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    From smart buildings to smart precincts

    New models for the design of mixed-use developments

    As the rise of the smart, enabled precinct extends the opportunities for real-time real estate from a single smart building to an entire city block or urban digital district, what are the new models that are emerging?


    According to a discussion paper from developer Mirvac, co-produced with WORKTECH Academy, one of these new models is the design of mixed-use developments that incorporate workspace, retail, hospitality, leisure, residential, education, and transport. These developments are evolving to integrate physical experiences with smart technologies, strengthen the community fabric of an area, and support an emerging tech-led economy.


    The report identifies four core typologies:

    The enterprise model (workspace-led)

    This model is built around the idea of a dynamic workspace campus dominating a large part of the district. The main accent: business innovation, acceleration, and incubation.


    Mirvac’s Australia Technology Park (ATP) in Sydney is an example of this model. It is designed to create an environment for collaboration and exchange, imaginatively mixing workspace with public and recreational facilities. It is scheduled for completion in 2020.

    The emporium Model (retail-led)

    This model is built around the idea of a lively shopping center dominating a large part of the district. The main accent: smart retail destination.


    In New York, the Hudson Yards development is an example of this model. It is billed as ”a triumph of culture, commerce, and cuisine” and places a big accent on being a retail destination. The plans are to house around 100 luxury and specialty stores, including Neiman Marcus, which is making its New York City debut.

    The haven model (residential-led)

    This model is built around the idea of prime residential accommodation occupying a sizeable share of the district. The main accent: the smart home quarter.


    The South Korean smart precinct of Songdo near Seoul is an example of this model.  Residents in apartments can video-conference with neighbors or even attend classes remotely, using new technologies for social interaction and learning. Songdo International Business District includes homes, schools, universities, hospitals, office buildings, and cultural amenities, using smart city principles to shape its development, with sensors gathering data on traffic flow and energy use.

    The interchange model (transport-led)

    This model is built around the idea of a transport interchange taking center stage in

    the district. The main accent: the smart mobility hub.


    In London, the redevelopment of King’s Cross by Argent is an example of this model. The project has created a vibrant destination precinct built around an historic transport hub. This 67-acre digital district intermixes transport infrastructure with offices (including Google’s London HQ), retail/hospitality, residential, and education.


    All four typologies for the future of the smart precinct share some governing principles. These are:

    • The idea of one connected community across different building uses
    • Engagement with the sharing economy
    • Fluid boundaries and flow
    • The curated precinct
    • Flexible space
    • Makerspace culture
    • A focus on well-being
    • Destination, not dead zone

    Source: Mirvac/WORKTECH Academy report on The Intermix Approach: Activating the Smart Precinct, 2017

    About the author

    Profile picture of the author Jeremy Myerson
    Jeremy Myerson is the director of WORKTECH Academy. An academic researcher, author and activist in workplace design and innovation, Jeremy holds the Helen Hamlyn Chair of Design at the Royal College of Art and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford.

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