AGC Blog | From The Rooftop

Post Pandemic Hospital Design

05.03.2021 |A Discussion

Healthcare workers across the world have been at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals reaching capacity and shortages of necessary supplies all while working in the highest risk of environments. As such, some innovative solutions have been utilised to cope with the influx of highly contagious patients to ensure enough beds are available without further outbreaks.

As a result of this pandemic highlighting the shortfalls in health care systems and design globally, resolving these issues where possible before the next mass-scale health crises is critically important.

Some key concerns include:

  • More remote healthcare services, telehealth

  • Hospitals design anticipating more surge capacity

  • The adoption of prefabricated/modular components, allowing for greater flexibility

Flexible Design

Hospitals need to be more flexible not only in the number of patients they can handle, but the way in which they can handle them. By being able to rapidly transform spaces in scale and isolate areas efficiently, such as ICU units converting into COVID-19 units as some hospitals have done, hospitals can rapidly deal with influxes of patients and prevent further outbreaks. To do so, it needs to be possible to easily cordon off areas of the hospital to mitigate the spread of an infectious disease. This requires, for instance, physically walling the areas off and advanced HVAC systems that can appropriately purify the air.

Modular design in hospital construction is also likely to become more prevalent. Modular design allows for custom-building spaces, including movable walls to adjust capacity and the ability to seal off areas from the rest of the hospital. Modular units also give hospitals the flexibility to devote the bulk of its space to a health crisis without having to curtail non-life-threatening surgeries or treatments. A modular wing of a hospital remains open and treat patients receiving elective surgery without jeopardizing their health, safely cloistered off from the main hospital unit, even equipped with a separate ventilation system.

Changing Where Care is Delivered

Hospitals are designed differently than most buildings. Large elevators and wide hallways need to accommodate patients on hospital beds being moved around the facility. However, most were not designed to withstand such a rapid influx of patients as seen this year. This led to the construction of so-called alternative care facilities (ACFs), which helped ensure any patient who needed a bed, or a ventilator could get them. Field hospitals were set up in some countries at convention centres, playing fields, and even parking lots. Some of these sites included thousands of temporary beds with medical the equipment needed to treat patients.

The future of medical centres is likely to include so-called micro-hospitals. These smaller in scale emergency care facilities are designed for shorter stays to help patients avoid longer waits and can provide the same level of care as larger hospitals.

These tiny hospital centres can already be found in some places, seen as a potential solution to address the inequality around access to care during a pandemic. In addition to taking some pressure off larger hospitals, micro-hospitals can be quickly built according to an area specific needs, even in communities typically underserved by existing infrastructure. This in conjunction with increased investment in non-face-to-face health services would offer citizens an urban environment better prepared for another pandemic event.

Construction Robots Will Change Our Industry Forever

26.02.2021 | A Discussion

AI and robotics are revolutionizing many industries, but construction is a slow mover, and so far, we have not seen any dramatic changes. This is set to change eventually, but one company has convinced us it may be sooner than we originally thought.

Built Robotics is a San Francisco based software company that converts existing heavy-duty equipment with AI-based guidance systems like that of autonomous vehicles. In doing this, processes such as earth removal become autonomous, monitored by equipment operators. The potential for this technology is huge. Firstly, the costs of labour are dramatically reduced meaning lower construction costs, but further to this, these machines can now work around the clock with drastically low safety concerns. We found a fantastic interview with Built Robotics Founder Ready-Campbell, check it out.

The Potential for This Technology

What is most exciting about this company to us, is the implications this technology could have across all construction processes and what that means for the industry, as Ready-Campbell states:

"If we can figure out ways to let the humans focus on the design, the aesthetic, the art that goes along with building, and then let machines do the more repetitive and mundane tasks, we can actually shape our environment in a way that could have a radical impact on everything."

Now we don't believe construction sites will be filled with autonomous robots anytime soon, the complexity of most processes are just too difficult to replicate as it stands and having a different robot for each one is simply not economical. However, we could see companies like Built Robotics become incredibly influential. Processes such as earth removal, demolition, compacting and more are easily convertible to this system, while also being crucial to almost every major project in the world.

What's Next?

Expect to see companies like Built Robotics continue to expand their repertoire of autonomous services. In conjunction with this we expect to see additional robotic improvements in areas such as prefabricated housing. If these two areas continue to develop as they are it could offer new and exciting opportunities within the industry, lower construction costs and drastically improve the speed of development.

