It doesn’t seem that long ago that referring to a building as ‘smart’ was simply an adjective reflecting an impressive façade or a piece of intricate architecture. Today’s real Smart Buildings are changing the landscape in more ways than one, creating connected environments that unite people and information together to improve both operational efficiency and employee productivity.
According to leading research company, Technavio, the Smart Buildings market in EMEA was worth $5.5 billion in 2016 and is forecast to grow at a CAGR of around 12% between 2017 and 2021. Europe accounts for the highest share in the Smart Buildings market – with the report citing the UK as one of the major markets in the region “owing to the awareness among end-users to enhance energy, efficiency, comfort and operational capability of buildings”.
The rise is also being driven by advances in technology, with emerging Smart Building platforms that are capable of connecting every device, system and even third-party software within a building with one single solution. These buildings have a virtual infrastructure that utilises the Internet of Things and creates a harmonious digital collaboration between both the systems and the people.
Going ‘smart’ goes way beyond assessing the building’s usage and the systems that manage the bricks and mortar. It is about connecting the people who use the building and empowering employees through new ways of working. The workplace has already been redefined, and digital technology has been the biggest driver. Geographical boundaries no longer exist and ‘smart’ technology has paved the way for today’s diverse, flexible and remote workforce. This is reflected in the interior design of these buildings, with fluid, collaborative workspaces replacing the rigidity of traditional office layouts.
When it comes to technological innovation, solutions that enable better collaboration fit perfectly into the Smart Building ethos. The use of collaborative methods and tools has fundamentally altered people’s traditional working approach across a range of different industries. Regardless of the sector, collaboration is a key factor in the success of Smart Buildings, to help improve business processes and methods and allow employees to be more agile, efficient and innovative.
In sectors like IT, there’s been a significant rise in agile working, particularly in areas such as software development. In the design industry, whether it’s designing buildings, graphics or products, the creative process has been transformed by introducing collaboration technology. Around the globe, from management consulting to healthcare companies, firms are harnessing collaborative workspaces to improve brainstorming, visual collaboration and data sharing activities.
For some companies, there is inevitably a flip side with these new ways of working and going ‘smart’ and that is the tough old barrier of culture change. Smart Buildings means entering into the scary world of digital transformation and phasing out old systems and processes does not sit comfortably with every organisation. The solution here has to be a more cautious approach, perhaps introducing technology that replicates more familiar businesses methods and paper-based processes.
Whether it’s using visual collaboration systems to create and share ideas, or the latest audio conferencing systems to improve collaboration and bring remote workforces together. Companies can work ‘smarter’ and be more collaborative, without taking a giant leap into the unknown.
As technological capabilities increase and working practices change, this opens up more opportunities for collaboration and the need to invest in Smart Buildings. Evidently, the development of these structures is steadily increasing. Organisations that adopt true ‘smarter’ ways of working will reap the benefits, for the people who operate them and the people who use them. Commenting on how ‘smart’ a building is means assessing what is going on inside, looks are less important and will not reflect the success of a business. No matter how impressive the architecture is.