Smart Buildings Magazine’s vox pop returns, asking one topical question to the industry.

This month’s question is: How will workspaces change, when smart buildings technology is introduced?

Thanks for all the responses, it’s much appreciated and if you would like to be added to the panel, please drop me an email and I will send you the next question. We’ll also be posting the story on LinkedIn, so if you want to add to the debate, please feel free to do so.

Improving workspaces will be beneficial in the long run for all businesses. Small changes such as good food, healthy temperatures and access to natural light will improve employee attitudes, leading to less absenteeism. These may seem like modest influences on the working environment, but they are having a huge impact on productivity. In particular, according to recent scientific research, improving employee fitness has proven to lead to more efficient employees.

The rise of technology is also playing a significant role when it comes to improving health and wellbeing amongst businesses. Certain technology such as embedded sensors, monitor temperature and CO2 levels throughout your building’s premises. This allows building management systems to automatically regulate heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems and ultimately creates optimal air quality for all employees. In turn, this is set to create a better workspace for all.

The rise of building apps in particular, operated through the building’s management software are providing employees with new outputs and changing their working environment. From their desks, through their smartphones they are able to order food and beverages, find a meeting room and even have the benefit of locating colleagues when they are needed. This marks a stark contrast compared to workspaces from just a few years ago.

Adopting these technologies will not only reduce energy costs in the long run but they will also allow for greater efficiency and well-being. This is vital to ensure greater productivity when it comes to their work and their workspace in general.

Pradyumna Pandit, VP UK and Ireland of Ecobuildings, Schneider Electric

Smart Building technology should enhance the end users’ experience. It should be smart yet not complex. It should be in synchronicity with the end user and passive by design. This ultimately means that the end user shouldn’t need lots of gadgets or devices to control the environment and improve their comfort and wellbeing, the environment should adapt based on their behavioural patterns.

Smart building technologies should not only provide comfort, but also enhance productivity. It is said that it often takes up to 20 minutes to regain focus on important tasks following distractions, so the more time employees spend raising issues regarding inadequate conditions, the less time they have to focus on their work.

The technology to enhance productivity is readily available, however the challenge is making it all work in a seamless and cohesive way. Quite simply there are still many silo systems and manufacturer barriers onsite within the traditional HVAC & IT realms. Consider BMS, Lighting, Access Control, Room Booking, Space Utilisation, etc. The task of smart building technologies is to integrate all these systems into one platform to deliver a more efficient workspace which can then be further enhanced with IOT and smart sensors.

Looking ahead, the advancements in AR and VR will also revolutionise how workspaces will operate. Providing the ability to walk around a virtual instance of your building and remotely view the status of your systems or to host a meeting at a ‘virtual table’, delivering a real-life meeting experience.

The introduction of smart building technologies will in summary make way for more intuitive and flexible working.

Andrew McKenna, head of technology development at ENGIE

Over the last few years we have been concentrating on making buildings energy efficient but as smart buildings technology develops there will be a greater focus on the health and well-being of occupants.

The primary function of the BMS is to provide a comfortable working environment by maintaining an appropriate temperature, humidity and air quality. From a well-being perspective, the provision of a high quality (easy to use) user interface that enables occupants to understand what the current conditions are and how to adjust them is important, whether it be wall-mounted or via an app on their smartphone.

It is about putting occupants in control. Giving them the opportunity to change the temperature, air conditioning or even lighting within a space to suit their own requirements and maintain a comfortable working environment. In this new world of connectivity and the IoT, building occupants also understand they can have more control over their comfort and wellbeing.

Studies have demonstrated an increase in employee productivity of an additional 9%, when occupants were provided with control over their environmental settings.

Simon Ward, director of sales - UK & Ireland at Distech Controls

Intuitive workplaces will be enabled by intelligent buildings: buildings will adapt to users and their preferences. This will enable a high level of customisation and control.

Smart technology will influence new workplace landscape: new types of space will emerge. Flex space, accelerator, and incubator spaces will become vital components of workplace and innovation strategy.

