better understanding of the concepts of diversity and cluster formation related to the physical spatial organization of a facility, the campus of TU Delft was chosen as a case study. The study shows that the possibility for physical interaction between knowledge agents in clusters from diverse academic backgrounds is very low, which forces us to think about conditions that may increase them. As a result, the study is concerned with the necessary conditions to allow the formation of clusters of high diversity in knowledge production facilities. These conditions are represented in terms of topological networks consisting of nodes, which represent places for potential encounters, and links between nodes, which represent accessibility between such places. We use the term ‘Archigraph’ for these networks. To construct the design tool, three examples of applications are considered to explore how the tool can be constructed. The three examples illustrate how to compare diversity of interacting groups in clusters for schemes in three different situations as follows: different network structure but similar allocation; different allocation but the same network structure; and different allocation with different network structure. To test the tool, two design options from a real design competition are used in another case study. We compare the ‘diversity index’ of the schemes using the design tool. Possible modifications to the tool are suggested as a result of this case study. Starting from methodologies developed by the Design Knowledge Systems Research Center (DKS) for the development of design tools, the research is also innovative in the following respects: 1. The transfer of concepts and techniques from the domains of economics, regional science, environmental sustainability, and sociology to the domain of spatial design, on the scale of building complexes; 2. The development of a model representing spatial attributes constraining face-to-face group interaction in the built environment; 3. The development of a design tool which can help in evaluating and optimizing the potential diversity of groups communicating within building complexes. The design tool proposed here is not intended for use as a deterministic design machine but as an aid to providing a better understanding in comparing alternative building plans when the topological network is taken as a necessary condition for enhancing physical interaction among diverse agents.