News

How will smart buildings technology change the workspace and impact on employee wellbeing?

Hurley Palmer Flatt on the South Bank of the Thames was the location of the latest Smart Buildings Magazine round table event which looked at the future of the workplace and how technology would change the way we work.


In attendance were:

Robert Thorogood, Hurley Palmer Flatt

Billy Marigold, Hurley Palmer Flatt

David Williams, Innovation Architect, Microsoft Digital

Trevor Miles, Smarter Buildings, Real Estate and Facilities Consulting Lead, IBM

Gavin Burger, COO, ExcelRedstone

Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight, IWFM

Jeremy Palmer, Connected Building Software Sales Director – Europe, Honeywell

Julian Chatwin, Director of Enterprise Software, Current by GE

Pradyumna Pandit, VP of EcoBuilding UK, Schneider

Erik Jaspers, Product Strategy, Planon


Robert Thorogood opened the discussion with an overview of where HPF stood and said that the industry has moved away from talking about energy efficiency and was now concentrated on the user experience.

He also added that users wanted room booking systems that linked with the A/V system and the A/C systems. This does take a lot of managing, but Robert wanted to know where would the learning come in the future and where would AI be coming in? Also where does the value come from adopting these new processes. Robert also thought that the next two years would start to reveal where the value would come.

David Williams said that Microsoft can manage this data and digital transformation. Microsoft has been working for three years on smart buildings solutions and what is the value for the user, visitor or building owner. Microsoft has been trying to work out the value to the user in monetary and direct costs.

Erik Jaspers then asked, what does the building have to be smart about? He suggested it would be worth talking to customers about problems rather that the solutions as it becomes quite abstract for customers.

Robert added that the technology is moving at such a pace, that building owners and specifiers want a building that is future proofed and do not want to be left behind, and this makes them nervous about what they specify.

Julian Chatwin noted that there are no standards in the sector to rely on which makes the decision making process for all companies extremely difficult.

Trevor Miles said that IBM is working with a customer who wants to create a blueprint for their buildings that is repeatable across their estate.

Gavin Burger stated that it is working with landlords to future proof buildings, and to enable the building to have smart spaces within the smart building. This can be helpful for multi-tenanted buildings and the landlords. This needs to be integrated onto a platform so people can cherry pick the services that they want.

Pradyumna Pandit believed that one trend is that they need to provide more control to individuals in that smart space. People want to control their own environment in the workplace. Trevor added that this also needs to be quantified.

Jeremy Palmer said that that some of this quantification is quite subjective and this need to be monetised is some way.

Erik pointed out that compared to the amount of wages that are paid, the sums we are talking about are insignificant.  How can you quantify if people are happy in their buildings?

Julian commented that it is difficult to quantify the wellness and benefits in a building.

Trevor said that the Stoddart review on the impact of workplace said that there was a 2% increase in productivity in a well designed and maintained workplace.

Julian added that this a no brainer, if there is that much of a benefit in having a smarter, better building.

Chris Moriarty said that he worked on the Stoddart review, and said that it was difficult to say to clients that the building plays as significant a role because there are so many other factors that affect business performance. Chris said that he preferred using the word performance rather than productivity in the workplace because it easier for the employer to say what the organisation cares about.

He added that FM’s were not yet concerned with big data, AI and machine learning. He stated that building owners and FMs look at technology that makes their lives easier, not that makes their users life easier.

Pradyumna said there is no standard about user experience, so the user is not protected. 

Chris felt that we needed to manage the experience in buildings rather than managing the buildings themselves.

David stated that the technology is in place to do most of the things that we want to do in the workplace, but it is the cost of implementation that is holding it back. He said we need to have a platform that lets organisations share data which can then give the user a good experience.

Julian added that there needed to be a culture shift in facilities management and real estate, but the first port of call when a decision needs to be made according to Pradyumna is the person with the money. Pradyumna then said the industry needed someone to reimagine the workplace experience and he is convinced that that person is out there.

Trevor said that IBM is working on that now.

David claimed that there is still a separation of IT and FM. Microsoft is currently rebuilding their campus and the head of IT and the head of real estate are now working together in order to get the project that the company wants. 

Pradyumna added that we need a digitally enabled infrastructure and you can then make solutions for spaces in buildings.

Gavin stated that businesses are thinking in different ways about how to progress as there are so many sectors, who want different things.

Chris felt that expectations of users have changed, with Trevor adding that IBM has a standards based approach and that an open standards approach is the way forward.

Robert said that if you install a huge backbone in the building it is possible to scale it up. He also said that corporate office will change radically in the next 10 years.

David said that Microsoft has been able to save 25% in rental costs in its Schipol offices by data analysis and knowing how its business and people works.

Billy Marigold told the panel that HPF is working on 22 Bishopsgate which is a flexible space and people are using the offices differently. There are also more community spaces in the office.

Erik said that data created in the workspace is important to use, but the ownership of the data is an issue. However, the consent amongst the panel was that if the data was of benefit to the user, then most people were happy for it to be used, as long as it was anonomised.

Billy concluded that IT needs to integrated into the building process.

It seems that we are at a crossroads in terms of how we create the workplace of the future and the user experience is very much at the centre of how buildings will be designed. 

Whilst there is nothing concrete as yet, it seems that open standards are needed in order to create the right environment for the future workplace that offers productivity, performance and health benefits.

First published by Smart Building Magazine – 02.04.2019. Original article can be found here.