Smart cities made up of smart buildings are on everyone’s lips. However, only 68 percent of real estate professionals fully understand what a smart building is, indicating a knowledge gap.
Smart buildings are evolving to the next level: a connected, human-centric workspace that has an intuitive awareness of its occupancy and utilisation, with an app-centric interface that makes everything easy.
Ultimately, buildings are only enablers of economic activity, with better buildings producing better work outcomes. The challenge of increasing productivity and innovation must be seen as a mix of people, place and technology. Each of these elements plays a vital part and must be considered of equal importance.
The Activate model, by Schneider Electric, provides the basis for the business case for smarter space. According to the model, the eight elements that constitute the next level of smart building are:
Sensors and connected devices provide unprecedented information on how a building is operating. Air quality, temperature, light levels, cleanliness, maintenance and use of space can be adjusted depending on the data fed back to the Integrated Control and Management System.
Highly advanced monitoring of energy usage, water consumption and waste production, coupled with the ability to turn off lights, devices and whole floors if needed, allows energy management at an advanced level. Combined with energy management strategies, this can create net-positive buildings that make more energy than they use.
The next generation smart building accommodates the successor to activity-based working (ABW) with flexible, fluid modular systems to enable evolving workspace requirements. The acknowledgement of team needs, coupled with new team structures based on social media and collaboration data, will mean that the workplace is constantly changing.
Personalised experiences and comfort conditions, access to building facilities and collaboration will all be through your smartphone app. The building will recognise you and your needs, adjust configuration and make suggestions based on your preferences.
Wellness is now a serious issue. Clear evidence that wellbeing contributes to productivity and employees value its provision means that health is a trend that is not going away. 95 percent of Australian companies claim wellbeing is a key component of their strategy. Smart buildings contribute to healthy environment and provide the technology that can facilitate and measure wellbeing.
Smart building technology is an enabler to a smarter corporate culture that drives growth and innovation through creativity and collaboration, in a working environment that just works and through the use of real-time data to drive serendipity.
The trend is towards co-working, co-creating space and innovation areas, where colleagues mix with people from other business units, and even other companies. Big corporates rub shoulders with start-ups and academics in activated spaces. Workplace as a Service (WaaS) allows start-ups and smaller companies to buy workspace in the same way they buy a coffee.
There is a move towards using real-time occupancy data that will give insights into how a building is used and the dynamics of the workforce. Future algorithms can use predictive analytics to drive behaviours, patterns of use or interactions.
This article is an excerpt from the Schneider Electric report titled, Activate to Collaborate – The Evolution of the Smart Workplace. Download the report
 Workplace as a Service (WaaS) allows companies to lease office space not by the square metre but by the seat, with all of the IT and communications included.