Space optimisation & efficiency will rapidly increase : By monitoring the use of space and the types of interactions that take place in a workplace—and correlating that with strategic business metrics like the number of new product launches, bottom line or staff turnover— companies will be uncovering new ways to optimise space to enhance productivity.

Data will drive design: linking business strategic aims and day-to-day operations. Workplaces will become more modular and will enable economical redesign more frequently

Akshay Thakur, smart buildings programme director, JLL

Smart technology has a transformative impact on the changing workspace, both from an employer and employee’s perspective. For the business itself, we are seeing customers reduce operational costs and gain valuable insights. It’s exciting to see them get the most out of their building, as opposed to a depreciating asset.

Tapping into the Internet of Things and data-driven analytics, for example, enables building managers to regularly pull occupancy data from a vast network of sensors placed around the building, be that on ceilings, walls, or desks. This helps in determining the level of activity in an area. Having a complete view of where, when, and how space is being used helps managers identify opportunities to optimise usage and reduce costs.

This could be deciding whether to lease an existing space out, to repurpose existing space, or build new ones. Improvements can also come through aligning building equipment, HVAC, and maintenance schedules with actual usage patterns.

For building occupants, smart technology means a more engaging experience. In an office, the information could mean temperature is altered in line with the day’s weather. Employees are afforded a more comfortable, satisfying building experience as they work. Additionally, digitising access control with smart technology can mean a more seamless experience.

Alastair Reynolds, managing director UK & Nordics at Honeywell Building Solutions.

With the inexorable progress to a wider application of smart technology, the workplace will adapt to reflect this advancement.

The operation and maintenance of these properties will become more efficient, information based with real time changes possible. As designs and fit outs of buildings develop, the smart technology will reflect the shift from traditional ways of working and provide real time data and information that will drive energy efficiency and improved asset life.

Most importantly, technology will support a more engaged and informed workforce. With a secure, safe and optimised working environment, building users should be more productive and the opportunities to promote the wellbeing of all building users.

Tim Barnes, energy business development manager, Synapsys Solutions

With the introduction of advanced building automation technologies, we can expect that workspaces will become more personalized and more convenient. As a result of decentralization of lighting or HVAC control systems, occupants will have more ways of interacting with their immediate surroundings.

This will allow them to make their workspaces more personal and tailored to their current needs. Improved convenience will be a result of a higher degree of automation. Sensor packed buildings of the future will be able to learn the habits and preferences of their occupants adjusting relevant services to both general building utilisation patterns, as well as individual needs.

This doesn’t have to come at the expense of privacy, although lawmakers still have to come up with adequate solutions for governing the way such data is processed and used.

Rafal Han, CEO, Silvair

Technology’s greatest gift to thinkers is creating real opportunities for lateral thought. For someone who was sick of standing in the rain, desperately looking for a cab, for which you had to go to the ATM to get cash, technology has enabled a solution which connects previously distant value chains to deliver an experience that has created and exponentially grown Uber. Not just that but influenced an entire economy as the idea of ownership and sharing go through seismic disruption.

So, what for workplaces? Well, the reality is that technology, as described in the Uber example, has reset consumer expectations. FM, along with other professions such as HR, have strived to standardise processes to make management more efficient, whilst in the ‘real world’ the idea of mass standardisation is yesterday’s model. Customisation, personalisation and low commitment are the order of the day. Not only is the nature of jobs being affected by the way technology is shaping society, but so too are the workplaces where work is carried out.

These need to be shaped completely around experience and technology should be leveraged to create a “digital wrap” around the physical to augment the workplace experience.

Our research, Embracing Technology to Move FM Forward, explores the profession’s awareness and readiness for emerging technology. Worryingly, the strength it showed was limited only to the tools we use to make our own working lives easier (CAFM, BMS, IWMS etc.) whilst neglecting the technologies that make everyone’s working life easier. More work to do.

Chris Moriarty, director of insight, Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management

With the introduction of smart technologies the workplace will listen to the user’s needs and respond to them without human intervention. For example, a worker that frequently uses a space-app to complain of being too cold would be directed to a warmer part of the building the next time they arrive. Their desk would be assigned based on comfort preferences, and the app would guide them to it.

