Smart technologies are redefining the workplace. They are changing the ways that users interact with office buildings, and fostering increasingly innovative, creative and productive working environments.
Smart offices use technology enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) to gather data on a building’s performance or usage. Sensors, smartphones or wearable devices may collect data monitoring environmental factors such as temperature, light, air quality and noise, as well as data on employees’ usage of the building.
The data collected can deliver building managers with actionable insights on how to improve a building’s performance, or it may feed through to automated systems controlling the office environment. With smart technology continually evolving, it is being used to support an increasingly wide range of applications, providing multiple benefits to building owners, investors, occupiers and employees.
Smart is sustainable
Firms’ sustainability strategies have been a major driver of the rollout of smart technology. By providing more efficient controls over energy usage, it can deliver significant reductions in energy consumption.
It is no coincidence that some of the smartest office buildings in the world are also rated by BREEAM as among the greenest. Smart systems allow lighting, heating, air conditioning and ventilation to be monitored and adjusted according to a building’s usage and occupation. Energy wastage can be minimised by turning off heating and lighting when an office is unoccupied. Intelligent building facades may also be used to control the heat and light entering the building in response to changing weather conditions.
The next generation of energy efficient smart buildings have their own sources of power generation and some are even able to generate more energy than they consume, with surplus energy going back to the grid.
Smart technology is increasingly recognised as having an important role to play in promoting health and wellbeing. It can help to create environments that support alert, energised workforces.
Sensors can monitor air and water quality, light, temperature and noise levels. Issues known to affect workers’ concentration levels such as poor air quality or a lack of natural light can thus be detected and fixed. More advanced smart office technology can also make use of data from wearable biometric devices monitoring the health and comfort of workers. Ambient conditions
can be adjusted when workers show signs of discomfort, or an individual’s immediate working environment can be changed according to their personal preferences.
Enabling agile working
Smart technology is providing occupiers with a better understanding of who uses the office at any given time, how they work and with whom they collaborate. These insights can enable increasingly agile, flexible working.
Some of the newest generation of smart buildings have fewer desks than workers. Instead, employees may reserve a workspace using an app, with a choice of spaces depending on whether they would prefer a collaborative workspace, private meeting area or a quiet space.
Smart systems may thus facilitate a move away from the convention of employees ‘owning’ a desk, which then goes unused for periods when they are out of the office. Flexible workspaces can be used more efficiently and may be continually adapted to changing employee demand and new work styles.
Improving workplace experiences
As well as enabling desk and room bookings, workplace apps can also be used to order food and drink, book gym sessions or reserve parking spaces. They may allow employees to control ambient settings, as well as providing new ways of connecting and collaborating with colleagues.
Workplace apps are thus developing as important interfaces between employees and office buildings, giving individuals greater control over their office experience. This will help to align the modern office with the expectations of a younger workforce for whom smart technology already plays an integral part of their lifestyles outside of work.
The benefits of being smart
The advantages that smart offices offer in terms of sustainability, employee wellbeing, agile working and workplace experience, combine to produce significant improvements in productivity and cost savings. Smart offices also aid talent attraction and retention, by creating spaces in which people want to work, while appealing to workers’ environmental values. Modern, sustainable offices can help to reinforce a company’s brand values and define a progressive, forward-thinking corporate culture.
LSH is enabling clients in the South East office market to benefit from smart technology. Working with our partners, 4D Monitoring, sensor technology has been installed in properties managed by LSH across the region. The system, which uses small sensors about the size of scrabble tiles, sends real time data back to an online portal. It is very effective in identifying energy wastage and can help users to anticipate potential issues before they escalate into major problems. The technology has resulted in reductions in energy usage of over 20% in many cases, saving thousands of pounds in energy costs.
CAPITAL PARK, CAMBRIDGE - Smart technology enabled LSH to achieve a 27% reduction in gas consumption, saving over 54 tonnes of CO2e:
Truly smart offices, with fully automated smart technology embedded into every aspect of the building’s design, remain a rarity. Many of the most innovative smart buildings in the world are in Europe or North America, but smart technology of growing sophistication is making its way into the UK. This will continue as smart systems are increasingly integrated into new build offices.
Smart offices are still at a nascent stage of their development, and the full capabilities of the technology may only be realised over the coming decades. Smart offices will be a key part of our future smart cities.
For further information, please contact Frankie Bryon or get in touch for a copy of our recent Thames Valley & South East Office Report 2019.