Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 Architecture & Design Trends- Inside and Outside Have Become One-Series-4

2016 Architecture & Design Trends

Trends define a generation. In architecture, they create moods for the industry and determine how personal space may influence daily lifestyles. Before presenting our 7 current home design trends, it is important to clarify the difference between ‘trend’ and ‘fad.’ Often used synonymously, their meanings are quite different.
A trend is something that catches on. It has the potential to persist for decades in some cases. What confuses many people is that a trend and a fad often look very similar in the beginning. Put concisely: a trend will give direction and a fad is just a craze. At HMH, we have solidified a custom design style that fuses classic trends with modern elements to become our own special brand of interior design and architecture.

Now on to the architecture & design trends in 2016 that we are excited about! From sustainable materials to functional living spaces and art deco prints, here are 7 architecture and design trends in 2016 to keep an eye out for…

Inside and Outside Have Become One

indoor/outdoorWhat used to be a very defined line, or wall, is now blurred. Rooms now blend into the outdoors without worrying about a solid distinction. Homeowners want the exterior to be just as important as the interior living spaces and are including everything from full kitchens, to furniture and TVs.
Private courtyards that open up to two or three rooms in the home extend the living and entertaining space and accessibility as well as the utility

The secret life of building sites: the show that puts cranes and cement-mixers centre stage

The secret life of building sites: the show that puts cranes and cement-mixers centre stage

Sleepwalking Olive Oyl steps nonchalantly between swinging steel beamsin a 1930s Popeye cartoon, performing a death-defying aerial ballet high above a skyscraper construction site. On the adjacent screen, a Soviet animation from the 60s shows characters leaping on to a prefab concrete panel and being whisked up by a crane into the clouds, floating over a scene of mass workers’ housing down below. The video diptych continues in frenzied jump-cuts, one screen continuously depicting the presence of steel beams thrusting into the frame of American films and cartoons of the 20th century, the other showing the ubiquity of flying concrete slabs in their Russian counterparts. It is a mesmerising sequence, opposing beams to panels, riveters to welders, skyscrapers to housing blocks. In both, the structural system plays a heroic role as the saviour of the mechanised modern world.
“We wanted to show how construction sites became places where national ideology and imagination were combined,” says Pedro Ignacio Alonso, who made the short film Choreographies with fellow Santiago-based architect Hugo Palmarola, on show as part of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. “In the Khrushchev era, when prefabricated concrete-panel construction took off, these films were made to show people that panels were the bedrock of the new society, while in the US, the steel frame is depicted as the tool to build the country out of the Great Depression.”

In both cases, the construction process is more important than the finished building, the welders and crane operators more visible than the architect, and the building site celebrated as the site of burgeoning nationhood as much as anything else. The video installation is part of a fascinating Building Site exhibition at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, the main part of this year’s triennale, which puts the process of making buildings in the spotlight, placing the seldom-explored politics of cranes, scaffolding and cement mixers centre stage.
“So much discussion in contemporary architecture focuses on participation and the intangible social discourse of design,” says curator André Tavares, whose show is a conscious departure from the last edition’s emphasis on everything but buildings. “We wanted to tackle the act of construction, to show how design affects the organisation of the building site, the impact on labour conditions and the wider, physical realities of making architecture.”
The result is a refreshing tonic at a time when so much architecture and design curation is intent on drifting off into critical theory and conceptual art , seemingly afraid of tackling any discussion of bricks and mortar or the underlying economy of construction head on. As Tavares puts it: “We have to stand up for architecture. It is a kind of knowledge, and in this exhibition we are trying to share some of that knowledge. We want people to know what architects do.”

