Intelligent Spaces (DAT 602 Module)

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Promotional Movie.

The movie was made by Courtney Stephens, editing by myself and Nichollas Ong.

Powerpoint presentation

by Courtney Stephens, editing by myself and Nichollas Ong

link below


The Brief and our negotiation.

The Brief

This is a ‘negotiated’ project that develops the overall theme of The matter of “Immaterial” in the context of IoT  (Internet of Things) and physical, tangible wearable ubiquitous computing.

The negotiation

After an exploratory discussion with our module tutor (Gianni Corino) we fell upon notion of The Incredible Shrinking Man;

“The Incredible Shrinking Man is a speculative design research about the consequences of downsizing the human species to 50 centimeters. It has been a long established trend for people to grow taller. As a direct result we need more energy, more food and more space. But what if we decided to turn this trend around? What if we use our knowledge to shrink mankind? ” (, 2018)

Turning that idea on it’s head the team began to explore the idea of personal space and the notion of what defines a home space. It was this aspect of space and the briefs’ requirement of using the Internet of Things that begun our processes of building a working prototype.

The Problem

A shortage of adequate space, overcrowded spaces make for unhappy homes.

“The survey of 2,249 householders who bought homes built between 2003 and 2006 in London and the surrounding counties found that 47% did not have enough room for all the furniture they had or would like to have and 57% did not have enough storage”( Booth, R. (2017). Stated the survey from the Guardian in Aug 2009.

The survey shows Homes in Britain have the smallest rooms spaces in western Europe. The problem can only become worse, as reported in the Independent newspaper (Oct 2016) Gavin Barwell at the Conservative Party Conference told the conference attendees that he wanted the private sector to “innovate” ….and that relaxing the rules on how cramped a flat can be would enable younger buyers a change to buy their own property ..(edited version).


Table of rooms size

The issues we identified were how to make these small spaces, smarter and adaptive based on occupancy as use. To take that further, how can we as Digital Art/ Internet Design people use our skills and knowledge to help realise a solution to the idea of altering spaces, without losing the integrity of the notion of “Home”, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “The family or social unit occupying a permanent residence” (Oxford Dictionaries | English, 2018).

The Solution

Through the processes of mind mapping we began looking at developing spaces that changed (dimensionally) based on occupancy and context of use. It was clear that after working through some alternative solutions, moving walls offered a great deal of flexibility and changes of “feel” and purpose to the housing.

Brainstorm of solutions

Through our investigations into a method in which to increase the utilitarian capacity within the recommended living space, I came across an inspiring article called “Moving Wall Makes Rooms and Sense” (

Moving walls: Wall Position One (Anon, 2018)


Moving walls: Wall Position Two (Anon, 2018)

The article describes how “to transform a studio into a two bedroom apartment–all without adding virtually any additional volume to the overall space”.(Friedlander, 2018). It was from here that I started to develop the idea of an IoT (Internet of Things) based idea to motorise wall movement.

From the brainstorming session we chose to design intelligent spaces that changed interior wall layouts to suit occupancy and the usage of those spaces with a home environment.

Basic system flow (Chris Maycock 2018)

The group chose to build a working model (1 – 15 scale) where walls could be effectively removed to change the way spaces were defined. The 22 m sqr space that was defined through our research for 1 -2 people (fulfilling the Cooking- Eating-Living requirements, necessary for a “home”) was fixed. The internal determinations of the space were then designed to be altered to make “best use” of the internal living environment.

I found and example of a 22 m sqr layout and worked on the idea of how we could adapt the use of space based on this layout. After several sketches a began to make mock ups of different wall positions. These sketches were based on an actual living space (22 m sqr) of an apartment in Taiwan.

Pictures above showing 22 meter sq use of space in Taiwan ([online] Dezeen.2017)

Picture above: Early exploration of floor plan ideas for the model build (there’s a measurement error, which was corrected before production).

Outline research of other solutions found

The background research I ventured into showed that architects have been looking to solve the issues of maximising space for many years. Different approaches included;

  • Moving screen like walls
  • Open plan living
  • Mezzanine sleeping areas
  • Modular furnishings
  • Privacy of the circulation paths within the home

None of the solutions above looked at the aspect of developing a house that learnt to adapt to situational usage.

The Build

The model build was a joint venture with Luke Taylor as the model making skills that I carried were match well with Lukes’ engineering background and code skills.

