Snobal Midweek
Snobal Midweek

Breaking Silos

The construction industry is notorious for working in a fragmented and siloed manner.

Several organisations assemble for an infrastructure project. And within the individual organisations there’s probably even more silos – design, stakeholder engagement etc.

Silos within silos.

And silos hinder communication. Hinder progress. Silos are inefficient. Silos are costly.

Silos are bad for business.

But what is a silo?

It’s where people in the same organisation working towards the same goal (building a bridge, a road upgrade) but don’t share information the way they should. The end result? Duplication in work, duplication in effort, uneven client experience, misinterpretation of valuable information, missed opportunities, lack of progress and improvement in how things are done and on and on.

Take an infrastructure project, for example.

How do we create what is known in the“Jack Welch era” of GE as the “boundaryless organization” or in our case a “boundaryless infrastructure project”?

(BTW if you hadn’t heard of Jack Welch, he was the early 1990s CEO of GE. Think disruptive CEO. You can read more about him here.)

The GE Work-Out process as it was called was / is a method for cutting bureaucracy and solving problems quickly. How it works:

…series of structured and facilitated forums, bringing people together across levels, functions, and geographies to solve problems and make decisions in real time.

There’s lesson for infrastructure projects in this quote.

Bring people together.

Across functions.

Across locations.

To make decisions.

In real time.

New technologies like AI and XR are helping organisations across infrastructure projects right now achieve the boundaryless infrastructure project”.

Helping organisation’s engineers and designers collaborate in real time on design. Helping organisations collaborate and communicate with end users – the public – and key stakeholders.

Helping break down silos.


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BMW Guggenheim Lab, Architects' model, New York City site, Communal dinner setting, Photo: courtesy Atelier Bow-Wow (05/2011)
Snobal Midweek

Uncomfortable design?

We build the built environment for humans.

For humans to live in, to work in, to interact in, to travel through, to connect.

We do not build buildings, roads and bridges as an end in themselves.

Research shows the built environment impacts us as humans. It can affect our mood, and well being as well as areas in the brain attuned to geometry and the arrangement of spaces.

So, why then is the consideration of human psychology (behaviour and perception) what some might say the “soft sciences” (by the way we hate that term) one of the key areas that has not being focused on in depth in the design of the built environment to date?

Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle says “there are really good [evidence-based] guidelines out there…a lot of architects choose to ignore them”.

Taking a closer look a the physiological states created by the built environment could shed light on how city design affects our bodies say’s Colin Ellard, who researches the psychological impact of design at University of Waterloo in Canada. 

BMW Guggenheim Lab, Architects’ model, New York City site, Communal dinner setting, Photo: courtesy Atelier Bow-Wow (05/2011)

The BMW Guggenheim Lab urban project by Colin Ellard and New York Lab Team member Charles Montgomery believes that there are many models of human behaviour designed to explain our behaviour in cities but the issue is they all see us [people] as the same inhabiting a city as “a swarm of ants inhabits a nest”.

While architect Jan Gehl noted in a 2017 Cities Today article “it is ironic that we know more about the habitat of mountain gorillas than we do about the habitat of people…we have programmes for smart cities, green cities, healthy cities, cities of culture but people are rarely centre-stage.”

But maybe the tide is changing? A new BUS Wellbeing survey, by global engineering consulting firm Arup and wellness specialist Delos looks at addressing the issue of health and wellness in buildings by looking at the design impact on occupant wellness.

But here’s a question. City planners now have at their disposal newer technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), that enables end users to collaborate with them on design of the built environment. These technologies allow the tracking and capture of the experience of the user – the person – in the environment.  But what impact will these newer technologies such as VR and AR have over time on the overall design of the built environment? Will it be the commencement of a period of true participatory design? A period for putting the end user centre stage? A period of uncomfortable design?

Time will tell.

What’s caught our attention

At SIGGRAPH, NVIDIA RTX Takes VR Experiences to Next Level
Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH) is the annual conference on computer graphics and is on in the US the end of July. One area up for discussion – the impact 5G is going to have on VR in terms of creating photo-realistic, highly immersive environments faster than ever before.

Apple in Advanced Talks to Buy Intel’s Smartphone-Modem Chip Business
Reportedly Apple is in advanced talks to buy Intel Corp.’s smartphone-modem chip business. Why? Think control over 5G.

The Shock Of The Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 
What is the significance of inventions such as sewing machines and how do we rethink the importance we place on the invention of something new? Professor David Edgerton challenges the idea that we live in an era of ever increasing change.

What Technology Is Most Likely To Become Obsolete During Your Lifetime?
Hands on buzzers. As Peter Norton, Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Virginia, U.S.A says “fifty years ago people at NASA were predicting manned bases on the Moon, and manned missions to Mars, by the end of the century. And no one really saw social media, Wikipedia, or dockless scooters coming until they were already here.”

We’re Snobal and we’re provoking and pioneering change in the how the built environment is planned, designed, communicated and understood. You can read more about us here.

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Snobal Midweek
Snobal Midweek

Weekly digest of news, views & reviews on emerging tech & the built environment

Welcome to Snobal MidWeek.

It’s a place where we sporadically collect, curate and share what’s been catching our attention in the world of built environments, cities and how they’re been improved, shaped and changed by emerging technologies like eXtended reality (XR) and artificial intelligence.

Thanks for reading.

Past post’s [on Medium]

Why We Need to Be Thinking About Ethics and Oversight in Smart Cities
[Feb 4 2019]

Why we need less community engagement and more co-creation in infrastructure development
[Dec 13 2018]

What we have learned helping business implement ‘exponential technologies
[Oct 4 2018]

How Artificial Intelligence boosted Virtual Reality Can Enable Human Centered Design in Infrastructure Development
[Aug 27 2018]

Using emerging technologies in smart cities to enable design with people, not for people & to make better decisions
[Jun 22 2018]

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