There are surprising stories aplenty for even the most hardened architecture nerds. Echoing the recent scandal of building contractors blacklisting construction site workers for union activity, the show opens with a report produced by provocative architectural thinker Cedric Price in the 70s, following a period of strike action in the UK, looking at how to make building sites happier places to work. Commissioned by Alistair McAlpine, the McAppy Report, as Price jokingly titled it, was at once rigorously systematic and characteristically bizarre, ranging from detailed advice for improving workers’ safety and wellbeing to designs for how cranes might be made more fun, with the addition of TV screens, heaters and sound systems (which sadly never got beyond his cartoonish sketch).
It is important to understand the weight of architecture when the pencil becomes the shovel
Next comes a film from the Brazilian social activist group Usina, which since 1990 has worked with communities in São Pauloto facilitate the design, construction and financing of their own co-operative housing. “It is important to understand the weight of architecture when the pencil becomes the shovel,” says the group. Thedesign of their homes is determined by what a single person in the co-op – from teenagers to elderly women – can carry on their own, leading to the choice of hollow terracotta blocks, laid with the ease of Lego bricks.

A similar logic lay behind the phenomenal success of entrepreneurial French engineer François Hennebique, who patented a method of using steel reinforcement bars in concrete in 1892, which allowed all manner of complex structures to be built by unskilled workers. While steel reinforcement already existed, the Hennebique method utilised special stirrups that allowed a more efficient and precise calculation of structural loading, meaning he could remove himself from the building site and grow a worldwide empire from the comfort of his Parisian office.
Exquisite technical drawings in the exhibition depict the matrix of bars underlying the structure of a sweeping staircase on the Champs-Élysées, alongside photos of the all-female construction team of a Portuguese bridge in 1906, revealing how the technology allowed women to get involved in this traditionally male domain.

 Usina’s cooperative housing in São Paulo are designed around what one person can carry on their own Photograph: Lisbon Architecture Triennale
Equally engrossing drawings produced a century later hang nearby, illuminating the tortuous story behind one of Portugal’s most celebrated modern buildings, the Casa da Música in Porto by OMA, used here to illustrate the effects of time on both the design and construction processes. The competition for the concert hall was launched in 1999, with an insanely optimistic completion date of 2001 (to coincide with Porto’s year as European capital of culture). It was a scramble that prompted OMA to recycle a design that was already in the office, taking the faceted form of a private villa and scaling it up to the size of an opera house.
The main concrete walls were poured before the design was even completed, but the project was then hit by interminable delays because of changing political cycles, providing an extended period for the indulgent refinement of interior finishes and details. The stop-start programme is manifest in the final result: the bold concrete shell is the result of the forceful first moves, made with the confidence that only a deadline can bring, while the interior is enriched with material sophistication, developed with the luxury of time.

There are other eye-opening behind-the-scenes glimpses, from the saga of David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum in Berlin to beautiful long-exposure photos by Michael Wesely depicting the ghostly armatures of construction sites. As a whole, the exhibition provides a profound snapshot, helping to explain why buildings turn out as they do by exposing the rarely told stories behind their making.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Inside the complicated legal terrain of the design-build delivery method

Collaboration between architect and contractor from the very beginning of a project — where is the harm in that? That's the goal of the design-build project delivery method, which proponents say allows for collaboration by all stakeholders from the outset of a project, improving communication to the point that the need for change orders during the course of a job is greatly reduced.

In fact, design-build projects have proven themselves schedule-and budget-friendly. According to a 1999 Penn State study, design-build's production schedule was 33% faster than the traditional design-bid-build. When researchers compared costs, they discovered that design-build came in 6% cheaper than design-bid-build as well.

With benefits like these, it might be assumed that states have long been on board with the design-build concept. However, that isn't the case, as officials have pushed back due to what they consider a lack of historical data around the method and a lack of transparency.

State-by-state obstacles

Currently, about half of all U.S. states allow design-build with no limitations, according to Richard Thomas, director of state and local legislative affairs for Design-Build institute of America. Three states have no provisions for the delivery method, and others are a mixed bag in which some agencies allow it but not others.
Citing the old adage of "all politics are local," Thomas said there are a few common threads as to why some agencies still don't permit design-build. Midwest states tend to have the most limitations, he said, with many contractors laboring under the assumption that more design-build projects will somehow result in an influx of construction teams from outside the area racing in to monopolize available work — an assumption that Thomas said was false.
However, he noted that the biggest issue is typically labor. "Unions are very powerful special interests, particularly public employee unions," he said. On the other hand, Thomas added that some trade unions are supportive, although it varies depending on the region of the country. In fact, that also seems to be the rule of thumb when it comes to dealing with design-build laws around the country.