The areas I specialised in where:

  • Research on design
  • Construction of model
  • Motors, & gearing
  • System designs
  • Time planning
  • Prototyping
  • Laser cutting
  • Project organisation
  • Research & development
  • Code debug processes
  • Core Concepts
  • Scale-ability of the project into a working system


We began designing a simple database that collected occupancy data, throughout the day for each room. This was done using PIR (passive infrared sensor)sensors,an electronic sensor that measures infrared light radiating from living objects that are in its field of view as a way of detecting people . The data is time stamped and the data then is processed by a simple program than then changes the walls (up or down position) based on how many people are in a space or the function needed. I.E: at main meal times the dining space would be bigger to accommodate those eating around one table

The next stage was to prototype a house model with movable walls that had a 22 m2 floor plan. Some of the model building processes and prototyping can be seen in the gallery below.

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I drew up some example spaces bases on typical ergonomic consideration (see research at the end of the blog post) and fixed the bathroom space at 1.8 m2 as per recommendations (Ideas, Planning and Barnes, 2018)

Pic; Some of my early sketched ideas were later to be adapted into CAD DXF files (a joint process with Luke and the lab technician Stewart Starbuck, yes that really is his name!).

I chose 3mm and 6 mm Medite  board, laser cut to form the wall constructions which were glued using Gorilla glue, super glue and contact adhesives

The planned system was  to move 2 walls through slots in the model floor via 5 volt step motors driving a toothed cog and an cog strip attached to the moving wall. The step cycles would allow us to raise or lower the walls based on the arbitrary occupancy data. We chose the NODEMCU boards so we could turn the motors through wireless connections to simulate the wireless nature of our project and how this could be up scaled in reality.

Testing each wall individually. Note that the runner supports are unpainted and the furnishing are not completed.

Image result for 5v step motor arduino



pic;  PIR sensor. Neuftech 3X HC-SR501 (anon.

 Video showing walls in up or down position, with 3D models in situ.

Problems encountered

It was out first experience in several aspects that were required in  making a working model, motorised model. Firstly CAD (Computer Aided Design) skills were rapidly learnt to construct floor plans (original wire-frames were drafted in PowerPoint). These floor plans were used to cut the Medite  (MDF) boards to build our model. The laser cutting process was very slow when it came to making grooves in the Medite board, so this grooving to seat the interior walls was abandoned in favour or supportive batons.

The build tolerances were so marginal, that the cogs could not keep contact with the cogged strips attached to the walls, and the motors did not have enough power to counter any friction caused through viable tolerances formed during the build.This meant one wall was stuck and didn’t move and the other needed hands-on assistance to move, making the model somewhat un-usable.

It was evident the wasn’t enough power in the motors and the loose runner wall desing was prone to jamming, the Node MCU board we we using to drive the motors although had Wi-fi built in, only have 3.3v output to turn the step motors. Also that Gorilla glue tended to expand as it cured, moving the components away from their required postions.

The solutions

The interior structure of the model was stripped and then drawer runners used the assist the walls moving, giving a more stable friction less movement. Automotive grease was applied to free the runner bearings to further reduce friction. The glue was changed from the Gorilla Glue to a super glue to offer more stability and less expansion during cure times for the adhesives.

We then used 2 motors instead of of one alongside 2 cogged strips to move the walls.

After many hours experimenting we moved to a direct 9v battery power supply to the motors. This meant that  each motor was receiving 4.5v from the battery, rather than 1.15v each from the NODEMCU board. The outcome was that the power and torque of the motors was doubled.

Our last issue had been the nature of running the walls the hot spot confections and addressing each NODEMSCU micro controller separately through mqtt. An issue we  have resolved before final presentation 19th Jan 2018.



The model did function after over 100 hrs build time and trial and error adaptation of earlier prototypes, but the construction was delayed due to access to work benches and suitable crafting resources. This was overcome through part home builds and using university spaces to construct and test the model.

Lack of experience is using laser cutters and CAD drawing meant elongated timescale for the builds.To resolve these issues in future constructions, allocation of more flexible times for learning new build techniques (CAD and laser cutting) Allowing for time adjustments to accommodate  either new motors and or a different designs for moving the walls would also have meant less time compression at the end of the project build.

The fabrication process was very hands on and if greater time scale was allowed i would have designed and produced every Medite board component to been laser cut to ensure a more robust model construction.

On reflection I would have built a separate external housing for the NodeMCU ESP 8266 boards and the power supply. This would and enabled easier resetting of the boards and and data sockets as the these micro controllers do switch themselves off after a relatively short idle time.

The basic programming worked on moving the motors and reversing the motors and the database (although it was carrying only arbitrary data) was successful. As was the PIR detection process so over all the research build and demonstration did conclude successfully.



