Smart Buildings Are Key To Office Return

Inspirational, cost-efficient, sustainable, and future-proof: smart buildings are the key to bringing people back to the office and building a brighter future

By Arie Barendrecht

It is hard to quantify the frustration of a dropped Zoom call when speaking to an important client, or the loss of internet before a digital file has been saved. But, over the past year or so, we’ve all been there: suffering at the hands of temperamental connectivity, reminiscing to the good old days of working in the office, where the Wi-Fi was stable and poor connectivity wasn’t impacting our productivity.Smart Buildings

As most of the working world will be moving back to an in-office model this year (be that on a part time or full time basis) it’s important for us to acknowledge the undeniable ways in which the way we work has changed, necessitating that our workplaces adapt if they are to remain relevant to the modern user.

When it comes to the future of the working world, there exists a strong desire for smarter, more technologically advanced spaces, and WiredScore’s research shows that most employees (80%) expect to be working in a technologically-advanced office, and 26% expect their office to feature the latest, most cutting-edge technology.

Office workers also want to be inspired. It’s now imperative that employers and landlords work together and use technology to bring great, sociable, collaborative spaces to life. In doing so, individual and collective productivity will flourish within spaces so perfectly convened for the professional wants and needs of the user that an unbeatable in-building experience has been created and, crucially, one that cannot be replicated at home.

However, in order to provide users with inspirational experiences and be sustainable, cost-efficient, and future-proof by design, smart buildings must deliver a number of functionalities for their users, rooted in a solid technological foundation. WiredScore has identified the six core functionalities for smart buildings:

  • Individual and collaborative productivity
  • Health and well-being
  • Community and services
  • Maintenance and optimization
  • Security
  • Sustainability

Each functionality, when delivered to its fullest extent will make any interaction with the building seamless and enjoyable, safeguarding against friction and inconveniences. And, all functionalities combined will improve the overall in-building experience for its users.

The following will now expand on the three functionalities that are especially top of mind for landlords and employers in the current climate:

Individual and collaborative productivity

The loss of productivity can be costly, and individual / collaborative productivity within the workplace is a top-of-mind consideration for anyone assessing the suitability of an office space. Smart features, such as automatic visitor check-in, automatic meeting room booking, desk booking, and occupancy detection can enable people to be at their most efficient and effective when working in the office.

Great Portland Estates is fully aware of the need to build the most intelligent office experience possible. The company spent five years developing a smart building capability, and has now delivered three smart buildings, with more in the works.

GPE’s crowning achievement is the Hickman building, which was developed from the ground up to meet GPE’s vision to bring continual innovation to the market. First and foremost, GPE wanted to enhance the workplace experience for all occupiers—a goal that inspired the creation of the Sesame workplace app that monitors occupiers’ movements throughout the office. Workers can control both the lighting and temperature at their workstation, creating a more personalized and productive environment that properly serves each individual.

With sensors applied to every light fitting, and with energy consumption monitoring and real-time feedback on all equipment, Sesame is a genuine step forward in smart building design. This technology is essential to two of GPE’s goals: to become a net zero carbon business by 2030 and to establish a more immersive and comfortable and productive working experience.

Lead the way in sustainability

The need to be more sustainable, from the way we work to the products we purchase, has become a critical factor when considering the transition back to on-site working. In fact, our research reveals that three fifths (63%) of employees think it’s important to work in an environmentally sustainable office, and 18% would take a pay cut to do so.

M&G Real Estate Development took these considerations to heart when developing one of its most impressive buildings yet, 40 Leadenhall. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria were central to its creation. With a goal of delivering 900,000 square feet of commercial office, amenities, and retail space, M&G wanted to offer a property that could serve occupants in the most sustainable way possible. Human expertise wouldn’t be enough, so the developer turned to the latest technology, including building controls and operations, to achieve its goals.

With a wealth of data, from both Building Management Systems and Energy Management Systems, M&G wanted to effectively manage power, lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation. The developer plans to use a Smart Platform to ensure managers have proper control over building systems, as well as a host of sensors to provide further information. All told, M&G aims to make 40 Leadenhall a leader in sustainability.


For all the benefits and advantages smart buildings offer, they also pose a risk. Now, we must push beyond the traditional lock-and-key methods of security as cybercriminals are increasingly sophisticated in their targeting of buildings and the data held within. To provide safe and secure workplaces, landlords must ensure that security—including access control, fire alarms, and compliance management—is front and center of any strategy.

PGIM Real Estate is very aware of the role security plays in commercial real estate. When outfitting 11 Times Square, PGIM and its joint venture partners SJP Properties and Norges Bank Investment Management deployed several measures to ensure the property was secure. Instead of a traditional card reader, 11 Times Square now uses QR codes for a hands-free experience that also works with smartphones, eliminating the need to carry a key card at all times.

To keep people safe from a health perspective, 11 Times Square also launched a “Fit to Work” solution that automatically deactivates employee key cards every night. Employees may then reactivate their cards by simply logging into a special website that allows them to certify that they meet the conditions established by the employer and the facility to return the next day.

Collaboration is the key to success

At this critical time for the market, building owners and tenants must work together to attract employees back into the office. Smart buildings will play a key role in creating more attractive, efficient, and sustainable workplaces that allow individual productivity to flourish and excite people to meet and collaborate.

As businesses migrate back to an in-office working model, they’ll be looking to retain and attract top talent, and the office will play an instrumental role in this. If the office is to reclaim its crown as the epicenter of industry, it’s business critical that offices are safe, productive, and sustainable spaces able to deliver unrivalled and inspirational user experiences.

Smart BuildingsBarendrecht is the Founder and CEO of WiredScore, the organization behind the WiredScore and SmartScore certifications: the internationally recognized digital connectivity and smart building rating systems for real estate, helping landlords design and promote buildings with powerful digital connectivity and smart capabilities.



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