Understanding adaptability through layer dependencies

This paper looks at change from the perspective of building design (i.e. building adaptability), and how a better understanding of product architecture can bring about an easier accommodation of change for an unforeseeable future. The work explores the use of a design structure matrix (DSM) to understand the building's capacity to accommodate change using building decomposition methods (Brand's layers) and component interactions as initial guides to suggest possible product architectures. Research for this study took place along side the design stage of an ongoing BSF school project. The systematic analysis of design drawings and reports was undertaken in three phases: code documents using Brand's layers; identify all variant components to create a work breakdown structure; and classification of all component relationships populating a DSM. Simple principles, such as achieving modularity between component dependencies, can potentially reveal the implication of changing components. Insights that have been gained through the data include the appropriate layer placement of components, the possibilities of new/different layers, and the highlighting of unwanted/ hidden dependencies. The DSM permutations have also provided a deeper understanding of the software used and its algorithmic behavior, giving greater clarity of the organization of the components, and the development of component typologies in an effort to provide a consistent, logical approach to refining the matrix.