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Adaptable Spaces: A Resilient Future

20th April 2020
Changing and adaptable spaces
Adaptable Spaces: A Resilient Future

A new mindset– the streaming model and adaptability of space

The on-demand economy which has changed consumer expectations and has disrupted so many industries – as seen with examples such as Netflix, Uber and Deliveroo - is now also being applied to the use of physical space. Users have new expectations about speed and ease of change; they are looking for spaces that are flexible, adaptable and which can morph over time to accommodate different requirements. Now, thanks to data, interconnectivity & smart design coupled to advances in modular building technology, we are seeing how the ‘streaming’ model can work in environmentally led design solutions to meet these changes in consumer lifestyle, retail trends and onward to the wider community in terms of shared use and communal space applications.

Basic examples of multi-use space already exist; from coffee shops that function as an espresso bar and restaurant by day that then shift to cocktail bar at night, to office meeting rooms that covert to yoga studios. All demonstrate the potential for single space adaptability. There is now, however, so much more potential for adaptable spaces, in order to meet this streaming paradigm. State-of-the-art technology is revolutionising space and making it possible to experiment with pop-ups and other one-off events with the greatest of ease. Heta has been thinking about how a sophisticated and complex use of ‘streaming spaces’ might work with integrated technology at its heart. We have considered where they could be part of a development; the benefits from being adaptable; what kind of system would make it easy to reconfigure a space for multiple functions; and a system that caters to all the possible use options during the lifecycle of any given new plot or existing building enclosure.

There is recent precedence showing the potential of easily configuring and reconfiguring different housing plans, retail offers and public space. Success requires careful planning and a focus on creating an easily re-configurable system. Not everything will be mobile – there will usually be services that are fixed. Other considerations are preventing dead space and keeping the space from becoming generic and bland.

What we are proposing evolves from moving the furniture around the box – what has been the usual multi-use space so far. Our approach introduces a modular and dimensionally coordinated system that will allow a space at its core to be re-made – both in terms of its bounding enclosure and internal fit out.

day view
night view

Creating a standardised system

Thus, the basic divisions that govern any Cartesian space can be re-set in any way that the user or estate controller would wish in a timely, efficient and cost effective manner. We do this via the use of a sustainable CLT structural framework as allied to a set of lightweight component and infill items dimensionally coordinated to a master base grid, that allows easy ‘plug and play’ assembly and disassembly. This would be then linked to an app controlled booking and feedback service, creating a new offer of digital user interface and control for dynamic re-scheduling of uses over a number of potential timescales from daily to annual shifts.

Integrating technology for management and planning

This ease of control and feedback is essential for allowing the user or estate controller to get the right mix of interchangeable programs in order to optimise the use of any space to their demands. The technology and a digital user interface would play this critical role in this; specifically, this would utilise an app based system for the scheduling of spatial arrangements and ordering of components. We believe this would facilitate an immediate uptake for users given the ubiquitous use of smart phone and tablet based devices that are now the norm.


Both estate controller and space user would benefit from being able to choose from a virtual warehouse of elements that could also link to a digital estate model, for both immediate knowledge of the current state of the physical spaces, and to allow for any level of booking, oversight and management.

There are multiple benefits from this easy configuring of a final development for living, working, and communal mixing spaces, or any other functional use mix that is desired. One is to maximise the useful economic life of a space. The digital control and virtual warehouse approach would facilitate a closed-loop system with on demand manufacture, lightweight and compact delivery, easy assembly, easy disassembly, storage and recycling. Another gain is the social value from serving diverse groups of people and increasing a sense of community. Finally, this use of reconfiguring space can bring vibrancy to the immediate surroundings, making a positive impact on the streetscape.

Heta Contact

Daniel Birdsall

Heta Contact

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