The features that are regarded as cutting-edge in office buildings inevitably change over time. For example, the must-haves for office occupiers in the late 1980s would have included water features, huge atriums and wall-climber lifts, while the dotcom boom of the late 1990s saw an explosion of bright colours, coffee bars and ping pong tables.
In contrast, customers for today’s office developments have a series of much more sophisticated features on their shopping list, driven by a focus not just on efficiency but – as a priority – on their people and their ability to be productive.
“Our vision is to create Places People Prefer,” explains Tim Roberts, Head of Offices and Residential at British Land. “That requires a detailed understanding and delivery of what today’s occupiers and their staff and customers want and expect from tomorrow’s offices, and the broader environment in which they sit.”
He adds that the options for a ‘smart’ office might include self-adjusting heating systems, personalised comfort settings, ‘flight check-in’ security access, space utilisation tracking, employee apps and efficiency dashboards – all potential features of today’s most advanced office buildings.
“The offices of the future will use technology to create people-centric, efficient environments”
But how much do these ‘smart building’ features appeal to the people who work in offices today, and how closely aligned are employers with what their employees expect? British Land commissioned independent research among more than 1,000 London office workers and decision-makers to find out what the capital’s talent really wants.
The answer – unequivocally – is that workers want their employers to deliver a smart working environment quickly, and that the smart building payback comes via employee loyalty, wellbeing and productivity – as well as expected efficiency wins.
So far, just a handful of developments around the world are breaking ground for the arrival of smart offices, which will see the coming together of integrated management systems and IP-enabled components providing the biggest breakthrough of all – the improvement of human experience and performance through the use of predictive and proactive systems.
An appetite for change
So what do businesses and their employees think of this idea? Businesses are convinced that smart offices are part of their future: 90% of the decision-makers surveyed see a business reason for occupying a smart office and 81% say it’s a priority – though cost and concerns around data privacy are potential obstacles.
The appetite for controlling the personal work environment is huge; 88% of those asked expressed a wish to be able to do this better in an environment that adapts to human behaviour – whether that is, for example, the ability to personalise heat and light settings, window shades that self-adjust according to sunlight, or lighting systems that mimic natural daylight.
For many people, this still seems some way off: asked when they would like to work in a smart office, workers said, on average, ‘within two years’ – but think it won’t actually happen for another four. Only 35% of non-decision-makers think smart office tech is being prioritised by their employer.
Roberts comments: “At British Land, we’ve been moving the ‘smart’ picture forward on a number of fronts. We collaborated closely with UBS to deliver a building at 5 Broadgate capable of supporting the smart elements of their focus on agile working.”
He adds that work has now commenced at 100 Liverpool Street (pictured above, as it will look when it is completed), where the scheme will be smart from the ground up. “Every component part of the new building will have its own IP address and be linked to all the others through a unified building management system, enabling remote management and delivering AI-enabled insight for problem-solving and automation,” he explains. “We’re also running a pilot at our York House HQ to explore and measure cutting-edge smart solutions for a retrofit environment.”
Those atriums, water features and wall-climber lifts were the product of their own times. The offices of the future will use technology to create people-centric, efficient environments that will deliver the strategic value that office occupiers are seeking across a multitude of measures, including productivity, talent attraction, brand and environmental impact.
A version of this article was first published by Estates Gazette
BRAND, PRODUCTIVITY, SMART BUILDINGS, SUSTAINABILITY, TECHNOLOGY