The complex regulations of New York

In New York for example, not only are there laws preventing state and local agencies from engaging in design-build, but it is the only state in the union that also has regulations in effect that prevent design-build in the private sector. It's a New York State Education Department law, according to John Patrick Curran, partner at Sive, Paget & Riesel in New York, that makes New York the outlier in the private design-build world.
"There is a tension between the education law, which says only licensed design professionals can perform and be compensated for design services, and the ruling by the court of appeals in the Charlebois case that said (design-build is permitted) as long as a contractor has a contract with a design professional, and the contractor has a contract saying that," Curran said. Nevertheless, he said the Education Department maintains that design-build is not lawful.
Adding to the confusion, the state passed a 2014 law, with the support of the governor, allowing certain state agencies to enter into design-build contracts, according to Curran. That new regulation did nothing to change the Education Department's law, and, further, some interpreted the new state measure "as a tacit acknowledgment by the legislature that it was still unlawful" in the majority of circumstances.

The design-build environment in California and Texas

Things are simpler in California, where the design-build laws are broadening, according to Lisa Dal Gallo, partner at Hanson Bridgett. "It's becoming very available," she said. The design-build process in California must be contractor-led because contractors are inherently better equipped to manage costs and schedules, she noted.
The architect is still the architect of record, but the actual contract with a public agency must be with the contractor. State agencies are increasingly adopting design-build because "design-bid-build doesn't work" and is fraught with "delays, overruns and change orders," she said.
"You're paying a designer to design something you may or not be able to bid," Dal Gallo said. There's no way to come up with firm costs until the project is put it out to bid, and when those numbers come back, the owner is either stuck with the lowest responsible bidder or has to pay the architect to go back to the drawing board. "It's a vicious cycle," she said.
In Texas, Thomas said it seems that public agencies only want to use design-build for megaprojects, whereas in Florida, one is likely to see a multitude of design-build projects done every day for projects of all sizes.
He added that some architects are skittish about design-build for fear that the design-build team will usurp the relationships they have built with owners. For example, in Missouri — a state that took years to hammer out full authority for design-build — architecture industry representatives were fine with design-build being authorized for use on transportation projects over $1 million, but were more comfortable with a minimum contract amount of $7 million for buildings.
This, Thomas said, kept the possibility of design-build out of the typical architect's territory of customers. "It's important for us to try to get the whole industry in each state to collaborate and come up with a solution that works for everyone," he said.

Why the design-build method is on the rise

However, Thomas added that there is a new trend among architecture and design firms "to become integrated" and take on construction work as well as the design responsibilities. This is evident, particularly on the engineering side, he said, where designer-led water projects have grown dramatically in the last 10 years.
A boon for the design-build cause was the federal stimulus package introduced in 2009, resulting in tremendous upticks in design-build transportation laws. "If you look at January 2009 and December of 2009, (it's like) night and day," Thomas said. After the stimulus initiatives, federal agencies began to prioritize schedule speed and turned to the benefits of design-build, he noted.
The federal "nudge" toward design-build continues to this day. Design-build is put into the same category as HOV lanes and safety improvements, helping a state project to qualify for maximum funding, according to Thomas.
However, even in the private sector, the design-build process has its hurdles, according to Shawn Goetzinger, partner and director of development at Phoenix design-build company Form Third. Owners sometimes believe that design-build will actually prevent some of the things that design-build delivers best — transparency and competition.
In design-build, the owner is part of the entire design and construction process, unlike other delivery methods, and is able to see various bids from each subcontractor, which typically eases the fear of being taken advantage of by overcharging, according to Goetzinger. In addition, he said the design-build process "breaks down the legal walls" between architect and contractor that can often leave the owner managing the conflict by "pulling on opposite ends of the rope."

