A number of factors are now tending to direct designers away from fully automated systems. These are:

• Preferred conditions in offices are now complex and unpredictable, making it impossible to design for average needs. So often averaging out was another term for a 'lowest common denominator' solution. Even so, designers and modellers are still reluctant to abandon their faith in fully automated controls. Too often there is still no clear analysis of what controls can really achieve and how proficient people will be at operating and servicing them.

• Overcomplex systems can generate unpredicted consequences and even episodes of total failure. In such instances it is often perceived as easier to decommission the system than rectify it.

• Changes in office routine and design have revealed that opting for maximum daylight can produce irritating consequences, such as glare on VDU screens. Furthermore, maximum daylight designs rely on the reliability and user friendliness of blinds and this reliance has often been misplaced.

• To repeat: the objective should be to design straightforward, robust systems which are well within the abilities of both service and office managers to understand and users to operate. This will deflect occupants from resorting to easy, energy wasteful options.

The aim of the design team should be to achieve maximum energy conservation, consistent with operational realism. This is the recipe for sustainable design.

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