Ben van Berkel launches UNSense - a new tech startup and innovation platform for the built environment
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Ben van Berkel launches UNSense - a new tech startup and innovation platform for the built environment

Tues 13th March 2018 - The digital revolution is driving change in every part of our lives, except within the built environment. The time has now come to catch up.

This week, Ben van Berkel and UNStudio are launching a new arch tech startup:  UNSense 

UNSense - based in the Freedom Lab Campus in Amsterdam and led by Roger Tan - operates as an independent sister company to UNStudio. Building upon 30 years of architectural practice and expertise, UNSense explores and develops new integrated tech solutions specifically designed for cities, buildings and indoor environments.

Ben van Berkel: “We are living in the age of the iPhone, yet the architecture and construction industries are still in the Walkman phase. With UNSense, I want to fully integrate innovative technologies into the built environment and improve the way people live, work and get from A to B. It is not the hardware or the software itself that interests me, but how it can be applied within architecture and urban design to improve our daily lives.”

UNSense aims to get to the very essence of architecture: people.

Working in the intersection between technology and the built environment, UNSense aims to improve quality of life through social innovation. It explores and develops new technologies in order to humanise architecture. Ben van Berkel firmly believes that, through the targeted application of tech innovation, environments can be designed to adapt and truly support the needs of individuals and populations at large.

Ben van Berkel: “I look at technology within the built environment from the viewpoint of an architect, and that always starts with people. Instead of focusing only on performance or energy use optimisation, with sensorial adaptive environments, I see a great opportunity to create buildings and cities that are sensible and sensitive to human beings.”

Traditional architectural practices do not currently have the resources necessary to develop new technologies. There is little room for prototyping and testing such applications, but most importantly, different skill sets are required.

For this reason UNSense will operate independently of UNStudio and will collaborate with data analysts, algorithmists, neuroscientists, policy makers, students, municipalities, sociologists, economists, data architects, business case modellers, financial specialists, architects and more: all of whom will provide insights and expertise that enable the creation of innovative concepts that go deeper into the usability and modality of a city and its buildings; essentially into human behaviour and how spaces can respond to this.

Ben van Berkel: “I am of the firm belief that in the future all architecture practices will become arch tech firms, but for now we have to pave the way to make this expansion of our knowledge and expertise possible.”

Inaugural UNSense solutions include:

CitySense: Health, safety, liveability and mobility are complex challenges that require innovative, social and adaptive solutions. We believe that the goal of urban planning should not be to meet efficiency targets, but moreover to positively impact the life of people in the city. To do this we collect data through a sensory digital infrastructure. Based on this data, we design and implement positive, personal experiences for people and continuously improve on them, profoundly changing the way people live and work in our cities.

CitySense trials are currently running in South East Amsterdam and a number of other Dutch cities.

Solar Brick: new Dutch Solar Design PV Modules which combine high performance with a highly esthetic appearance. This enables the application of solar power on a much larger scale; not only as a rooftop coverage, but as a cladding material for the facade or the entire envelope of buildings. Solar Brick enables the transformation of all types of buildings into actual power plants: the start of a truly SMART facade.

In the future UNSense aims to develop solutions that go beyond smart city technology, where data gathered from the city streets is applied to build services. UNSense will develop and implement digital systems and technologies that enhance the city’s liveability, operability and manageability.

UNSense works on the scale of the City, the Building and the Interior. Digitally enhanced facades are also a focus of current investigations, as are indoor environments that fully understand a user’s preferences, needs, emotions and even intentions.

Visit for further information.


Karen Murphy
00 31 (0)20 570 20 40

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