Smart Buildings Magazine recently visited Stuttgart’s Vaihingen district to witness a super-smart, sustainable and net energy-plus building in action. Drees & Sommer, a leading European real estate consulting enterprise that has delivered future-shaping solutions for successful buildings, high-yield portfolios, powerful infrastructure and liveable cities for half a century, has approached the design and construction of its new headquarters building as a blueprint for cutting-edge digitalisation and innovation.

For the tech-led consultancy, it is all about brilliant basics and smart systems. To secure operations, facilitate connections and enable information to be shared across the organisation, the digital function and the systems in place must be secure, usable, customisable, helpful and easy. To that end, there is an app, supported by sensors, which enables employees to do everything from enter the building and book workstations near their teammates, to control the lighting, temperature and digital lockers.

Power management is integrated into the system, meaning the building automatically powers off at weekends and weeknights. Sensors detect motion and light levels and respond accordingly. Through the implementation of intelligent lighting, the business has achieved a 11% reduction in lighting by adapting to the sun’s rays. All conference rooms are equipped with Teams Hub and Clickshare. Smart TVs are donned with smart plugs, whereby motion activates the power plug and the screen switches on, and the lack of motion does the opposite.

These innovations save energy and unnecessary expenditure, while ensuring the building understands and automatically responds to occupant needs. It's not just a building solution, it’s solution for the whole company.

“The future is about buildings that learn to think and respond to the needs of their users,” stressed CEO Steffen Szeidl during the tour. “The smart technologies in our new office take care of lighting, heating, cooling, sitting areas and parking – ultimately providing an optimum user experience.”

The climate-positive building is a self-serving power plant that has been designed for not just circularity but flexibility, convertibility and a great workplace experience. But it's not just the building that is smart. It’s the approach.

For Drees & Sommer, the prerogative is to make its own business models obsolete through digitalisation. The vision is to generate 20-30% of revenues from new digital business models and platforms or adapted consulting services. To achieve that vision, the firm has its very own innovation centre, the birthplace of the innovations that led to the making of its new office. The centre, along with an ecosystem facilitated by Drees & Sommer called “CREATORS”, accelerates innovation through exchange and collaboration with start-ups. And it is sharing the insight reaped from such collaborations with the sector. To unite the worlds of disruptive thinking, start-up spirit and corporate expertise, Drees & Sommer developed a new platform called “Match” which helps representatives of companies and start-ups find each other.

Drees & Sommer, which has recently taken a stake in UK construction firm AA Projects, prides itself on being at the forefront of the digitisation and sustainability agenda. Its new HQ building is a manifestation of its commitment to not just shape but reimagine the future of the real estate and construction.