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Organizing smart buildings and cities: promoting innovation and participation
Magnaghi E., Flambard V., Mancini D., Jacques J., Gouvy N., Springer International Publishing, New York, NY, 2021. 200 pp. Type: Book (978-3-030606-06-0)
Date Reviewed: Oct 6 2022

Cities, institutions, and buildings aim to address the following:

  • In response to identified challenges, they boost up their resiliency and transform themselves to be more sustainable.
  • They rebuild affinity and intercommunication with their nature-close environment.
  • To be more flexible and powerful, they strengthen communication and collaboration among actors, and foster participation in decision making.
  • Realizing shortages of natural resources, they work toward an economy that is more circular in its consumption, reusing and exploring natural resources (for instance water and mined materials).
  • They produce energy by applying green methods and avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution.
  • They apply modern information and communications technology (ICT), including the Internet of things (IoT), to collect data for helping individuals, communities, the economy, and the local government.

So “smart” structures are the redefined, more elaborated modern descendants of previous “intelligent” ones, that is, the 25-year-old notion of an “information society.” Even now, the smartness of structures is an evolving and clouded/fuzzy notion. Moreover, in each definite place and situation, the abstract notion should be reevaluated periodically, producing adequate concretizations. The book is an interesting attempt both to present theoretical aspects of being smart from multiple perspectives and to show various living-lab experiments in cities, on university campuses, and in buildings.

The book’s 12 chapters give very colorful approaches to the notions, aims, and technologies applied in ongoing experimental projects. Some of the results are partial as yet. The discussion of motivations, aims, situation, and selected tools is detailed and interesting.

Most of the included places are in Italy and in France. There is an interesting counterpart from China, where a city and its neighborhood area have been developing--aiming for almost all of the above criteria and applying cutting-edge technology and tech solutions. Compared to the others, the main difference is that it is mainly technology based: the design, development, and operation are organized by experts, without the participation of the inhabitants. However, main financial and industrial organizations in the area are involved in the project and the actuation/operation.

The chapters discuss a great number of special problems, even on the city level, for example, bigger and medium-sized cities, a city with a historical center and many tourists, and so on. A university focused on student engagement and smart mobility is the theme of another. Intelligent buildings and energy efficiency of smart and green buildings bring other questions into the focus. Real-time data collection and its usage in helping and organizing road traffic is a nice achievement of ICT (and IoT). The book also treats the conflicting requirements of openness and security.

Chapters with similar themes are grouped together. The book starts with introductory and summarizing material. At the end, a table provides an overview of the selected aspects that were addressed. The table enumerates the chapters and gives information about their content according to the type of locality (society, sector of the economy, city, university, or building), technology applied, artifact used, and type/purpose/method of the application. Each chapter includes a rich list of references.

The book is a pleasurable and inspiring read for those who are interested in the expectable locality and future way of life.

Reviewer:  K. Balogh Review #: CR147501 (2211-0148)
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Architecture (J.5 ... )
Economics (J.4 ... )
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