chapter  5
10 Pages

Technical overview

WithStephen Kendall, Jonathan Teicher

For over a third of a century, in a variety of ways and settings, movements toward Open Building have paralleled a number of technical developments:

Dwellings are now tethered to multiple networked systems. Within the space of a century, homes have been transformed. They now incorporate direct links to numerous resource and utility networks: water supply and waste treatment, gas pipelines, electrical power grids, security systems, satellite, cellular and traditional landbased communication networks, television cables and the internet. By contrast, 150 years ago, the dwelling might well have been connected to only the road network, or to none at all.

Almost without exception, these networks now penetrate to the dwelling’s core. Buildings frequently require resource supply outlets serving many complex and interdependent networks throughout every space of the dwelling.

Residential buildings typically lack conduits, raceways, chases or interstitial cavities suited to the distribution of such network parts. Industry standards, agreements or even precise documentation concerning the placement and interface of network supply lines are not commonly used. Lacking such agreements, supply systems are frequently laid in complete disarray into 172spaces within ceilings or walls. There, cables, wires, pipes, ducts and structural elements become hopelessly entertwined.

Within multi-family housing units, collective building structure, building trunk lines and connectors are threaded through dwelling interiors. Such entanglement of collective infrastructure throughout private space makes it impossible to establish specific boundaries between public and private control and responsibility.

In multi-family buildings, the design of the common structure or skeleton — especially in seismic zones - significantly constrains any attempt to provide reasonably affordable dwelling unit flexibility. In Japan, as well as in other seismically-sensitive areas, the engineering design of Supports - and of the utility systems that form part of the Support - has strongly influenced developments toward Open Building: Life-safety issues directly constrain the flexibility of spaces.

The gradual accumulation of new networked subsystems in residential buildings over the past 100 years has brought with it an accretion of obsolete construction methods. In every country where OB is emerging, the obsolescence of rigid trade divisions is becoming clear. The value of multiskilled installers trained and certified to work across trades is increasingly evident. Similarly, there is an obvious need for products which straddle traditional product/trade classifications. Both infill systems and facade systems represent such products.