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THE ‘SENTIENT’ SMART OFFICE

The office of the future will be the stuff of science fiction where smart buildings adapt to human needs by predicting and optimising its operations and needs through IoT.

I am often asked how incorporating green initiatives in commercial buildings affect the workers and office spaces, as well as the environment.

Did you know that 40% of the world’s energy consumption comes from buildings? In Asia, standout green developments include 7&9 Tampines Grande in Singapore which features hybrid parking lots, a roof garden and solar power technology; and the State BankInstitute Of Consumer Banking in Hyderabad, India, which features rainwater harvesters and40-kilowatt capacity solar panels providing sustainable electricity. These are just a few examples of how office buildings have been undergoing significant changes in recent years.

Technology, climate change, urbanisation, and increasing energy consumption are driving the need to upgrade office facilities and building design. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that commercial buildings could save up to US$60billion by increasing energy efficiency systems by just 1-4%!

Research supports that green building encourages work productivity due to positive effects on health and comfort. A recent 2018 study by Harvard University revealed a link between air quality and work performance. Participants who were placed in a simulated office environment performed poorly on cognition tests as a result of being exposed to random concoctions of organic compounds such as dust, carpet and surface cleaners when compared to participants working in a green certified setting.

According to the World Green Building Council, measures such as improving air quality, natural lighting and introducing greenery, can have a dramatic impact by improving productivity, reducing absenteeism and staff turnover.

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EXPERIENTIAL OFFICES

At KONE, we envision future office spaces being more adaptable and experiential, sans traditional cubicles and spacious enough for interaction and meetings with movable walls and non-assigned desks. Every touchpoint in the occupant’s journey from doors, access points, elevators and escalators will work inharmony to ensure a seamless experience. Lobbies will set the tone for the building experience upon entry, from the reception, lounges and to the elevators; it all starts with the entrance in the lobby.

Each day, billions of elevator journeys occur allover the world. Elevators account for 2 – 10% of a building’s energy consumption. To keep pace with urbanisation and environmental concerns, architects are incorporating designs for smarter elevator solutions that are safe and sustainable to transport occupants seamlessly across multiple floors and timings.

By 2023, the Asia Pacific smart elevators and escalators market is estimated to be worth US$69 billion, representing more than 42% of the global demand. Industry-leading energy efficiency ratings such as VDI 4707 regulate elevator design based on energy consumption. There are multiple measures that are being adopted to make elevators more energy efficient; these energy methods include regenerative and green hoisting systems that save up to 35% to 70% in energy savings, eco-efficient lighting and standby solutions.

Understanding the ebb and flow of how office occupants work and move in their daily work routines is key to improving the experience. A good point for planning smooth people flow is to identify routes, bottlenecks and possible cross-flow points in these buildings. Factors to monitor are human traffic, the building’s layout, location and exit points. Buildings generally have three peak flows of people: morning, lunchtime and late afternoon, but there can be significant variations.

SMART SOLUTIONS

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the proliferation of smart solutions for the
green building initiative has been gaining momentum in recent years. Buildings generate large amounts of data from multiple sources, such as energy, IT, security and maintenance.

Interpreting the relationships and patterns within the data will enable a better people flow by allowing us to identify operational inefficiencies, reducing energy consumption and improving people flow experiences.

Combined, these digital parameters allow green workspaces to predict, and optimise occupant experience and operational efficiency. Future offices could turn into reconfigurable and adaptive environments that learns and adapt sits output per the habits of its occupants.

People flows are often higher in single-tenant buildings because of similar schedules. A range of tenants often results in a variety of different working cultures and patterns, helping to ease peak flows. However, multiple tenant setting brings different challenges; machine learning will make buildings flexible and intuitive enough to anticipate the flows of its occupants and visitors alike.

Smart elevators can minimise overall energy consumption and safely manage passenger traffic within buildings. Smart elevator solutions cut down on wait and travel times. When compared with traditional elevators, smart elevators are also gatherers of data and information. Destination control systems can proactively predict the number of people going per floor and accordingly assign and influence car speed and trip frequency.

PREDICTIVE BUILDING

IoT will one day allow for a more responsive and predictive building. Digitalisation will go a long way in making these changes possible; imagine a scenario where we will have an AI advising occupants if it would be quicker to take the elevator or the stairs if I am late for a meeting. The stuff of science fiction made real!

Technology factors aside, it is also important to consider the profiles of occupants in office buildings, cultural attitudes towards interaction and movements. Inclusivity is a significant aspect for consideration, everyone who uses the building be it occupant or visitor should be offered equal opportunities concerning accessibility, such as full access gates for wheelchair users and non-glare lighting in elevators for the visually impaired.

Sustainability is more than creating an environment-friendly infrastructure as opposed to other older buildings. A key area in green building is establishing an office space that is sustainable and stimulates productivity and creativity at work. A garden located near one’s desk would do wonders for one’s stress levels.

Climate control systems that are powered on solar energy will ensure that there are no wastages of power and energy. A green office building would be smart enough to charge itself with solar panels and make optimum use of rainwater.

Every day, over 200,000 people move from rural to urban regions around the world, with 67% of the global population expected to be city dwellers by 2050. To keep up with rapid population movement, developing sustainable infrastructure is a key priority. Asia has embarked on a mission to establish localised green building programmes and certifications, green building certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the Building Research Establishment Environmental AssessmentMethod (BREEAM) are increasing credibility for eco-efficient elevators.

In recent years, the emphasis on green building has been gaining awareness, office buildings in Singapore alone account for the most significant annual use of energy in the city-state, consuming as much as 3,057 gigawatts per hour of electricity annually. The government ofSingapore is exploring initiatives for renewable energy and AI-powered solutions that will not only reduce the city-state’s reliance on fossil fuels but also shrink its carbon footprint and integrate green living for its citizens.

A green environment makes all the difference in boosting both work productivity, experience and efficiency across the board in a sustainable environment. Technologies such as IoT enables green buildings to forecast, predict, and optimise its operations and needs.

In the distant future, we envision smart buildings that adapt to human need, rather than the other way around – a sentient, tailored social space that is adaptive, customisable to needs, personalities and desires of people around it.

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