Are Smart Buildings a smart choice for your business?
Work spaces have changed over the decades. Gone are the typing pools where secretaries perched in long rows tapping out the boss’s dictation. Gone too are the spacious, Mad Men-esque offices those bosses inhabited, making deals while smoking Pall Malls at their mahogany desks.
From corner suites to cubicles, work spaces continue to evolve; and never more so than today, when new technologies seem to be changing everything. A new wave of smart cars, smart phones, and smart buildings are not only adapting to but improving how we live, work and do business.
What makes a building smart? Essentially, it comes down to connectivity. Smart buildings connect to technology that controls the building’s operations, like heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, security and other systems. Smart buildings also have the tools to collect data so they can adapt to the changing needs of its inhabitants. And they have the technology to keep people connected, allowing for new ways of working by creating a work environment that can be customized to employees’ needs (and preferences).
The benefits of smart buildings are three-fold: they’re better for the environment, they save money, and they’re good for people.
A smart building is a good consideration for any company looking to become more sustainable and leave a smaller environmental footprint. Not only can smart technology monitor energy use and consumption, it can do something about it – like power down electrical plugs not in use, turn out lights and cut the a/c where no one’s working, and even give power back to the grid. All of that is good for the environment as well as for a company’s brand.
Using less energy translates into lower power bills, of course. But that’s not the only way smart buildings can save companies money. An integrated network can streamline building management. With everything connected, multiple areas can be monitored from one space, preventing expensive equipment failures and saving occupants the costs associated with theft by turning on security lights, locking doors, and immediately alerting security personnel if there’s a breech.
Attractive to people
Connectivity has become increasingly important as more employees go mobile. The workplace no longer sees offices occupied from 9 till 5, five days a week. A smart building can actually learn how people use it – and adapt; accommodating those who are physically in the workplace wherever they are, and providing the technology necessary for those who choose to work virtually. It can be an enticing option for potential new employees who value a work climate with a culture of flexibility and wellbeing.
Here are just a few features smart buildings offer:
Intelligent lighting systems: detect when a workspace is vacant; customize lighting to a person’s preference and the availability of natural light.
Smart apps: pull data from outside sources and provide real time information on traffic, weather, and even bus schedules.
Elevators: are proactive at peak times by responding when cars pull into the parking garage or large meetings end early.
Digital signage: helps people find their way to conference rooms or to exit routes during an emergency.
Scheduling: mobile apps instantly let employees know which rooms are available and when and enable them to easily book rooms for meetings.
Sensors: alert building managers about equipment failures, lets employees know when ink is running low in the printer and when supplies are dwindling in the bathroom or kitchen.
It’s not cheap to create the systems that enable a building to be, well, smart. But most experts agree that the initial investment will transition into lower operating costs because of the building’s efficiencies, and owners will see higher property value as more companies demand the benefits smart buildings offer. And in a world that will most certainly continue to change, a building that’s already set up for connectivity will be that much easier to adapt to the next big thing.