Adaptive Architecture: Regulating human building interaction

Lachlan Urquhart, Holger Schnädelbach, Nils Jäger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we explore regulatory, technical and interactional implications of Adaptive Architecture, a novel trend emerging in the built environment. We provide a comprehensive description of the emergence and history of the term, with reference to the current state of the art and policy foundations supporting it e.g. smart city initiatives and building regulations. As Adaptive Architecture is underpinned by the Internet of Things (IoT), we are interested in how regulatory and surveillance issues posed by the IoT manifest in buildings too. To support our analysis, we utilise a prominent concept from architecture, Stuart Brand’s Shearing Layers model, which describes the different physical layers of a building and how they relate to temporal change. To ground our analysis, we use three cases of Adaptive Architecture, namely an IoT device (Nest Smart Cam IQ); an Adaptive Architecture research prototype, (ExoBuilding); and a commercial deployment (the Edge). In bringing together Shearing Layers, Adaptive Architecture and the challenges therein, we frame our analysis under 5 key themes. These are guided by emerging information privacy and security regulations. We explore the issues Adaptive Architecture needs to face for: A – ‘Physical & information security’; B – ‘Establishing responsibility’; C – ‘occupant rights over flows, collection, use & control of personal data’; D- ‘Visibility of Emotions and Bodies’; & E – ‘Surveillance of Everyday Routine Activities’. We conclude by summarising key challenges for Adaptive Architecture, regulation and the future of human building interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-33
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Review of Law, Computers and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date3 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Feb 2019


  • Adaptive Architecture
  • ubiquitous computing
  • internet of things
  • smart cities
  • built environment
  • human building interaction
  • law and ethics


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