What's next for design-build

As for the future of design-build? Goetzinger said he believes that as agencies and private owners begin to "recognize the benefits and reduced hassle" of design-build, its popularity will continue to grow.
Dal Gallo said that technology like building information modeling (BIM) will further propel state agencies to take advantage of design-build so that they can reap the full benefits of a collaborative BIM model. In addition, she said modern construction practices like Lean are most effective in a design-build environment.
As for Thomas, he'll keep going state to state, advocating for what he believes is the most efficient and productive delivery method available, even though it won't always be a smooth road. "Change is hard and not everybody is going to embrace it quickly," he said.


Rise in material prices 'not good news' for construction firms-ABC

Dive Brief:

Construction material prices rose 0.3% between August and September, and they are 0.1% higher than September 2015, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday.

September marked the first month since November 2014 that nonresidential construction input prices were up on a year-over-year basis.
Four of 11 input prices dipped between August and September: prepared asphalt and tar roofing and siding products; iron and steel; steel mill products; and softwood lumber. The remaining seven material prices rose last month.

Dive Insight:

ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu said the month-to-month and year-over-year rise in prices "is not good news for U.S. nonresidential construction firms." He attributed the rebound in prices to stabilized energy prices and what he considers wage inflation in the U.S.
In additional bad news for construction firms, Basu said contractor margins are tightening as rising labor and material costs leave firms struggling to make a profit. Prior to the Great Recession, contractors could transfer higher material costs to owners and clients, but "purchasers of construction services are now much less likely to accept significant cost inflation," he said in a release.
The skilled labor shortage is an ongoing concern for the construction industry, as employers continue to struggle to find qualified workers and meet demand. A nationwide survey of 1,459 contractors — conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America during July and August — found that 69% are having difficulty finding workers to fill hourly craft positions. To combat the problem, 48% of surveyed companies said they have increased pay for hourly craft workers — echoing reports of rising labor costs.
On a positive note, Basu predicted that despite the potential for a steady climb, material prices won't see a major surge in the coming months due to the strengthening U.S. dollar.

Friday's materials price data coincides with a recent report from the ABC that found its Construction Confidence Index for the first half of 2016 fell slightly from the second half of 2015. Negative factors including the labor shortage and rising material prices were cited as contributing to the dip in confidence.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How the construction labor shortage is colliding with project hiring requirements - Goals vs. reality

When a massive construction project comes to town, it seems everyone scrambles to get a piece of the pie. Understandably, if public funding is at play, then the political pressure is on local officials, developers and contractors to make sure there is a visible, high-profile payoff for the community.
Sometimes that pressure comes with special hiring requirements. Public officials and residents would like to see as much of those taxpayer dollars reinvested back into the community in the most concrete form of economic opportunity there is, a weekly paycheck.

However, in an environment of ongoing construction labor shortages, are hiring requirements on publicly funded projects feasible, or do they set up contractors for major fines and penalties?

Cases of success and failure

Sometimes, it works. Mortenson Construction, by all accounts, is a pro at meeting diversity and hiring mandates. While building the new $1.1 billion Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium, it surpassed the project's minority workforce goal of 32% by five percentage points. All of those workers were Minnesota residents, with approximately 400 from the local Minneapolis area. Not too shabby, but what if that requirement had been limited to Minneapolis alone? The economic impact analyses were state-based in the case of the Vikings facility, so, aside from a few targeted zip codes in Minneapolis, there are no numbers readily available to reveal how much of the workforce included Minneapolis residents.

"Mandates don't get at the heart of the problem"

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Even if the target had been 32% Minneapolis hires, it is significantly less than the 51% required by the City of Detroit for the Red Wings in its project development agreement for the team's new $627.5 downtown hockey venue, Little Caesars Arena. State-issued bonds ($250 million) and city property taxes ($35 million) have provided a significant chunk of the venue's construction funding, so it follows that the local hiring requirements would be higher than other projects. But in this case, Michigan residents alone aren't enough. According to the agreement, 51% of workers have to be "bona fide Detroit residents," and 30% of construction contracts must go to Detroit-based companies.
The project has exceeded the company goals, with an estimated 38% of local firms under contract. However, things haven't gone that well on the local-hire side. The City of Detroit last week announced that it had fined several contractors a total of $500,000 for failing to meet the hiring mandate. By all accounts, project developer Olympia Development and general contractor Barton-Malow-Hunt-White — a joint venture of Michigan contractors Barton Malow Co. and White Construction, along with Indianapolis-based Hunt Construction — and its subcontractors have been aggressive in trying to attract local workers. They've held job fairs and organized their own training sessions in order to entice residents to learn a trade.
Even Detroit's Portia Roberson, who directs the city's office of human rights and monitors how well the project meets workforce requirements, told the Detroit Free Press that she believes arena officials have made their best efforts to draw in local workers. The fines, she said, would go into a fund to help provide worker training for future projects.