At lunch-time, the app could present them with deals available from local eateries they have shown a preference for. When they book a meeting room, the room will be lit and up to temperature when they arrive, and automatically turn off once the meeting is over. The app will even show them directions to the room if needed.

The net result will be increased wellbeing, which we know increases productivity. The business will benefit from more efficient space-utilization. The building’s carbon footprint will be reduced as it will efficiently allocate space and not service (provide light and heat) to unused areas.

In short, smart buildings are more efficient for business and the planet.

James Palmer, global associates

Smart buildings technology covers a large scope and the primary application we see today from the market leaders is based on IoT sensors and applications to make the workspace optimal for the building occupants – and that is an important aspect – but only one facet of tomorrow’s smart building. This will see a drive to a smaller office space with higher levels of utilisation – underused desks and meeting rooms just cost money and provide no return for the business.

Smart buildings are going to contain higher levels of mission critical infrastructure, to support network edge compute and 5G base stations – due to the nature of 5G radio transmissions.

These services need uninterruptable power supplies to ensure application uptime and business continuity. With the increase in energy usage of these systems and the ever increasing energy costs – smart building operators are going to need to consider how they can minimise their energy spend – battery enabled grid support services can help reduce these ever growing energy costs by providing a supplementary revenue stream from the building infrastructure.

Adrian Barker, senior director business development, Vertiv

“In today's performance-driven society, employee productivity is the key to success for many businesses. It is no longer enough to simply provide workers with the basic tools to do their jobs. From the chairs they sit on, to the facilities and office buildings they work in, it is becoming increasingly important to consider the working environment. One element of smart building technology that can greatly benefit workspaces is lighting and blind control.

“The importance of natural light cannot be underestimated. However, not every office is situated on the top floor of a tall building with unobstructed views of the horizon. This is where smart building technology comes in. One way to mimic the outdoor experience is to mirror the colour of the light outside and the changes throughout the day.

Lighting control technologies can now automate changes to ‘colour temperature’ inside the building with no additional effort from facilities managers. This means cooler, bright light in the mornings for an energetic start to the day, and softer, yellow light in the afternoon to help staff wind down and prepare for a restful evening.

“On the other hand, too much natural light can also cause problems. Smart blinds, designed for both glare control and solar heat rejection, can reduce glare and increase employee productivity.”

Dave Ribbons, senior director of sales Europe & Africa, Lutron Electronics

There are two main factors that need to be considered in the workspace; occupancy comfort and energy efficiency. As smart building technology is introduced, we will no longer need look at these as competing factors but ones that can be achieved in combination.

By utilising smart sensor technology, building owners and facilities managers can monitor the operation of their building in more detail than ever before. Sensors can measure, analyse and evaluate all sorts of building performance data and make this information available to the control system. By pulling together this information and using it to determine the actions of connected devices, we can create a smarter system able to adapt to the conditions of a building. With occupancy sensors installed throughout a building we are in a great position to understand about the presence, movement and patterns of occupants.

There is also the opportunity to get a complete picture of occupancy within the building and better plan and manage the space. There is the opportunity to analyse desks, departments, floors, and buildings over a set period of time to compare performance. Using the data can also ensure meeting rooms are used efficiently.

The data the sensors collect can then be turned into meaningful information to empower owners and facilities managers to adapt the operation of their building to maximise energy efficiency. With phase two of the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) currently underway and a deadline of 5th December 2019, there is a requirement for businesses to make energy efficiency savings and armed with more data building owners and operators can make decisions that truly make a difference.

Stacey Lucas, commercial & marketing director, Sontay

Intelligent buildings are designed to measure their performance in terms of energy efficiency, building optimization, occupant comfort and overall productivity.

This way when implementing a single technology or strategy, such as dynamic lighting controls, you'll be able to verify that it positively affects the bottom line through energy savings and increased efficiency, and ideally offers measurable benefits in terms of employee health, productivity, and even overall happiness.

Long term, the goal should be to move from automation to autonomy (i.e. from driving the building to being driven by it) - so our workplaces do their jobs with as little input as possible, so we in turn can work more efficiently and effectively.

Charles Knuffke, vice president, Wattstopper Systems