Overall the model was able to demonstrate how the core concept of adaptive intelligent living spaces can help resolve some of the issues arising from living is small spaces in a crowded world. The technologies were an introduction to a core idea that could be further developed into a fully workable solution on a real-life scale. The experience gained in working with adaptive motorised environments opened the realms of future development for us as individuals within the team. It also helped us explore the working boundaries of pro typing, systems design and presentations of a final piece.


Background research

Occupancy Considerations


A married couple may not need personal privacy within the home internally, but may want to be protected from outsiders looking in.

Families often have shared spaces such as the kitchen, the dining areas and the family room or sitting room, but when those shared activities are ended personal spaces are required.


In England The Parker Morris Report (1961) is most often cite for space standards amongst building people, but it very often ignored in both the private and public sectors (HATC ltd for Greater London Authority, 2006). The trends are that currently the space recommendations from such papers as the Parker Morris reports are not being met and indeed new housing developments are decreasing in size. Taken form the House space standards proposal by the Greater London Council the table below shows the recommendations by them and their consultation process of min space requirements.

Persons Occupying CEL Areas (in M2) Cooking, eating and living
1 Person 22
2 Person 22
3 Person 24
4 Person 27
5 Person 30
6 Person 33
7 Person 36

The report further states;

Cooking, eating and living (Kitchen / Dining / Living) known as  areas exclude any utility area or space taken up on plan by staircases or hallways/corridors connecting these areas 2) The minimum floor area for bedrooms to be based on: a) Aggregate bedroom areas to be no less than 7m² per single bedroom and 12m² per double/twin bedroom provided AND b) Each bedroom to have a minimum internal floor area of 6.5m² for a 1 person bedroom, and 10m² for a 2 person bedroom2 . NB1: in larger dwellings each bedroom does not have to be at least 7m² or 12m² floor area; the designer is free to distribute the total amount of space among the bedrooms as they see fit so long as the aggregate space equates to the minimum requirements stated AND the individual rooms meet the minimum requirement of 6.5m² and 10m² noted above. NB2: ensuite bathrooms or shower rooms do NOT count towards this minimum. NB3: the floor space taken up by built in wardrobes in bedrooms counts towards the bedroom floor area 3) Storage cupboards: 1m² floor area for 1p dwelling plus 0.25m² per additional person.


1) Minimum room dimensions (at the narrowest/shortest point) a) living area: 3.2m b) double/twin bedroom width: 2.6m c) bedroom length: 3m d) habitable rooms to be no longer than twice their width, or no wider than twice their depth (i.e. the ratio 2:1 not to be exceeded)

2) “Dirty” storage (internal to the dwelling or block, or external) a) for flats without private gardens: 1m² b) for houses bungalows and flats with private gardens for up to four people:2.5m² c) for houses, bungalows and flats with private gardens for five or more people:3.0m²

3) Internal play space: nothing for the first two occupants and then 2m² for each additional person.

4) External recreational space (balcony): 3m² for 1 person or 2 person dwellings plus 1m² per additional person 5) Mobility: compliance with Lifetime Homes standards3


Utility of Rooms

After a brief research into how rooms are defined the author found 5 basic types of room requirements, these of course can be contained in one space or separately or a mixture of each.

  • Living Room
  • Bed Room
  • Kitchen
  • Bathroom
  • Utility spaces

“Basic Internal Functionality Drawing on the Stakeholders’ comments and the review of literature on mental health and well-being, and previous work undertaken by the BRE13 and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation / National Housing Federation14, we suggest the following factors will determine whether a dwelling has sufficient internal space for the designed level of occupancy:

1) space for the furniture & equipment needed by residents (including occasional visitors)

2) space to access / use the furniture & equipment, doors and windows

3) space to move around the home among the furniture & equipment

4) space to undertake normal living activities that do not just use furniture: a) washing b) dressing c) cooking d) eating e) playing f) socialising

5) space for storage of “clean and dry” items on shelves (linen, boxed up possessions, mops, hoover etc)

6) space for “dirty” storage such as bicycles

7) space to avoid feeling “cramped”

8) Sufficient separation of rooms to allow the required level of privacy

All except points 7 & 8 are capable of being reasonably objectively assessed. Point 7 is primarily a matter of expectation and habituation. It is therefore ignored. Point 8 – the degree of partitioning of spaces within the dwelling – is something that can change over the lifetime of the dwelling, so long as there is sufficient space overall. Designs that “work” when rooms are all separate will clearly “work” if the dwelling is converted to open-plan. The converse is not necessarily true. (Housing Space Standards.” (2017).)

