Investment in building technology is increasing year on year; and while many people acknowledge the importance of smart buildings, the potential of this technology is greatly unknown and untapped. Technology is part of our DNA at EDGE and a part of our statement to the world. We have created the smartest building on earth, The Edge, but that was just the beginning. The future is a big part of our present. The technology in our buildings is built to adapt and update, allowing us to make buildings that essentially never get old.
So, the first question most people are asking is: “what actually is a smart building”? But the answer is not yet defined. While technology in buildings isn’t new, many experts argue about what exactly makes a building “smart”. Some say any building with a working thermostat is smart while others argue only AI controlled buildings should be labeled smart. However, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Technology should be put in a building to improve the building’s intelligence, making the building better in many ways with the connected systems (through process and/or integration). A recent article in Harvard Business Review highlighted the current system of siloed technology and importance of systems being connected. Systems working together allow buildings to be more sustainable (by reducing energy needs, cleaning expenses, etc), contribute to a better indoor health, and create better work flow.
The Case for Smart Buildings
While technology in buildings is not new, the concept of a “Smart Building” is creating some buzz. There are a variety of reason for this shift which cover everything from X-factor to saving the planet. And while the variety of benefits make a good argument for smart buildings, the potential may be greater than the sum of its parts. Many people see smart as a part of a building. However, smart buildings have also been compared to the human brain a “nervous system” of sorts connected to all facets of the building. While most current systems silo processes or technologies, we believe the better approach is to treat a building like one ecosystem and design to optimize everything within. The thousands of sensors we have in our buildings optimize environment and functionality while staying energy neutral. And our people and technology will never stop learning.
A building is part of your statement, ‘Who are you and who do you want to be’? The development of The Edge building was us proving to society that we want to be a different type of company.– Coen van Oostrom, CEO & Founder EDGE
In recent years companies have realized that to stay relevant to their customers and current & future talent they need to make a statement. And that statement is changing. Many companies are finding that young employees want to work in cities, for example. This is absolutely changing from the time when all employees wanted company cars. Now employees want to have a fast commute on the metro, restaurants and shops around their work, flexible worktimes with workspaces aligned with their needs. As these needs change, smart buildings will need to change with them. Some experts argue that smart buildings could be a huge competitive edge in the war for talent.
Sustainability often gets attributed to saving the planet, but we are seeing that proper utilization can see incredible financial rewards in smart buildings. A building management system like what we have at EDGE, can optimize energy used for lights, elevators, heating and cooling etc. EDGE is currently energy neutral and on track to be energy positive in the future. Eliminating wasted energy and regulating systems can have significant financial savings for any building in both the short and long-term. Furthermore, a building is often calculated on its theoretical capacity but, space utilization is less than 55% globally. We optimize space from the beginning which can save a lot on the initial investment. Technology enables this.
There are many ways to make a building energy neutral and it’s becoming a trend to be energy positive. Some strategies optimize newer buildings to be energy positive to make up for older buildings which are less energy efficient. The technology behind energy balancing is also quite interesting. For instance, when a modern elevator goes down it actually produces energy which can be used in part to lift the elevator back up. Solar energy, just like other forms of renewable energy, can produce all of a building’s needed energy. However, those solutions don’t need to be on or within the building itself. Utilizing creative solutions and collaborating with local initiatives can allow any building to be operating energy neutral. EDGE is doing target setting so companies who for instance want to be Paris Proof can make that happen. Target setting involves creating a energy goal and then working backwards to structure the building to meet that energy level, for instance energy neutral.
A recent article from Forbes suggests: building users are becoming “consumers of space” with a lot of options for how that works. Space utilization is a common problem in buildings with many areas being underutilized. An interesting trend that is coming out of space forecasting is the relative uselessness of large conference rooms. Research is showing that conference rooms meant for 5 people or more are less likely to be used. Space utilization technology can suggest conference rooms be split into multiple small rooms for meetings or focused work. Furthermore, it may be that your smart building tells you to stay home for health, logistical, or work output reasons. For instance, if traffic was backed up, a smart building may send messages to employees with more challenging commutes to stay home – at least for the morning. Employees who do come in could select their floor when calling the elevator which is then organized and optimized for wait time. The individual could be nudged toward an open desk or open small conference room dependent on the morning work schedule and flex-desk options of the company. Meeting rooms that stayed empty 10 minutes after a reservation would automatically cancel the reservation and open up the space for others to use.
Smart building sensors that measure the health parameters of a space have highlighted many opportunities to improve spaces but, more importantly, they have highlighted the health concerns in many spaces. Some research in schools have shown children taking tests with harmful levels (5,000+ ppm) of Co2. High levels of Co2 can create headaches, dizziness, loss of concentration, nausea, loss of consciousness, etc. Office buildings often pump extra air into spaces to lower co2 levels, however, this can cause humidity to decrease. A recent hospital study has shown that low values of humidity is the biggest factor in spreading disease. Interestingly, in smart buildings, room booking technology can be linked with the air control systems so that a room booked for 4 people at 10:00 will maintain comfortable and healthy levels of oxygen, humidity, temperature, and Co2. This can significantly improve the health and performance of the users within the space.
Decibel (sound) sensors are also stressing the huge problem workplaces have with noise disturbances. Designing the workspace to have an organized network of quiet areas for focus work and more boisterous areas for social gatherings or collaboration space can help solve this problem. Soundmasking technology exists and is continuously innovating to help combat this problem, especially in open offices.
Lastly, light is an architectural centerpiece in many great buildings and forefront in all of EDGE’s building designs. New solutions are now allowing windows that often look grey to reach almost 100% color rendering. Daylight harvesting sensors ensure that sufficient day- and artificial light reaches the right level in all areas of the building.
The future of smart buildings is best explained like a game of chess, strategy and timing. Smart solutions are implemented when they are: 1) small 2) attractive 3) modular 4) affordable 5) fit for purpose.
“Architecture is not about space but about time.” -Artist and Architect Vito Acconel
In the golden rule of technology, hide the part you don’t want to see and highlight the part you do want to see. EDGE puts many of its sensors in the ceiling, blending into the stylish design and connected to our power source so batteries are not needed. Visual appeal is necessary for sensors to be included in the work ecosystem. Systems also need to be modular so when the technology evolves it can be easily updated. Sensors are also getting more affordable as time goes on so what wasn’t possible yesterday can be planned into tomorrow’s building. The technology needs to solve a problem or sustain a solution. And it’s even better if this technology empowers individuals with personal control to change their environment, energy usage, etc. Personal control of work environments has shown to increase positive feelings and also create feelings of “ownership” in the workplace. Every employee has control over multiple aspects of their office through their personal app. Employees can choose their workplace through desk planning and room booking and customize that workplace for humidity, temperature, light, Co2, etc. Making decisions about which technology to implement is thus like a game of chess, the right move at the right time for the right people.
As we said before, the future is a big part of EDGE’s present in smart buildings. So while the root of this solution is why the answer is when! And the when is NOW – introducing EDGE Next – a platform that offers a seamless solution for optimising any office building’s performance, allowing tenants and owners to transform their offices into smarter, healthier and more sustainable spaces in which people and companies can truly thrive.
LEARN MORE ABOUT EDGE NEXT HERE
Article courtesy of Edge