10 ways smart buildings are transforming workplace experience

It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we work. Now, the ripples are moving beyond personal connectivity and mobility, and transforming the very buildings we work in.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) develops, smart buildings are becoming a reality—with sensors and interconnected devices offering occupants unprecedented levels of control over their surroundings. According to Gensler co-CEO, Diane Hoskins, “These innovations promise to do for buildings what smartphone technology did for the telephone, radically altering the way people interact with the built environment…”

Agility is all about maximizing efficiency and minimizing constraints. Simply digitizing a building does not make it agile. The key is processing the data to improve systems, inform decisions and respond to users. “Once you digitize something it becomes so many things. The real challenge is being able to link it all together,” says David Weaver, Solutions Director at Siemens. “A smart building becomes smart when it becomes interactive with its occupants.”

Increasingly, businesses and real estate owners are figuring out how to use data to make their buildings agile. For the people who use them, the results are revolutionary—and they’re already happening.

1. You can work when you want, and back up your decisions with data

Not everyone thrives on the nine to five. Some are larks, getting their best work done well before lunchtime. Others start ramping up their productivity in the evening. Recent research found that the average employee works for about three hours over an eight-hour workday.

Agile buildings—sometimes in combination with wearables—provide data about when you’re at your desk, and this can be cross-referenced with productivity data to show the times of day you’re most effective. According to Dr. Chris Brauer, author of influential study, The Human Cloud at Work, “The depth and distinctiveness of profiles that can be built without any direct-identifying personal information is startling… It is possible to develop rich behavioral and lifestyle profiles of individuals and/or employees.”

Used smartly, such information can empower employees to pursue a more flexible schedule, and help convince employers to move away from rigid workday structures.

2. You’re comfortable; no more thermostat wars

Many buildings—both residential and commercial—have been using smart HVAC systems for some time. These systems respond to input such as relative humidity and outside air temperature, as well as the usual thermostat feedback loop.

Cross-referencing this data with information about how many people are in a given space, and how they use it both over time and in a given moment, adds a crucial layer of agility.  Density’s people counter does just that. “HVAC becomes really smart when you integrate a product like Density,” says Weaver. “You start to gain an understanding about who is using the space, where they’re working, and how they move around.”

3. You breathe fresh, clean air all day long

The same goes for ventilation. Rather than using preset values based on estimates, agile buildings pump in fresh air in direct response to changing occupancy levels. Until recently, accurately gauging a building’s occupancy in real time posed a challenge. Density’s technology provides a solution which, when integrated into smart ventilation systems, can vastly improve their efficacy.  

4. You can find a conference room when you need it

In the agile workplace, securing a meeting room is no longer a fraught game of luck. Companies and real estate owners use Density’s accurate, historical occupancy data to plan workspaces, so buildings are, from the outset, designed around the ways they are actually used. What’s more, it’s possible to access real-time data about how many people are in a space, so you can check which areas are free from your desk.

5. You and your building are safer and more secure

Many shared workspaces restrict entry, allowing workers to check in with a chipped card or other access devices. Such systems are vulnerable to tailgating, however, which has been observed at rates of 40 to 60 percent of all entrants to a building.

Layered with a people counter like Density, security systems become much more efficient—any occupancy discrepancy can be immediately flagged and addressed.

6. You’re directed to clean facilities

An agile building knows when facilities have been serviced and can direct individual users to the closest options that have been most recently cleaned and prepared. Again, historical data is also useful here, because it allows human teams to prioritize, delegate and plan facilities management with unprecedented levels of insight.

7. Your company can slash energy bills and environmental impact

Agility means comfort, but it also means efficiency. When a building runs in sync with its users, energy is not wasted to heat, cool, or power areas that are empty. It’s that simple.

8. You never have to queue for lunch

Just like with the conference room conundrum, Density can be used to show occupants how many people are in the cafeteria, in real-time. Maybe you want to stay at your desk and work through the lunchtime rush or make alternative arrangements. Perhaps you want to look at the historical data and use it to plan your week.

9. You’re healthier and more productive

You know how many people are in an area of your workplace at any given moment. You know the times of day you’re most productive and can plan your workday around your individual preferences. You’re not tied to your desk, and you can make the time you do spend there count.

Meanwhile, your employer knows what facets of the building are conducive to your wellbeing—natural light, clean air, biophilic elements, etc.—and works to provide what Weaver calls “an ambiance that drives creative productivity.”

10. You can stop worrying about privacy while reaping the benefits of big data

A truly agile building engages its occupants, who become part of an efficient and responsive system. The building works with the people who use it, to optimize and personalize your experience.

So often, however, users are asked to compromise their privacy in exchange for intuitive service. That’s why traditional video cameras are flawed when it comes to people counting. Density’s technology is fully anonymous, which means building owners and users can both reap the vast benefits of smart technology without compromise.