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A ‘Smarter’ future for office space in the UK?

by | Oct 3, 2017

Checking the progress of ‘Smart’ office space in the UK.

The new CBRE viewpoint ‘Smarter Regions? is now out and available in short or full format. We explore:

Smart on whose terms? The term ‘smart office space’ risks becoming a cliché in real estate. Opinions vary widely on what it means. We identify recurring themes aimed at harnessing new and evolving technology innovations to boost:

  • Real estate operational efficiencies
  • health, wellbeing, and personal empowerment, and
  • employee productivity

There are many examples of partially smart buildings where one or more elements of a building or environment control are ‘smart’. But there aren’t many that are ‘fully-integrated smart’.

Why is technology racing up the corporate agenda?

CBRE’s 2017 EMEA Occupier Survey reveals an overarching concern to make office space smarter. This concern is driven by a desire to:

  • increase efficiency and agility (of people and office space), and
  • accommodate a changing workforce and new technology.

Both create opportunities and threats to existing business models.

What new disruptive technologies beckon?

The Internet of Things (IoT), which essentially describes ‘the transformation of any physical object into a digital data product’ will drive further innovation. IoT involves connecting devices to one another as well as to the internet. McKinsey analysts predict that by around 2025, 1 trillion devices will be connected to the Internet. IoT is viewed by many as a profound influence on the commercial real estate landscape.

Just how ‘smart’ is office space in the UK regions at present?

To take the pulse of the smart office sector, we examined five case studies from a vanguard of companies taking a fresher, more tech-savvy approach to corporate real estate. The research features two landlords who have been pushing the boundaries with technology in their existing portfolios and new developments. We also profile two occupiers who have taken advantage of office moves to invest heavily in office technology. And we profile the technology that can provide the tools and analytics needed for smarter use and management of office buildings.

Our view – 5 immediate trends in smarter office space:

  • Integrate to Empower: More integration of previously separate systems such as heating and air-conditioning with others such as lighting, security access and occupancy sensors.
  • Flexible working solutions, to support changing needs of a growing contingent workforce, through facilitation of agile and co-working
  • App-centric workplaces, geared towards wellness strategies, enriching the lives of building inhabitants, offering greater control of building services and increasing opportunities for collaboration
  • Sensors and beacons to monitor building usage and facilitate location finding.
  • More landlords to seek WiredScore certification to future proof buildings and guarantee best in class technology infrastructure provision for occupiers.

It won’t stop there of course. Greater operational data on buildings, machine learning and growing artificial intelligence capabilities will increase the potential of smarter office buildings to optimize efficiency savings and boost the health and productivity of building inhabitants. The digital future is ever changing, with far reaching transformative implications for people, businesses and workplaces. The strength of response to technology innovation will produce winners and losers.


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