Data shapes design – Greg Dickason

Data provides insights that are not always obvious and can change the way we design our buildings, says CoreLogic’s chief technology officer, Greg Dickason.   The “deluge of data” now available at our fingertips allows savvy building owners, operators and designers to test their assumptions and change how they think.  Greg gives an example that has impacted shower designs.
Kevin:  One of the big challenges, I guess, for any developer is to understand where the market is headed. And they can do that a couple of ways: they can do it by talking to people, they can do it by getting a gut feel for what’s happening, and they can also do it by looking at their sales volumes. But that’s always very late.
So, trying to get ahead of the market is what I want to talk about in this interview, because it deals with data and how data can provide insight into where we’re headed with housing, what’s going to influence people to buy a particular property. I’m talking now to CoreLogic’s Chief Technology Officer Greg Dickason.
Hi, Greg, how are you doing?
Greg:  Great, Kevin, and yourself?
Kevin:  Mate, I’m wonderful. I’m prompted to talk to you about this because I saw a blog article that you wrote that we’ll deal with very quickly. I thought it was quite hilarious that we talked about shower cubicles and what data tells you about how women look at shower cubicles differently from men. Why is that?
Greg:  Yes, it was a really interesting insight. This little company that we’ve been working with, they integrate data from a building, and they were looking at things like where your swipe cards tell you where people are going, what kind of water usage happens, how people are using lifts, and all of that. And while they were doing that they noticed that women showered for far less time. The length of time that a woman spent in the shower compared to a man was much less, and they said “Well, why is that?”
They got that from the data, looking at the plumbing data and looking at the swipe card data. And the reason was that the women felt that they needed to get changed in the cubicle as well, so they showered quickly so that they could get changed so they weren’t stopping other people from using the showers. Whereas men, they showered but they left cubicle and they got changed in the open change room area.
As a result, it showed that the men and women approach that whole grooming process differently, and as a result, the actual design of the shower cubicles and the way showers should be designed for women and men is different and should be different.
Kevin:  Yes. And you only have to look at the bathroom configurations to know that there is a stark difference between the two. I’ve quite often wondered about this. I don’t want to talk too long about bathrooms and toilets, but for men, it’s a much easier process, isn’t it? We’re not as bound by the restrictions of privacy… I don’t know, I’m a male, I’m struggling with this.
Greg:  Exactly, and for me; I’m a male, too. But I think that the point is that you don’t need to come with your own biases, as such. The data tells you something, and as a result you can design your buildings more optimally for different people. This obviously is a male-female thing, but it’s the same for your Gen Y versus people who ride to work versus people who use public transport, cars – the whole way you should look at building design.
And as a result of this particular piece of work, there’s a number of developers in Sydney that are looking at different ways in which they can do buildings that are more optimally designed around people.
Kevin:  What are some of the other lessons that came out of this research? Was there anything else that you can share with us, apart from bathrooms?
Greg:  The other thing was really how different people use facilities differently – things like air-conditioning in the rooms. In this case, they’re starting to produce smart sensors that work out where you are in the building and can change room temperature and air conditioning based on who’s in the room, which I think is quite remarkable.
So, the fact that you actually download a little app on your phone and that app actually tells the building where you are, and as a result, it says “Okay, I’m in a room here where most people prefer their air-conditioning a bit colder, so I’m going to drop the temperature by a couple of degrees.” It’s quite amazing how that kind of stuff is beginning to emerge.
Kevin:  Yes. And you can understand in a commercial building where you have workers coming and going, that that could be a huge cost saver, but also in motels where… I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I leave a room, I don’t always turn the air-conditioning off, and I think, wow, that’s an incredible waste of power.”
Greg:  Yes, exactly.
Kevin:  In an era where we’re looking at privacy too, I guess this does raise some concerns about being monitored – how much are we being monitored, and is it all being used to our benefit, Greg?
Greg:  Yes, that’s huge. Obviously, you’ve seen what’s happened to Facebook in the last couple of weeks, with the mass leakage of data. I think it’s going to be a massive question for all of us. Europeans are moving much more towards privacy.
But I think there is a middle ground, there is a way in which you can gather this data, anonymize it and use it for really good insights for the developer. But you have to be careful about what you do with your collection of data.
Kevin:  Yes, it does actually come down to disclosure, which is, I guess, what Facebook are going through right now. I’m actually surprised in recent times – this has only been going out for a couple of weeks now – how many people are now jumping in to things like Facebook and saying “Well, where is my data going?” So we’re becoming more aware of it, aren’t we?
Greg:  We are. I think people were fine if they felt that all that was happening with their data was they’re getting advertised to, but we’re starting to realize that that advertising is actually influencing our behaviors and making us do things that we may not be comfortable with.
I think people are getting more aware of the fact that there is a lot more power in a company having a lot of your data.
Kevin:  There’s another broader question too, and I’d love to get your input on this, and that is companies that have been relying on social media and Facebook, particularly to do marketing, they’re probably going to have to change their focus or how they do it, Greg.
Greg:  I think so, definitely, especially if a lot of what you’re doing is through trying to gather and create your own insights. I think if you’re using Facebook’s platform on its own, you’re probably okay, but the moment you’re trying to pull data out of Facebook and use it, I think you’re going to have to change the way you do that.
Kevin:  Wonderful talking to you, Greg. Greg Dickason is from CoreLogic. He is their Chief Technology Officer. Great insight into what’s happening with technology, and in this instance how it’s framing how we live, how we work, and how we build.
Greg, thanks very much for your time.
Greg:  Thanks, Kevin.

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