The potential pitfalls of requiring local workers

This begs the question, however: What if there just aren’t enough workers in some areas of the country to meet such ambitious hiring goals?
Whether it pertains to local or minority hiring requirements, 51% is abnormally high, according to Andrew Richards, co-managing partner at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck. For example, he said the federal and state minority mandates in the New York area typically top out at 30%, "and they can't meet the goals here either."
Richards added, "They're not realistic. The government shouldn't be in business. It wants to wave a magic wand without any sense of reality."
"Any firm will do its utmost to make sure individuals have training, but you can't teach experience"
Brian Turmail, senior executive director of public affairs for the Associated General Contractors of America, said the AGC "has long opposed any kind of hiring preference being connected to construction projects." Two-thirds of AGC members are reporting problems finding qualified workers, and if most contractors could fill their workforces with local hires, they would, he said.
However, according to Turmail, Detroit and other cities that are having trouble meeting hiring requirements could be reaping the consequences of their own actions. School systems all over the country have stripped their programs of career and vocational training, leaving little in the way of newcomers entering the construction workforce. Turmail called the fact that the Red Wings arena contractors held job fairs and training programs and still couldn't find enough workers a red flag. "Mandates don't get at the heart of the problem," he said.
In addition, Turmail said that some firms, in the scramble to find workers to meet hiring requirements, might bring on workers a little too soon, making the project site a more dangerous place for everyone. The first 90 days on the job is the most perilous time for new hires. Some companies might even be tempted to bring on workers who are not quite ready in order to avoid hefty fines like the one levied by Detroit, he noted.
"Any firm will do its utmost to make sure individuals have training, but you can't teach experience," Turmail said. "If they'd had tech education, they would have that experience. That's exactly where they learn it."

Similar obstacles in minority hiring requirements

A similar paradox can also be found in minority hiring, according to Richards. He said mentoring programs would go the furthest in building up a reliable stock of minority contractors, but the laws simply don't permit the kind of relationship between minority and non-minority contractors that would be the most beneficial.
"Established companies work as mentors, but law enforcement has to back off," he said. Richards added that he believes a mentor should be able to provide tangible assistance by lending the smaller contractor equipment or providing supervisory assistance in a pinch, but those acts are often against the law.
"Any help they give them is deemed to violate requirements and constitute fraud. No company wants to get indicted," he said. Nevertheless, Richards said that mentors are a necessity because the typical small minority contractor "can't go from a $1 million to a $25 million contract" without one.

What's next for hiring mandates?

So where are hiring requirements headed? Most likely up, according to experts. Even with construction organizations predicting unprecedented skilled worker shortages in the not-too-distant future, San Francisco has a 50%, across-the-board local hiring requirement currently being phased in, with the city mandating that half of all workers on city-funded work be residents of San Francisco or San Francisco County by 2017.
Requirements like these concern industry experts like Turmail because contractors are already having a hard time meeting their staffing needs.

"The real problem is failure to invest in tech education," he said. "We know it's the more effective way (to boost the local workforce) unless your goal is simply to collect fines."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Smart Shopping Corporate Shopping Malls

Smart Shopping

Retailers are adopting visible light communication technology to customize the shopping experience with data gathering and information delivery via LED fixtures.
In 2015, shoppers at a Carrefour supermarket in Lille, France, became some of the first in the world to try out a new retail experience: With the assistance of their smartphones and technology embedded in the 800 linear LED fixtures overhead, they were directed to the exact location of the products on their list. The technology that enables this experience to work—visible light communication (VLC)—is one of the latest evolutions in smart lighting, in this case offering retailers improved customer data collection, and shoppers a highly customized in-store retail experience.