Bernard Tschumi - The Architecture of Rebellion

19.02.2021 |A Discussion

B.Tschumi was a graduate of ETH Zurich in 1969, receiving a degree in architecture. Following this, he was a teacher at many notable universities in the UK and USA, including the Architectural Association, Princeton University, Cooper Union and Colombia University. Additionally, Bernard established his own successful architecture firms, Bernard Tschumi Architects (BTA), in New York City and, Bernard Tschumi Urbanistes Architectes (BTUA), in Paris.

Bernard Tschumi was a controversial figure throughout his life as an architect. As a student, he was greatly influenced by the 1968 riots in Paris and the ideologies of the Situationist International. During this period, students and workers demanded higher living and educational standards be imposed, hierarchies be abolished, and cross-disciplinary, socially relatable content be taught. These demands came as a revolution against the strict, historical principles of the institutions. Most notably to Tschumi, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a famed architectural school known for its difficulty and style that has influenced many architects across the world. The student strikes inspired Tschumi to reconsider the role of architecture in developing and enforcing the hierarchies and oppression of the time. Further to this, the cross disciplinary demands on students inspired Tschumi to investigate influences of differing mediums to inform his architectural approach.

The revolutionary thinking of Bernard Tschumi was apparent from his early career as an academic. The Manhattan Transcripts (1981) was one of Tschumis earliest projects that demonstrated how cross-disciplinary techniques can breed new architectural results. Greatly influenced by famous, Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, a pioneer in the use of montage as a film technique. Bernard Tschumi utilised similar techniques by taking stills of dynamic scenes from films, diagramming the movement of the actors and using these forms to generate architectural use, form and social values . By doing this, B.Tschumi aimed to explore the relationship between spaces, their use and their meaning. a stark contrast to architectural thinking of the time. He stated, The transcripts aimed to offer a different reading of architecture in which space, movement and events are independent, yet stand in new relation to one another, so that conventional components of architecture are broken down and rebuilt along different axes1 Bernard Tschumi.

One year after publishing The Manhattan Transcripts, Bernard Tschumi won his first major work, the Parc de la Villette. This gave Tschumi the opportunity to transition his previously theoretical concepts to reconceive use, form and social values1 within architecture to reality. Synchronically, a project of this scale, awarded by the French Government, to an architect widely known for his contrasting philosophies, represented a new approach to architecture Peter Blundell (2012). This new approach would severely contrast typical Parisian open spaces commonly referenced in paintings such as George Seaurats A Sunday on La Grande Jatte . Public parks were uniformly designed as an escape from the city during this time, however, Tschumis design included a vast array of cultural facilities to blur this boundary and create a park based on culture, rather than nature Tschumi. Further to this, a series of points (steel follies), are located throughout the site; none of these structures possess a specific use except to emphasize the movement through the park Tschumi. While controversial, these structures articulate clearly the revolutionary thinking of Bernard Tschumi. By incorporating these structures, the function of the site remains unique to the visitor and un-imposed; allowing for constant reinterpretation and continued cultural relevance, addressing previously mentioned issues relating to the 1968 student riots. The game of architecture is neither function (questions of use), nor form (questions of style), nor even the synthesis of function and form, but rather the bringing together of possible combinations and permutations between different categories of analysis - space, movement, event , technique, symbol, etc I am not interested in form ,I attack the system of meaning. I am for the idea of structure and syntax, but no meaning. Tschumi

Bernard Tschumi continued to challenge the traditional methods and preconceptions of architecture throughout his career, however, he also consistently met criticism regarding his projects. Often described as an intellectual who dismisses human needs in return scholarly superiority; Thomas Hines 1994 article in The New York Times supports this claim, stating the eroticism he finds in architecture is really an obsession with rules and the architects desire both to impose and to transgress them . Further to this, Hine describes Mr. Tschumis Art5 as in a hermetic world that lacks the primitive, truly architectural pleasures created by light and shadow, colour and texture, expansiveness and enclosure, rhythm ad incident. Ultimately, I believe it is this kind of criticism that Tschumi himself would have welcomed and encouraged; he developed his work by questioning the decisions of those made before him and reconceiving the urban environment via new forms of experimentation. Tschumis use of external influences to inform his architectural explorations was revolutionary and deeply significant to architecture and society. However, the impact his interpretation of these influences has had is matched by the ongoing impact of his influence on other modern architects. Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Zumthor and many more have referenced Tschumi in their work, often implementing his principles or techniques in their analysis of the problems associated with contemporary cities. One such example of this is Rem Koolhaas Junkspace, specifically, in Bigness, or the Problem of Large, Koolhaas identifies a similar separation between contemporary structures and the cities inhabitants; declaring these faceless, bland and random buildings as separate entities, larger than they need to be and leading to a rich orchestration of chaos.

