Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the office experience, with the CBRE EMEA Occupier Survey recently highlighting how companies are planning on investing more heavily in new real estate technologies that will enhance the experience of their users and raise the productivity of their workforce.
This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the rising expectations for offices as our working practices shift, especially when considering that over a fifth of 18- to 24-year olds have rejected a potential employer because of the poor design of the office or the lack of amenities available.
For landlords, creating a smart office environment is crucial to attracting the best companies. Technology, advertising, media, and information (TAMI) tenants, for example, are increasingly choosing the best office space in the best locations in order to attract creative talent – and a digitally-enabled office is a key part of that.
As smart buildings are gaining momentum, new technologies will increasingly make demands on a building’s digital infrastructure. Those technological innovations will give landlords the opportunity to create an environment that attracts tenants by serving their needs and by reacting to what they want from it better.
The growth in cloud computing adoption is already testing the existing digital infrastructure of many offices as access to data and services becomes entirely dependent on reliable, high quality internet. In fact, according to a report from cloud security vendor Zscaler, many organisations are not able to take full advantage of Office 365 - Microsoft’s latest version of the ubiquitous suite of productivity tools - due to issues with connectivity.
So designing a building when you have multiple unknown tenants is clearly no mean feat. Even the Edge in Amsterdam, often hailed as one of the greatest smart buildings in the world, was designed with one single tenant to serve.
If you can't build your smart offering around the needs of one tenant, how can landlords of multi-tenant offices still provide an intelligent experience?
Ultimately, it all comes down to preparation and delivering a platform upon which future tenants can plug their own technologies into – whether that be wayfinding apps, wearables or personal environment control systems. But where do you start?
When developing a smart building, one of the key decisions that landlords will need to make will be what they want to give their tenants access to. For example, while tenants may want access to the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting systems to deploy their own intelligent solutions, landlords need to decide whether the tenant should be able to control those solutions via the landlord network or if they can enable access, remotely, via a cloud interface. Making such choices now - and implementing the necessary setup - will ensure tenants only have access to the services that they need, and not those that are critical to the entire property.
Similarly, landlords need to consider how they want their tenants to access the data generated by these intelligent solutions. To maintain privacy, while still giving them this information, landlords should provide well controlled cloud access to data that can be accessed from the tenant network.
Connectivity matters today. Time is money when it comes to internet outages, resulting in decreased productivity, lost sales, and tension and stress in the office. Always-up internet service is increasingly business critical; and soon it will be essential to the running of a building too. As a result, landlords need to fully understand the resiliency of their property’s digital infrastructure and make the necessary investment in providing diverse and redundant solutions that can provide back-up should the main offering fail.
Ensuring that the property has been designed with diverse communications infrastructure including dual risers, multiple comms entries, and internet service offering will ensure that the user experience isn't jeopardised by the wrong cable being cut.
Investigate new technologies
While the number of different technologies and approaches available can make starting out quite daunting, the decreasing price of sensors and other new devices, required to enable a smart building design, means that there is a low-cost risk to adopting an agile development approach: try it out, if it breaks, change it and try it again.
It’s important, therefore, to trial technologies and engage with existing tenants to discover how they can benefit from these technologies. This approach also helps ensure that any technology investments made are a value add from a user experience perspective and don't fall into the trap of "tech for sake of tech".
To optimise investment, landlords can decide to start using this agile approach and carry out testing on a small part of their portfolio. Creating running case studies to demonstrate the efficiency of a given method will then allow them to promote their technologies to other tenants effectively.
Fit for the next 20 years
We're approaching a tipping point when smart buildings will just become "buildings". Tenants signing 10- or 20-year leases now know the significant role that technology will play in delivering a user experience that will support their staff in being productive, and in attracting and retaining the best talent.
Landlords therefore need to start thinking now about how they're going to realise this and start exploring the different ways that they can provide a connected, seamless experience. Showing that you're taking the right steps now to deliver a smarter and better experience will help secure the confidence of prospective tenants that you're future-proofing their occupancy.
Sanjaya Ranasinghe is Technical Director at WiredScore
Image Credit: Pixaline / Pixabay