How smart buildings are driving a workplace evolution

by FM Media
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Buildings and the workplace are evolving from inert containers into real-time assets. They are becoming connected real estate where the building can load balance itself – optimising its reaction to its real-time occupancy.

With this evolution there is potential to advance the facility management industry. Progress in sensors, Apps, analytics and predictive optimisation mean that the utilisation of buildings, and the work of those managing them, will become much more sophisticated.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is converging with real estate to create an ecosystem where every aspect of the building can be connected.

With open standards based around the Internet protocol (IP), and a unified network, buildings can have a smart, centralised backbone and network, where each element can connect to one another.

The rise of networked building opens up all sorts of possibilities, from connected real estate providing property directors with a live view of their portfolio, to the idea that a property can play a part in corporate success.

How space will be used
A Schneider Electric study found that 78 percent of people agreed that capturing real-time data on how staff are using workspaces is a major trend.

As the IoT develops, more devices, sensors, meters and hardware are coming online and providing information.

In a smart building this data will provide detailed information on how a building’s use is changing, which rooms and spaces have people in them, and when certain items need replacing, cleaning, or maintaining.

Integrated control and management systems (ICMS), or building management systems (BMS), can now receive information from various sensors and devices, and can adjust settings for temperature, light and room allocation in response.

In most commercial buildings today, the BMS only regulates critical plant systems, but the next generation of ICMS can do more by connecting to smart devices, acting as the operating system, and making decisions that optimise performance.

With the emergence of power-over-ethernet (PoE) systems, where electrical power and data can be transmitted over ethernet cabling, individual low power devices, such as LED lighting, can be powered and send data to the ICMS.

From a facilities perspective, the amount of data feeding back into the ICMS allows it to become an intuitive building, which knows instinctively what needs to be done.

Multi-generational workforces
We are in a unique time where four generations make up the workforce. It is clear that these generations see work differently and have different expectations of the workplace – this also creates opportunities.

Optimising the collaboration between generations is an additional way to boost innovation and productivity. On a purely physical level, the amount of noise, light and temperature that people of different ages tolerate is usually different.

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A workspace that allows you to set comfort settings to optimum working conditions suits all ages. Equally, flexible activity-based working (ABW) gives people the choice to work in a place that suits their needs and expectations.

If people are fit and well then they are more productive and take fewer sick days – even more important with ageing workforces.

What really attracts talent?
The next generation of workplace should effectively utilise technology to help optimise the working conditions of all of its occupants. It is important that buildings enable smart working and also represent the ethos of the company.

Buildings are made as culture clubs; they are part of bringing people together as part of the brand that they work for. It’s about how people are energised in that space and technology needs to reinforce that as well.

What differentiates an organisation from its competitors is the experience you have when entering a building, which is a reflection of culture and will be enhanced by technology. This is relevant to the customer experience as well as to the employees’.

A job is more about who you are and what you represent than ever before. By working for a company its employees are looking to achieve goals, and at the same time align with the organisation’s ideals.

This article is adapted from the Schneider Electric report titled, Activate to Collaborate – The evolution of the smart workplace. Download the report.

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