So far, only a few lighting manufacturers are exploring VLC. Philips, which piloted the technology with Carrefour, has been working on VLC-enabled LED luminaires for the past decade, and it holds one of the foundational patents for the technology. The company is joined by other lighting manufacturers including Current, Powered by GE and Acuity Brands in their collective efforts to design luminaires that incorporate VLC technology. With the near ubiquity of smartphones and the rise of online retailers as a threat to brick-and-mortar stores, technologies that can help retailers to better reach the consumer at the traditional point of sale are beginning to enter the marketplace.

The Potential for VLC

VLC technology relies on LEDs’ programmability. While fluorescent, incandescent, and halogen lamps deliver a steady stream of light, LEDs can be modulated to flicker at specific intervals. Although imperceptible to the human eye, the light creates a unique pattern when turning on and off. That sequence is captured by customers’ smartphone image sensors, and with help from a companion app the data is turned into precise location information—essentially, an indoor GPS.

Because GPS pinpoints users’ locations with satellites, the technology that powers smartphone maps does not typically work indoors. For years, technologists have tried to come up with a solution, testing Wi-Fi, ultrasound, and Bluetooth low energy (LE). Prior to the emergence of VLC, Bluetooth LE was the prevailing choice, thanks to its relative ease of installation. While Bluetooth LE works regardless of where the smartphone is on the user’s person, VLC requires the device to be uncovered and oriented with its screen-side camera facing the ceiling. However, Bluetooth LE is less precise than VLC, with an accuracy of a couple of meters, compared to VLC’s 10 centimeters (3.93 inches).

It’s that level of accuracy that brick-and-mortar retailers are after. For example, if a customer comes into the store to buy a loaf of bread, they could take their smartphone, orient its screen-side camera toward the ceiling, and open up the retailer’s shopping app that they had previously downloaded. The apps typically incorporate a shopping list function, so the user can create a list of items that they intend to purchase based on the store’s inventory. The app then turns that list into a personalized map, drawing a route from the exact location of one product to another, and pushing coupons or other notifications along the way. So, the customer tells the app that they are looking for a loaf bread and it takes them there.

With VLC, location information is transmitted via the strobing of the LEDs, which is imperceptible to the human eye, while further alerts, promotions, and product information is delivered over Wi-Fi or the phone’s cellular network service. The level of data that can be collected varies. For example, Acuity Brands, which sources its VLC technology from Qualcomm’s Lumicast for its ByteLight indoor positioning technology, offers such services as heat maps and data analysis to identify merchandising hotspots. The technology is equally usefully for back-of-house operations, providing product tracking in stockrooms, and allowing workers to locate a customer in the store who has used the app to indicate that they need assistance.


This Carrefour supermarket in northeast France is pioneering the use of VLC in its overhead LED fixtures as an indoor version of GPS to guide customers to the products they want.
Understanding the Challenges
While retail is ahead of other industries in adopting many LED systems, they’re holding back on VLC. One contributing factor is that the use cases for retailers gathering consumer data and pushing out coupons and other notifications are few—a consequence of their hesitancy to install the systems in the first place. Another, perhaps bigger, challenge stems from LEDs’ inherent benefit: a long life cycle. “We tell retailers that the LEDs they put in the ceiling are going to last for 10 to 15 years,” says Maulin Patel, general manager of intelligent enterprises at Current, Powered by GE. “You can put in an LED with no bells and whistles, and wait for another 15 years until you can upgrade it and make it smarter. Or, you can go with smart LEDs [from the start].” With a new technology such as VLC, Patel says, many retailers would rather watch their competitors work out the kinks than be the pioneers with this new platform.

Although lighting rep agencies are often the ones to work with facility or utility managers when selling new systems, a key stakeholder in the integration of indoor positioning technology is the marketing and merchandising team. “It’s a multi-touch sales process in which we have to discuss value in many different contexts,” says Dan Ryan, vice president of product, IoT solutions at Acuity Brands. “Our core is energy-efficient LEDs and controls, but we have to tell that story side-by-side with the story about indoor positioning.” Many use cases for VLC in the retail environment are still to be discovered, further delaying the conversation.

