Toward A Distributed Business Model

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With the future uncertainties of the architectural profession, among many other trades, in lieu of a declining economy, it appears to be critical to rethink current business models (relationship between architects/clients/cities/etc.) that limit the discipline to a confined role. It is important to note precedents in other fields whom are ahead of the economic curve despite recessions as well as cultural trends. Two trends I believe architecture could take advantage of, for both increased monetary gain and building performance, is the media-driven world of cloud-computing and sustainable practices (“the green movement”). To increase their longevity, as do species in biological nature fighting for survival, increased their diversity and stretched their web-of-influence within the ecology.

This year, Boeing will no longer sell jet engines; rather they will lease them, so that overtime they may continually monitor the performance of the jet engines from larger ranges as opposed to only monitoring an individual engine—where little information can be gathered compared to the emergent information that will be seen from looking at the entire field of engines within the world. As a business model this allows them to have access to a continuous flow of finances from both a product and service. Their monitoring not only allows them to see in real-time the performance of their product/design, but how to better re-design future engines—which will undoubtedly lead to patentable products/designs.

This type of business model can be seen in relation to another profession that was at once losing out on it services/product due to piracy and outsourced/generic models—mass-media: music, videos and software. To combat the problem of piracy, in conjunction with novel ideas of distributed networking and cloud computing, allowed software companies to hold on to their product while the users merely tap into this continuous stream of product. This allows both the company to monitor the popularity and profitability of their services (the performance) and also allows for a continuous stream of financial income by increasing their web-of-influence.

These examples are interesting models considering the current atmosphere that the architectural profession is now immersed. Architectural firms, in this scenario, would design and simulate architectural solutions, both seek-out clients and become more available to new clients, lease the product to the client, and continue to monitor the product throughout its lifecycle. This would allow the profession to take a lead role in the enhancement of building performance through quantitative and qualitative monitoring—where currently we lack real-time quantitative data to back up our computer simulated data of building performance. This would produce valuable information for the built environment, as a scientific and technological vantage, through the increased data afforded by the monitoring of multiple buildings in the environment. This type of model might, in fact, be a more pleasurable model considering the changing sociocultural landscape for those seeking rapid exchanges/transactions (mobility as opposed to stability/lease as opposed to outright ownership). The second cultural shift affecting this movement is the increased call for sustainable technologies over the lifecycle of a product [decreased carbon footprint and waste reduction] and the increased monitoring, simulating, and tracking of every known product and service in both the present and past. In addition, to its benefits toward better understanding our built environment and sustainable technologies (monitoring, sensing, and simulating), at a time when there are large fluctuations and instability in the economy and world markets, whether the architectural firm was in fact designing new buildings/infrastructure or not, there would still be a steady-income and need from the monitoring and upkeep of the buildings and the built environment at large—the web of interdependence would be too great between the two for either to be pulled apart—a symbiotic relationship.