Smart by Design: Enhanced Materials, Fixtures and Fittings

The capabilities of materials, fixtures and fittings that are available to architects are increasingly being enhanced by technology. Here we look at some of those that are providing technological enhancements to the built environment


Described as “the world’s first fully smart skylight” by maker Sunquare, Smartsquare is a skylight that connects to smartphones and virtual assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. This enables the skylight to be opened by voice command, while sensors also enable it to open and close automatically in response to a variety of factors, including weather, humidity, inside temperature, sunrise and sunset and the owner’s proximity to the building. It also features energy consumption monitoring, and can be integrated into a wider network of smart home technologies.


An alternative to traditional acoustic panels, Köral is an acoustic sculpture developed by AntiCAD and designed by Singapore-based design studio TakahashiLim. It has been created using algorithm-based parametric design principles, providing an unorthodox, sculptural form modelled on coral reefs. It is also made of a sustainable acoustic substrate, with fabric in either blue or red surrounding it, and is connected using 3D-printed joints.


LED technology has been utilised in lighting for some time, but Stefan Diez’s Guide lighting takes it to a new level. The LED source is embedded longitudinally into a glass, making it almost invisible and creating a fixture that glows across its surface without an apparent source. Part of a collection that includes pendant lamps and wall sconces, Guide is produced by Vibia, and is suitable for both residential and commercial projects.


A novel material developed by Cymat Technologies, Alusion is a stabilised aluminium foam that is produced in panels of a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Designed for applications including cladding, fixtures and furniture, the material is produced with at least 20% recycled content, and has a flame spread of zero. It can also be powder coated in any colour required, and can be given additional coatings to enhance its naturally strong corrosion resistance. It also has strong acoustic absorption properties.

Cementitious 3D Construction Printing

A construction technique offered by Sika using its custom ink and VisoCrete-formulated mix, Cementitious 3D construction printing (3DCP) provides precise, efficient printing of structures, in parts of up to 5m. Sika promises accuracy of less than 1mm, and is offering its technology for the construction of prefabricated elements, landscape features, columns, facades and walls – among others. The technique offers reduced costs and wastes, and supports unusual and complex structures.