The Business Case for Smart & Intelligent Building
The use of buildings, especially commercial premises, has changed. Until relatively recently, if you were offered employment with a company, the chances are that you would have been expected to report to your company’s premises when you were working.
In a world of increasingly collaborative working and knowledge sharing, that is no longer the case. In fact, commercial buildings are rapidly changing from places we go because we work for someone, to tools we use to get our work done.
Business leaders must begin to appreciate the relationship between the spaces in which their people work and the key business challenges they are trying to address:
At the start of the Industrial Revolution, people were seen as hired hands. As more cognitive and creative problem solving was required, we moved into the knowledge economy, becoming hired heads. Now, as people look beyond their pay cheque to measure job satisfaction, they are becoming hired hearts.
As we increasingly rely on people’s knowledge, understanding and relationships to deliver financial results, we must do all we can to both attract them to and retain them in our organisations. Both United Business Media and Deloitte have seen an uptick in speculative applications due to investment in their new buildings making them exceptional places to be highly productive.
We are no longer machinists doing jobs that are repetitive or require little to no thought. Many studies have also shown that happier, more engaged people produce higher quality work. People involved in complex cogitative work focused on delighting customers need environments (and cultures) where they feel safe, secure and valued.
Knowledge and creative thinking are notoriously difficult to transfer and teach. With skill gaps in many industries and the complexity of internal and external dependencies increasing, it’s hard to switch people into positions if someone leaves. Even when it is possible, it isn’t a case of sitting new recruits on a production line and showing them the ropes. It can take months, even years in some cases, to get them up to speed. Engaged individuals with a purpose that’s aligned to the organisation’s will stick around.
Lost time in meetings because of technology that’s unreliable or difficult to use and a lack of ability to make strategic, data-based decisions about space utilisation and oversubscribed physical resources are things that dramatically impact productivity. People are increasingly autonomous in how and where they work, requiring software tools and technology that assist them in getting activities done efficiently.
A focus on Building UX, looking at how people can productively experience spaces and buildings can significantly improve their performance, removing bottlenecks and technology complications.
Energy and commercial office costs are increasing dramatically, especially in space-constrained cities. Property and facilities management functions and companies are going to need to find smarter ways of working to get the most from their precious resources. The good news is that designing spaces and buildings with a focus on well-being and productivity provides the opportunity for significant energy savings too.
Traditional office arrangements and assigned desk or cubicle layouts do not lend themselves to collaborative working or an agile organisation. Some of our clients have previously been paying over £1,000 every time they need to move someone’s physical desk position. By removing desk assignment and allowing people to consume the resources they require when they need them, these constant charges for additions, moves and changes can be eliminated completely.
It’s currently a challenge to accurately report on how buildings are being used. By changing spaces and buildings to be consumable resources, data can be collected about how scarce and/or expensive assets and locations are being utilised. Once this data is processed, insights and forecasts for growth or change can be generated.
The business environment has changed significantly as we operate in a world of VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Organisations must now be responsive and agile to changing conditions, so understanding where efficiencies or investment needs to be made is critical to success.
The Smart & Intelligent building business case is a holistic one, depending on culture, people strategy and a willingness to change. However, for those taking a long-term view, it is a way of generating significant and sustainable performance gains and return on investment.