Why UTS Tower and the 'Paper Bag Building' are more similar than you may think

12.02.2021 |A Discussion

Radical design, iconic status, and controversy; UTS Tower articulates the identity of the university with precision, and that identity hasn't gone anywhere with Frank Gehry's Chau Chak Wing building.

Labelled Sydneys ugliest building by more polls than can be counted, UTS Tower has undoubtedly achieved iconic status as Sydneys biggest blemish, a Brutalist masterpiece, and An architectural up yours to all things beautiful (Stein 2017). While among individuals UTS Towers identity is widely disputed, what the tower tells us about the cultural identity of UTS is clear. A university founded upon forward-thinking, the adoption of innovative technologies, and a willingness to stick its neck out.

From UTS Tower challenging traditional campus notions of the Oxbridge Model (Munt 2016), declaring The future was virtual in the 1990s (Farrelly 2015), to the billion-dollar master plan, the motto Think, Change, Do lingers. This cultural identity permeates the Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building and, despite the distinct aesthetic differences, the educational ethos of UTS remains undisturbed. The announcement of Frank Gehry as the architect brought with it immediate attention and squabble. Questions of architectural style, cost, and building difficulty all resurfaced some forty-three years after construction commenced on UTS Tower, yet once more, this only contributed to its iconic status. Once more, UTS was attempting to revolutionize campus environments and refining previous declarations of technology and its role within education, this time promotingThe best of online learning with the best of a face-to-face experience(Calzini 2015) synchronically publicizing themselves, now on an international scale.

Innovation is a defining characteristic of the UTS Tower with theVertical University (Munt 2016) the first of its kind following the Wark Committee Report, an educational review that called for high rise solutions that were close to urban transport(Munt 2016). The original design proposalsought to re-create city-ness within its interior (Munt 2016), a solution pertinent to the time merely nine years before Rem Koolhaas manifest simultaneous explosions of human density and culture of congestion. Further innovative design solutions can be found in UTS Tower like the cantilevering band beams and strip windows which speak to its first inhabitants, the department of engineering (Munt 2016) along with hypothesized ingenuity in the form of lack of space in which students can gather in groups (Lehmann 2017), an unconfirmed response to the May 1968 student riots in Paris occurring one year before the commencement of construction.

The Dr. Chau Chak Wang building places considerable emphasis on innovation and sustainability most notably through its initial design brief and the significant measures taken to increase energy efficiency. Promoting face-to-face communication alongside high-touch experience spaces, supported but not dominated by technology (Calzini 2015) the Dr. Chau Chak Wang building has reinvigorated learning spaces, opting for informal circulation areas flooded with natural light and amenities such as kitchens and cafes. This includes two oval-shaped classrooms, each seating 54 people, designed to facilitate student-teacher dialogue alongside flexible seminar rooms with flat floors and movable furniture to support group activities. Under these design considerations, UTS Business School features high-performance glazing, energy-efficient lighting, green concrete, a polystyrene compactor, underfloor air-conditioning, and water storage tanks to name a few of the performance measures taken to achieve a five-star green star design rating.

UTS Tower original design consisted of seven towers connected via podiums that would act as bridges between towers and sky gardens (Munt 2016). The potential impact of this proposal is unknown, however, despite whittling down from seven towers to one its effect remains significant physically and symbolically. Acting as a landmark throughout the city due to being one hundred and twenty meters in height Metaphorically the tower becomes a symbol for everything our city needs (Johnston 2008). Representing the educational ideology of UTS and higher education collectively, the tower Stands for ideas beyond the known, for teasing them out and testing them (Johnston 2008).

Despite being significantly smaller in scale the effect of the Dr. Chau Chak Wang building complements and furthers that of UTS Tower. Attracting more than twenty thousand visitors per year and laying claim to be Australias only building designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, UTS Business School exemplifies the capacity of architecture to elevate its environment to an international scale. UTS, education, energy efficiency, and user-focused design are just some of the things to be reaping the benefits of the attention generated by the Dr. Chau Chak Wang building while synchronically serving the needs of its users and broader surroundings.