The richness of the data and the effectiveness of the service relies on shoppers not only choosing to opt in, but opting in even though it means giving up a degree of anonymity, particularly in the case of the location identification feature. Lighting manufacturers and retailers have responded to consumer privacy concerns by keeping VLC voluntary. For one, shoppers must not only have on their person a smartphone with the retailer app downloaded in order for VLC to track their movements, but the user also needs to hold the phone with the camera facing the overhead luminaires. That’s all much more intentional than a Bluetooth beacon, which tracks customers by pinging the phone (held in hand or stowed in a pocket or purse) using a radio signal.

Current, Powered by GE’s VLC-based apps allow shoppers to use the indoor navigation tools regardless of whether they give the app permission to collect their data. And Acuity Brands’ ByteLight indoor positioning technology combines Bluetooth LE and VLC, allowing customers to benefit from in-store tracking, for which they must opt-in, even when the phone’s screen and camera are not facing the luminaires. Such integration could make it easier for customers to use the technology, encouraging adoption. The company intends to provide retailers with mobile VLC software that can be integrated into their own apps. “With that, [retailers are] free to do whatever they want,” Acuity’s Ryan says. “They can build a couponing experience; they can build navigation experience.”

Aswaaq, a supermarket chain in the United Arab Emirates, began experimenting with Philips’ VLC technology last year, and is releasing its companion app this fall.
Early Adopters and Applications
VLC is still an emerging technology, but early adopters are exploring its potential. One example is food retailer Aswaaq, based in the United Arab Emirates, who installed Philips’ VLC lighting last year. The retailer is working with digital indoor mapping company Aisle411 to build its companion app—which will include a shopping list feature similar to Carrefour’s—and plans to release it to the public at one of its locations this fall. The retailer then will assess customers’ responses to VLC before deciding whether to roll it out to the rest of its locations.

Meanwhile, Current, Powered by GE, is putting together an “ecosystem” of software vendors, Patel says, who will contribute apps to the platform that their fixtures will use. One app, for example, will target clothing retailers to track inventory to determine if a dress shirt has been put on the wrong display rack.

In Carrefour’s VLC pilot, the company’s app was downloaded approximately 4,000 times. Shoppers received coupons—a decision based on survey data indicating that customers wanted promotions but had trouble finding them in-store. While Carrefour is still analyzing the data to determine whether or not to implement VLC in more locations, the company is also looking into other ways to use the technology. For starters, they’ve created a Web-enabled shopping cart that relies on VLC for location services and features a touch-screen interface to assist shoppers in finding products.

The potential for VLC extends beyond retail to include object-tracking in factories and warehouses, optimizing workflow in a healthcare environment, visual zoning or geo-fencing, and more applications in which there is LED overhead lighting and a workflow or process to optimize. “There are so many things that we are doing in different spaces,” Patel says. “It’s a very exciting technology and an exciting time.” •

Architecture & Design Trends 2016-Series-3 FLex Rooms

Architecture & Design Trends 2016-Series-3 FLex Rooms

Trends define a generation. In architecture, they create moods for the industry and determine how personal space may influence daily lifestyles. Before presenting our 7 current home design trends, it is important to clarify the difference between ‘trend’ and ‘fad.’ Often used synonymously, their meanings are quite different.

A trend is something that catches on. It has the potential to persist for decades in some cases. What confuses many people is that a trend and a fad often look very similar in the beginning. Put concisely: a trend will give direction and a fad is just a craze. At HMH, we have solidified a custom design style that fuses classic trends with modern elements to become our own special brand of interior design and architecture.

Now on to the architecture & design trends in 2016 that we are excited about! From sustainable materials to functional living spaces and art deco prints, here are 7 architecture and design trends in 2016 to keep an eye out for…

Flex Rooms

Tying in with open concept design, homes are including more and more spaces that have less defined purposes. Architects are now designing flex rooms with the ability to easily transform into a new area without a complete makeover or costly renovation.
This is especially true as the aging population grows. Adaptations to make independent living simpler, or adjusting a family home for the addition of an older family member are two main drivers in this growing trend.