The latest innovations in the field of smart building technology promise to enhance business productivity by optimising environmental conditions and occupancy management, as well as facilitating interaction and collaboration between on-site personnel.
Preeti Bajaj, Vice President, Strategy & Transformation, Schneider Electric, notes that at a basic level smart buildings can enhance business productivity by creating environmental conditions that are more conducive to human performance.
"At the very basic level when we think about a smart building, we think about the environment that it creates for the workers who it, at what I call the functional level," said Bajaj to Sourceable.
" This is creating a better environment for people so they have the right air and water qualities in the building, all of which improves human productivity."
Bajaj points out that beyond the functional level of optimising indoors environments, smart buildings can also enhance productivity by improving occupancy management and space utilisation.
"Smart buildings can now take it to the next level of managing how people are occupying rooms and spaces," said Bajaj. "Some research indicates that employees spend as much as 30 to 40 hours each year just looking for meeting rooms - you multiply that by a thousand workers you have major productivity loss.
"Now we can use smart buildings as occupancy management solutions that are embedded in your integrated core system, that gives you real time information on where people are, and how they’re using space."
When combined with the looser and more flexible work space arrangements that are becoming increasingly widespread within modern office culture, this enhanced occupancy management capability can drive gains in efficiency and productivity for businesses.
"Instead of looking around for where space is available, employees can find out what’s the nearest available space in real time and get access to it, before docking in and doing their work," said Bajaj. "What we hope to do is reduce any wastage of time, as well as deliver a higher level of occupancy in a building.
"If you take the example of The Edge building in Amsterdam, it’s 40,000 square meters, yet it houses something in excess of 2500 employees using this flexible space concept because not everybody’s sitting at their desk all the time.
"This in it’s own right is a productivity gain."
Another area where smart buildings have the potential to drive major productivity gains lies in
Smart buildings may also soon be capable of fostering socialisation and collaboration between colleagues in large-scale office complexes - a capability with the potential to drive huge gains in innovation and productivity.
"A lot of CEO’s are very keen to drive collaboration in some way because a big problem for companies it seems is participating more fully in an innovation-driven economy," said Bajaj. "There's a major push amongst companies to really use technology and serendipity together to achieve this, via the creation of social zones or activity-based clusters, as opposed to the old fashioned method of sending out emails and booking different meetings.
"We know a lot of people are using social networks today, and when it comes to Gen Y that’s a given. The technology is now getting to the point where a smart building can notify you of people with related skill sets or expertise that have arrived in your vicinity.
"It has the potential for example to notice that Preeti, who is running the smart building practice of Schenider, is in the foyer, and then issue a general notification to people who might be involved in smart buildings of her presence, so they can make their way to that area to engage in discussion or collaboration.
"Lots of companies are already thinking about this, and while there are no live cases just yet, they will certainly exist in the digitized building if the future."
In addition to potentially reaping major productivity gains, by enhancing the environmental conditions and functional capabilities of office complexes, these smart building technologies could also benefit businesses by creating work environments that are more appealing to much-coveted top-tier talent.
"If you take the example of The Edge,which is a smart building that Schneider worked on in Amsterdam alongside a couple of others, when I spoke to occupants I found that they loved the building, because when design and the technology intersect it can create a very powerful attractive tool for people," said Bajaj
"This can achieve what Deloitte calls 'homing,' where employees view the workplace as an asset they're proud of, and they're more eager to go to work because they just want to be there."