Tao Zhu Garden ©Vincent Callebaut

The smart city, the stuff of dreams, is no longer confined to the realm of science-fiction. Digital means are already being used to boost ecology and improve quality of life for residents in large urban centres like Montreal and Barcelona. At what level is the Smart City being created? As the first link in the chain, the building is the site of many experiments on the way to combining the digital and the sustainable.

All those involved in urban planning, from industry figures, manufacturers, and startups to associations and other players, are reflecting on how to design ‘intelligent’ units that must fit in with the current appearance of cities. What issues need to be overcome? What form do these issues take? Some answers were proposed at the Smart Cities symposium organised on 1 July by Les Echos.

Sustainable, smart buildings

At a time when the transition to ecologically responsible building has become necessary, it’s clear that integrating digital technology isn’t a goal in itself but rather a tool for creating a more sustainable lifestyle. Designers’ research has focused on using new information and communication technologies alongside renewable energy to build sustainable, intelligent buildings than can generate all of their own energy and eliminate waste on the site.

Paris Smart City 2015 ©Vincent Callebaut ArchitecturesArchitect Vincent Callebaut’s utopic ideas in his study “Paris Smart City 2050″ include eight prototypes of towers that are energy self-sufficient, or even energy positive. His aim was to respect the 2050 climate plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 75% and to reintroduce vegetation, to transform ‘grey’ Paris into ‘bioclimatic Paris’.

Bouygues Construction also emphasises the importance of rethinking housing and is proposing an autonomous building that taps into standard networks to more efficiently manage energy costs through the ABC research programme (Autonomous Building for Citizens).


ABC_Concept © Valode & Pistre architectes

Beyond self-sufficiency, the buildings of the future will also have to be connected, like a computer or a mobile home. This is the prerequisite set by theSmart Building Alliance in order for the city and its buildings to become standardised and interoperable service platforms. The end goal is for smart buildings to be integrated into the global smart grid.

For more information, you can listen to the podcast of the full conference (in French) ”Smart buildings: how can buildings be integrated to maximise economic, environmental and social performance?”


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