The Workspace Of Tomorrow: Part 1

Digital convergence enables new possibilities for workplace management that can deliver cost reductions, improve operations, and facilitate occupant productivity.

By Dr. T.C. Tan

We often hear about how millennials are going to change the workplace and to shape the future workforce. Technologically more savvy and internet empowered, theirs is a truly mobile lifestyle. The graduate workforce entering the workplace in 2017 will have very different expectations than their counterparts just a decade ago.

In addition, the workspace is experiencing a paradigm shift due to digital convergence. Building control services and IT services have converged to create the Internet of Things in Buildings (BIoTs). This digital convergence has enabled new possibilities to realize true building intelligence that delivers cost reductions, improves operational performance, facilitates productivity, and provides an enhanced occupant experience.

Workspace Of Tomorrow

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) provides five workplace models as shown in Figure 1. According to JLL, most organizations currently sit between activity-based open plan model and hybrid mobility model. The key is how to make the office space works for everyone.

workplace management

People perform different tasks and these can be classified into four main areas: collaboration, communication, concentration, and contemplation. As organizations increasingly rely on multi-disciplinary teams to tackle complex problems, collaboration becomes a must. Collaboration spaces are essential for the success of any organization. With more workers on the go as well, collaboration, and face-to-face interaction is part of what makes the office special for them. This will often mean working with co-workers that are not only part of different departments, but also of different generations. Hence any deployed technology should work for everyone and should be intuitive.

According to the World Green Building Council (GBC)(1), the nature of workplace strategy and design has also shifted from a focus on real estate sustainability to people. Organizations are realizing that workplaces foster strong culture, and can enable employees, for increased productivity. Staff costs, including salaries and benefits, typically account for about 90% of business operating costs (see Figure 2). Hence, what may appear a modest improvement in employee health or productivity, can have a huge financial implication for employers – one that is many times larger than any other financial savings associated with an efficiently designed and operated building.

JLL has translated Figure 2 into the 3-30-300 model(2) as shown in Figure 3. This rule of thumb states that organizations typically spend approximately $3 per square foot per year for utilities, $30 for rent and $300 for payroll. While these figures are just typical examples, they are useful in providing an order of magnitude between the three areas of expenditure. According to this model, the greatest financial savings from greening a workplace may not be in energy but in productivity. A 2% energy efficiency improvement would result in savings of $0.06 per square foot but a 2% improvement in productivity would result in $6 per square foot through increased employee performance.

workplace management

workplace management

However, measuring and rating employee well-being, performance and productivity is not easy. This has led to a new approach known as Buildingomics that examines the entire factors in a building-related environment that influence human health, well-being, and productivity. The results are the development of the WELL Building Standard(3) and WELL certification by Delos Living LLC and the International WELL Building Institute, the Fitwel(4) certification by the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)(5) 55 standard.

Workspace Management

Workplace management is among the hottest subjects for facility managers, as growing cost pressures drive organizations to uncover underutilized facilities, and dramatically reduce occupancy costs by rationalizing and consolidating real estate portfolios. A key driver of this trend to optimize facility utilization and efficiency is an increasingly mobile workforce.

Studies reveal that the average office uses between 30-45% of its space on a daily basis(6). The hot-desking concept provides an opportunity to reduce this significantly by eliminating the concept of fixed workspaces. Desks can now be assigned on as-needed basis. The era of the deskbound, tethered employee has come to an end.

As the workspace moves to a full mobility model, workplace noise becomes an issue. Different types of soundscape are therefore necessary for different sorts of work. A collaboration or meeting space can also be a contemplation or a concentration space. Workplace noise is an annoyance and needs to improve. According to an Avanta Serviced Office Group(7) report, 82.5% of employees said they were distracted by noise. Seven out of 10 people working in open plan offices felt the noise level was too high, but from the business point of view a more serious issue is that productivity levels tumble 66% to sound issues. This has led to the advent of sound masking systems that reduce noise distraction and protect speech privacy.

In addition, the number of people in a meeting varies. Having collaboration spaces tailored to smaller types of meetings waste less space and free up larger rooms for meetings that actually require more people. Meeting areas are also taking shape as less formalized collaborative areas. Booths or enclosures are created to provide the acoustic barriers to limit distractions, and also provide functionality for more impromptu meetings between two to four people. Some meeting rooms are even using smart or switchable glass technology that transforms the glass from being transparent to translucent with the throw of a switch in order to reduce external distraction when a meeting is in progress.

Workspace management will definitely include Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based location management and/or Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) and/or Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) system and these can be integrated with access control systems and sensor-based technologies. These systems provide location-based and wayfinding information that can improve employee productivity and help employees understand how certain workspaces are being used. Meeting room booking applications and digital signage are disrupting traditional systems because of lower cost and convenience. With clean and touch enabled interfaces, apps and displays can make collaboration easier in terms of finding a room to use, thereby improving employee productivity. Integrating this application with sensor-based technology will improve workspace utilization further by automatically freeing meeting rooms that are booked but not used. Usage data can also be used to design rooms better in the future. Locating assets and people within buildings can also potentially improve the performance of buildings and life safety.

Environmental And Energy Management

With buildings responsible for about half of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, establishing and maintaining sustainability objectives is becoming a core part of a corporate social responsibility charter. This is compounded by the introduction of regulations that require buildings to be Zero Energy Buildings (ZEBs) or Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs). One such regulation is the European Union Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), 2010/31/EU which requires new buildings occupied and owned by public authorities to be NZEBs after December 31, 2018 and all new buildings by December 31, 2020 (under Article 9).

Sustainability optimization and compliance is a relatively new function. It addresses energy efficiency management and reporting, waste management, recycling, carbon credit calculation, certification and compliance such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), and renewable energy and water supplies. Effective sustainability systems must include the comprehensive collection of accurate energy consumption and emissions data, and the efficient analysis and evaluation of that data to facilitate informed decisions that optimize long-term sustainability goals.

Integrating HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems with workplace management systems will evolve HVAC from the traditional schedule/set point policy to an occupancy-based policy, thereby optimizing energy usage.

Some organizations are installing smart glass windows in the envelope of their buildings. These smart windows can dynamically change the tinting of the glass to control the amount of light and heat that enters a building, thereby creating a climate adaptive building shell. This technology has the potential to save costs for HVAC and lighting, and avoid the cost of installing and maintaining motorized light screens or blinds.

Commercial lighting is the largest usage of energy in buildings. Light emitting diode (LED) lighting is now used for general lighting in almost all applications. Its energy saving potential is a key driver for its increased popularity. Another important aspect of LED lighting is that, with appropriate design, it permits various sensor technologies to be incorporated into the system. Sensors for motion, occupancy, light level (daylight harvesting), temperature, humidity, and indoor air quality can be added to provide a high-density sensor network that collects data for Buildingomics and provides fine grain control of the environment.

Further integration between smart meters, automated demand response systems, building automation systems and a smart grid will provide better and more efficient control between demand and supply of energy.

1 Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices – The next chapter for green building
2 JLL Green + Productive Workplace

workplace managementDr. Tan is the building solutions architect for Europe at CommScope, a Hickory, NC based firm that helps companies around the world design, build, and manage their wired and wireless networks. Based in the UK, Dr. Tan has worked with CommScope for 15 years. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Imperial College, London and is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and a Chartered Engineer. Prior to CommScope, Dr. Tan joined AT&T in 1988 where he filled various EMEA technical roles at AT&T, Lucent and Avaya, and was a member of Bell Laboratories.

The second part of this article will appear tomorrow on, addressing the role of building automation, wireless, and more.

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