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Feature article

Our society is increasing its demand on the justice system. We want to have the freedom to communicate in any medium and elevate issues in the public domain openly. We want to have more transparency and the ability to influence outcomes. We are hungry for information and want to share our likes, dislikes and views openly. At the same time, we do not want to diminish our freedoms despite the new risks to which we expose the most vulnerable people in our community and impose a step change in the information challenge in maintaining our security in the face of new threats to our quality of life.

Dynamic is the New Norm

We are part of a global community and the world we live in is changing, fast. As community expectations evolve the threshold is being pushed higher. We need to do more with less. Built form that is a static, passive asset is something of the distant past. Built form and the people that conceive it, need to keep in step with social change or be overtaken by the future and made redundant ahead of time. Our processes to procure, build and operate need to be vessels for change. They need the ability to cope with changing user requirements, new technologies and changing social behavioural patterns. Project teams that conceive, design and deliver our future buildings need to understand the critical factors that will influence how successful we are in making outcomes more flexible to accommodate changing community expectations.

Project sponsors need to arm designers with critical insight into the emerging trends and likely catalysts for change over the life of an asset, so they can pre-empt how change can be accommodated or facilitated in the built environment.

As funding becomes more scarce, we need to do more for less by employing delivery methods that incentivise innovation and break the usual trade-off between price and performance. Procurement methodologies need to be tailored to encourage innovation and promote outcomes that accommodate future change without prohibitive cost penalties. For example, early involvement in design and procurement by builders and specialists can provide a greater pool of expertise; allowing accurate and informed decision making and awareness of the time and cost implications of desired outcomes.

While current practice in future proofing will drive ‘business-as-usual’ initiatives – access floors, redundancy in building services, flexible facades and penetration zones for future stairs or services – a more sophisticated approach might consider anticipated societal trends and resultant changes in the way buildings function. The brief can include, for example, a ‘future-proofing’ section with targeted directions for the team to employ specific initiatives ensuring beneficial flexibility for change in the built form.

We should not allow the utilisation of buildings to decrease over time as policies and community expectations change. Designers need to find clever ways of making buildings agile and scalable so they can be adapted in response to change without prohibitive cost penalties. Further, we can no longer just design buildings to meet minimum requirements based solely on internal requirements. The pendulum is swinging, and external factors such as cyber and physical security concerns and the information challenge are adding new dimensions to the design requirements of our buildings. Not everyone is a customer anymore, and the very nature of courts – as premises that warrant high security design – puts a strong emphasis on these external factors in our global community.

A Positive Tension

If we conceive of courts as buildings alone and not the outcomes they stand for then we need to be open to [the idea of] creating a conflict between our perceived human rights and our desire for security. Currently, we are expected to deliver on our aspirations for human rights while maintaining and improving our security. This stretches our thinking to be more innovative and to deploy more predictive thinking in how we conceive of our solutions.

We don’t need to give up either our aspirations for human rights or security. Too often we bend toward compromise because we see conflict between the things we want to achieve. That is because we are thinking in a way that makes the things we see in conflict the problem rather than seeing conflict as a signal to inspire new thinking. We need to think differently about how we conceive our solutions so we can balance our priorities and find the best way to deliver positive outcomes.