Negative Effects of diminishing physical space in a home

“Altman (1975) who summarises some of the mechanisms through which psychological distress may occur. “As the number of persons within homes increases:

  • The number of social contacts increases
  • Privacy decreases
  • The number of unwanted social interactions increases
  • Parents may be unable to monitor the children’s behaviour
  • Access to simple goals such as heating or watching television may be frustrated
  • Activities such as using the bathroom have to be coordinated with others
  • Sick persons may not receive the care they require.

“(Housing Space Standards. (2017).)

“Maxwell (1995) studied 114 children, all aged four, in day care and Head Start classes in New York. She found that pre-schoolers who lived in crowded homes and went to crowded day care centres suffered more severe behavioural and cognitive development problems than children in just one of these crowded settings.” and Page – 45 “Data collected using a large-scale household survey into areas of West Belfast revealed an association between crowding and psychological distress among children (Blackman et al 1989).” (Housing Space Standards. (2017).)

Pic showing relative spaces for the human body (, 2017)

Pic; Furnishing ergonomics(, 2018)

use of space


Personal Space

The Oxford Dictionary defines personal space as “The physical space immediately surrounding
someone, into which encroachment can feel threatening or uncomfortable”. (oxford
dictionary,2017). The study of space is called Proxemics and was first coined as a term by Edward T. Hall, a cultural anthropologist in 1963 ( Retrieved November 14, 2015.) and it can bedefined as a way of determining how we as humans use of space around us and the effects thatpopulation density has on behaviour, communication, and social interactions.





Romm. C,2017

The diagram below from Edward T Halls theory of Promexics where he describes the theory as “interrelated observations and theories of humans use of space as a specialised elaboration of culture”(, 2018)

File:Personal Space.svg
A chart depicting Edward T. Hall’s interpersonal distances of man, showing radius in feet and meters (Anon, 2018)

Hall described the  radiating areas form the centre of ones body in a very specific set of metrics as given below;

  • Close phase – less than 1 to 2 cm
  • Far phase – 6 to 18 inches (15 to 46 cm)
  • Personal distance for interactions among good friends or family
  • Close phase – 1.5 to 2.5 feet (46 to 76 cm)
  • Far phase – 2.5 to 4 feet (76 to 122 cm)
  • Social distance for interactions among acquaintances
  • Close phase – 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 m)
  • Far phase – 7 to 12 feet (2.1 to 3.7 m)
  • Public distance used for public speaking
  • Close phase – 12 to 25 feet (3.7 to 7.6 m)
  • Far phase – 25 feet (7.6 m) or more.

I researched how this idea of personal space and proximity of furnishings, room size and other people determined the sense of comfort within the home environment.

The conclusion was a pretty intuitive one that the sense of involuntarily losing ones personal space can have negative impacts of the individuals’ psyche.  Add the this the sense of a compressed living space and one can determine that maximising effective space within and given fixed outer shell is necessary to improve housing standards.


Anon, (2017). [image] Available at: https :// [Accessed 11 Nov. 2017].

Anon, (2018). [image] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2018].

Booth, R. (2017). Rooms in newly built private housing are too small, says survey. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Knowledge and resources. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2017]. (2017). Cite a Website – CitHATCe This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017]. (2018). Proxemics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2018].

Housing Space Standards. (2017). [ebook] London: Greater London Authority. Available at: [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). personal space | Definition of personal space in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Nov. 2017].

Friedlander, D. (2018). Residential Behavioral Architecture 101. [online] LifeEdited. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jan. 2018].

NODEMCU Board. (2018). [image] Available at: https :// [Accessed 17 Jan. 2018].

Aouf, R. (2017). A Little Design creates 22m2 apartment in Taiwan. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https :// [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017].

Ideas, B., Planning, B. and Barnes, K. (2018). Bathroom Layout Guidelines and Requirements. [online] Better Homes and Gardens. Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018]. (2018). The Incredible Shrinking Man | Researching the implications of downsizing the human species to better fit the earth.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018]. (2018). ����������. ����������� ������� ������.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018]. (2018). The Incredible Shrinking Man | Researching the implications of downsizing the human species to better fit the earth.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018]. (2018). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Nov. 2017]. (2018). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].

Romm, C. (2018). Here’s How the Rest of the World Defines Personal Space. [online] The Cut. Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2018].

Anon, (2018). [image] Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2018].

Friedlander, D. (2018). Moving Wall Makes Rooms and Sense. [online] LifeEdited. Available at: [Accessed 19 Jan. 2018].

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