Office design serves as an outward extension of a company’s mission and culture. In short, it represents a key part of a brand’s identity. As the labor market tightens, companies now realize an office building can create a distinct advantage in the quest to recruit and keep workers. The expectations for a smart building are heightened by the Internet of Things (IoT), as smart devices sit in our kitchens, cars and pockets. This has created increased pressure on organizations to design workplaces that are not only stylish, but also on the cutting edge of smart technology that can rival homes.

Call it ‘wall acne’

Today’s building automation solutions intimately understand a working space and adjust automatically for maximum employee comfort and productivity. With the right technology, conference rooms can prepare for meetings by lowering the temperature and dimming the lights. Similarly, window blinds drop down automatically to block out the sunlight.

Some organizations allow employees to tap an app or issue voice commands to control lighting and temperature. These nuances can dramatically impact satisfaction and productivity, translating to increased sales and reduced turnover.

But these high tech gizmos come at a cost. For these functions to operate successfully, massive amounts of real-time data about the environment and habits of occupants is needed. This information is gathered continuously by sensors placed throughout the facility, with each sensor corresponding to a single function. The result is a conundrum of system controls that can overtake walls and ceilings, which has earned the name “wall acne.”

The complex web of controls fosters a disorderly appearance and detracts from the sleek design of today’s modern office. Unfortunately, building automation often works against décor – pitting form against function. This ultimately gives rise to conflicts among architects, interior designers, engineers and facility managers.

Growing consolidation

Building automation solutions are growing more sophisticated, and manufacturers have started to pay attention to the aesthetics of their devices. For instance, sensor hubs are taking the industry by storm and enabling brands to consolidate smart occupancy functionalities into one device. These solutions eliminate the need for scattering wall sensors and allow operators to run various intelligent data processing functions – from lighting and humidity to audio sensors for voice commands – through a singular hub that can be discreetly positioned out of sight. Additionally, a sensor hub typically allows for a more streamlined installation.

Best of both worlds

Research shows that buildings can influence happiness, productivity and collaboration. Companies that excel in these areas do not prioritize just aesthetics or automation – they unite them. A business needs comfortable chairs and abundant meeting rooms, just as it needs an intelligent system to inform employees when those rooms are available. A conference room is incomplete without responsive lighting, ventilation and air conditioning.

The integration of brand identity with building functionality is altering the way companies approach human resources, marketing, business development and facility management. In some cases, facility staff report to the marketing department, as workplaces evolve their digital and physical assets to keep pace.
Looking ahead, these departments will see greater interconnectivity as brands respond to the new modern building imperative. The result will be built environments that function intelligently and dynamically, without sacrificing aesthetics or style.