Office of the Future
The medium is the message with the world’s first 3D-printed office in Dubai, which houses one of today’s foremost innovation technology incubators.
It took one giant printer measuring 20 feet high, 120 feet long, and 40 feet wide 17 days to output the world’s first 3D printed office. Designed by the architecture firm Gensler, the compound of podlike buildings includes a central garden area shaded by palm trees, surrounded by 250 square meters of office space designed with communication between workplace teams in mind. Floorplans and interiors are based on leading research in 21st-century work environments. Opened in May 2016, the Office of the Future is an architectural and engineering breakthrough.
Located at the foot of Emirates Financial Towers in the Dubai International Financial Center, the structure is the base for the Future Foundation, a Dubai-based think tank that facilitates enterprise for the advancement of state-of-the-art technology innovation. Named for the fictional association from Marvel Comics, the Foundation spearheads an incubator program called the Future Accelerators Program, aimed at connecting the best of the startup technology sector with government entities in the emirate, with the goal of enhancing civil and social services in Dubai. The Foundation also heads up the development of projects such as the Museum of the Future and the Observatory of the Future.
A number of energy-saving features have been implemented in the design of the Office of the Future to ensure a reduced footprint. The structure’s orientation optimizes the availability of natural light, while digitally sculpted overhangs help protect the interiors from the heat of the sun. The building is equipped with 100 percent LED lighting and a low-energy-consuming air-conditioning system, and is surrounded by eco-friendly landscaping featuring local species of plants such as the Hymenocallis desert lily, said to have been the inspiration behind the design of the Burj Khalifa.
3D printing technology is known as an additive manufacturing process in which objects are built from scratch by adding layer upon layer of material. This approach allows for the production of objects in three dimensions of varying complexity in a fraction of the time that traditional engineering and production methods call for. Requiring a surprisingly small number of workers to put together, the manufacturing of the Office of the Future was overseen by one technician who monitored the printing. Seven installers and 10 specialists were involved with the on-site assembly. Dubai Media estimated that labor costs were 50 percent of what they would be on a traditional building project of similar size.
We see this project as a case study that will provide valuable lessons for the entire construction industry. It will also benefit governments around the world as they seek to better understand and take advantage of this important technology.
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum
In May 2015, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the Future Agenda via Twitter. The initiative calls upon the medical, consumer, and construction sectors to fulfill the Agenda’s commitment to the use of 3D printing technology in 25 percent of all projects in the emirate by 2030. In Dubai’s Industrial City, the International Center for 3D Printing opened in response to this Agenda, where exploration of the possibilities of the technology is underway; and in November of the same year, H.E. Mohammed Al Gergawi, minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, referred to the development of and commitment to 3D printing technology in the UAE as the “fourth industrial revolution.” And so the Office of the Future, currently aptly named in accordance with the forward-looking 3D-printing ambitions of Dubai, may one day have to change its name to the Office of Today.