Why Prefabrication Is The Future of Architecture

05.02.2021 |A Discussion

Prefabricated housing is the future of Australian architecture. In Australia, prefabricated modular housing makes up only about 5 percent of the construction industry. Compared to European countries such as Sweden, where prefabricated modular housing makes up 70 percent of the construction industry, there is huge potential for this market.

Muji Hut - Prefabricated home designed by Muji. Image from Dezeen

The Main Types of Prefabrication

- Simple elements: Beams, columns or other parts of a structure that have been manufactured to be easily bolted into place onsite.

- Panelised systems: These are used for walls and include elements such as insulation, utilities, waterproofing and external and internal cladding. These components are designed to allow for rapid assembly and flat pack transportation.

- Volumetric systems: Three dimensional modular objects that comprise the floor, ceiling and wall components for a single room.

Why Would Prefabrication Benefit Australia?

The housing affordability crisis is already affecting many Australians who are struggling to buy their first homes. This in conjunction with rising costs and a lack of supply versus demand, prefabrication offers the best opportunity to provide affordable housing at scale. By reducing manufacturing costs, construction becomes both faster and cheaper.

The Additional Benefits

Emergency Housing and Infrastructure

Low-cost emergency housing can be produced in response to natural disasters and accommodation for currently homeless people. While prefabricated methods can also be utilised in future events like the COVID-19 pandemic to provide emergency testing and treatments facilities, helping to prevent overrun hospitals.


Prefabrication means a controlled environment. By producing the components within a factory to be simply assembled, many risks associated with the typical building site are removed; offering a safer work environment to tradespeople.


More planning means less wasted time and materials in the production process, again reducing costs. These savings can then be passed onto the owner or be invested into higher quality materials that provide better thermal performance and further reduce energy usage. Also, fabrication workshops can plan how to maximise recycling of any waste before the production process even begins.

Trade shortages and re-training

Currently there is a huge trade shortage in Australia, however, those currently working in manufacturing areas such as automotive manufacturing could be upskilled and apply their existing knowledge to prefabricated construction, offering more opportunities for employment and higher quality workmanship

Algorithmic Design - How Computers Are Changing Architecture, Again

29.01.2021 |A Discussion

Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is nothing new, however, its impact has been revolutionary to the architectural possibilities of today. CAD and more recently BIM modelling has allowed architects and engineers to design buildings that are formally far more complex than in the past. Further to this, these programs can be used to create more efficient buildings and a less wasteful construction process. Todays, computers are set to change buildings yet again, with the introduction of algorithmic design.

Algorithmic design changes the interaction between the designer and the finalized form. Instead of an architect or engineer refining their design using tools and programs; they pose the problems that need solving, let the algorithm run, review the most successful results and refine from there to create the eventual whole. Algorithms can work out the best ways to layout rooms for efficiency or thermal regulation or viewpoints etc. This is already commonplace when designing for thermal efficiency, for example if designing a shading device, an architect would model the current design, input the location and set parameters such as an internal temperature range and an illuminance range (LUX); from this, the algorithm would run a specified number of results, adjusting the form each time, and display the most successful as per each parameter and across the board.

Algorithms are also helping architects to understand how a building will be used by revealing hidden patterns in existing and proposed constructions. These can be spatial and geometrical characteristics such as the ratio of public to private areas or the natural airflow of a building. They can be patterns of use showing which rooms are used most and least often. Or they can be visual and physical connections that show what people can and cannot see from each point of a building and enable us to predict the flow of people around it. This is particularly relevant when designing the entrances of public buildings so we can place services and escape routes in the best position.

Combining these uses represents the next generation of algorithmic design that will really change our ability to improve the built environment. For example, Zaha Hadid Architects uses algorithms to automatically test thousands of internal layout options or find an arrangement of facade panels that will prevent an irregularly shaped building from being prohibitively expensive. Today, algorithms are even producing office arrangements for the COVID-19 pandemic that enable the highest number of employees to work in a building while safely socially distancing.

As advancements in computer science and technology are growing exponentially, it is difficult to imagine how algorithmic design will evolve in the future and how the building industry will change. But we can certainly predict that the use of algorithms will soon be a standard in the design and development process.

How Construction Can Move To A Circular Economy

22.01.2021 |A Discussion

Construction is traditionally a very linear economy. Resources are gathered and turned into the products that make up each part of a building until ultimately discarded. However, with many industries transitioning to a circular economy to reduce waste and costs, its time construction started doing the same.