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Comfort – more than just usability

When it comes to comfort and convenience, the conversation quickly moves to technology: complex automation processes for cars, smart living or sensor-controlled systems which guarantee the most efficient energy consumption. The creature comforts of digital technology are now part and parcel of our everyday life and work. However, comfort is also about that feeling of wellbeing at any time of day or night, whatever the weather. It's about long-lasting, convenient solutions for everyone, at any time.

The transformation of our society presents new challenges in all areas: from the planning and design of buildings through to product design, information technology and infrastructure. More and more buildings are being developed for unknown users. They therefore need to be flexible and adapt to the demographic changes in society while remaining economically viable.

Future-proof strategies, concepts and technologies track the needs of the user. After all, we love innovations, but only when they make our lives easier and offer added value. This may be a hotel room equipped with amenities that are different to your own home or the seat in a sports car which provides a comfortable and safe journey. Lack of comfort can also become an issue, however, such as when you need to limit certain things in your everyday life in order to reduce your energy consumption.

All of these examples show that comfort levels depend on the expectations of the individual and are felt in different ways.

But wouldn't it make sense to meet as many user needs as possible? This relates to the digitalisation of previously analogue processes and products, as well as the societal challenges caused by complex factors such as diversity and demographic change, but also climate protection and sustainability.

Ease of access is a hot topic right now. How can we design our living spaces to ensure that they can be used by as many different people as possible, regardless of their age or disability?

It could also be future-proof developments such as automated systems and buildings. Mechatronic units and automated functions replace manual operation of windows and sliding systems and can be controlled via an app or voice command. Building envelopes need to be equipped with smart technology that enables them to respond to external environmental influences and user requirements on the inside, so as to attain a balance between energy consumption and user comfort. This has an impact on using daylight in a way that still reduces the thermal effects of sunlight, as well as on the air quality in the room, the acoustics and the comfort levels at workstations.

Innovative material developments are not only the future of construction, they also have a direct effect on user wellbeing, for example through antimicrobial surfaces which respond to specific hygiene requirements. Last but not least, new designs and production methods require new processes and tools for managing the complexity of construction – not only during planning and implementation, but as early as the project management stage and later during operation for the entire lifecycle of the building. And sometimes it helps to push out of your comfort zone so that you can see a change in perspective and discover future-proof ideas and concepts that meet today's requirements.

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