Can a smart building make your people happier

The sur­pris­ing ROI for smart build­ings: work­place experience 

The arti­cle rep­re­sents sub­jec­tive opin­ions of Hines Inter­ests Lim­it­ed Part­ner­ship (“Hines”)1, the spon­sor of invest­ment vehi­cles offered by Hines Secu­ri­ties, Inc. (“Hines Secu­ri­ties”). Oth­er mar­ket par­tic­i­pants may rea­son­ably have dif­fer­ing opinions. 

Tra­di­tion­al­ly, the busi­ness case for smart build­ings has focused on reli­a­bil­i­ty and ener­gy effi­cien­cy. Now, employ­ers seem to be rec­og­niz­ing that invest­ing in smart build­ings can more than pay off in terms of work­place expe­ri­ence, employ­ee reten­tion, and employ­ee per­for­mance. Hines views this as good news for cor­po­rate occu­piers, prop­er­ty investors, and land­lords alike.

Intelligent buildings make for better workplaces 

By def­i­n­i­tion, smart build­ings com­bine build­ing automa­tion sys­tems with wire­less sen­sors and oth­er Inter­net of Things (IoT) devices that gath­er data about build­ing equip­ment per­for­mance, indoor tem­per­a­ture, air flow, humid­i­ty, and oth­er aspects of the build­ing. Through IoT con­nec­tiv­i­ty, a smart build­ing can con­tin­u­ous­ly adjust itself in response to envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and occu­pan­cy levels.

Dig­i­tal work­place tech­nolo­gies, such as room reser­va­tion sys­tems, can com­ple­ment smart build­ing sys­tems to not only add work­place effi­cien­cy and con­ve­nience, but also gen­er­ate valu­able data about office occu­pan­cy and usage. Light­ing, heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air con­di­tion­ing sys­tems, Wi-Fi, office chairs and desks, cof­fee machines, and even entire office spaces can become intel­li­gent with the addi­tion of sen­sors con­nect­ed to the build­ing automa­tion system.

Hines believes these con­nect­ed tech­nolo­gies may pro­vide pow­er­ful ben­e­fits for the employ­ee expe­ri­ence and well-being—including cog­ni­tive per­for­mance. In par­tic­u­lar, smart build­ing sys­tems can be used to pro­vide the ide­al indoor cli­mate, includ­ing Indoor Air Qual­i­ty (IAQ), light­ing lev­els, ven­ti­la­tion, humid­i­ty and tem­per­a­ture. For exam­ple, if build­ing sen­sors indi­cate ris­ing car­bon diox­ide lev­els, the HVAC sys­tem will auto­mat­i­cal­ly increase fresh air exchanges.

Intel­li­gent build­ings, where tech­nol­o­gy and well-being unite, are the key to unlock­ing work­place excel­lence. By meld­ing automa­tion, IoT sen­sors, and data insights, these smart struc­tures adapt seam­less­ly to nur­ture an ide­al indoor cli­mate and ampli­fy the employ­ee expe­ri­ence,” said Hines’ Chief Tech­nol­o­gy Offi­cer, Jean­nie Schneider.

The impact of improved indoor air quality 

The impor­tance of main­tain­ing high IAQ is long-established—a land­mark World Green Build­ing Coun­cil (WGBC) report from 2014 found that pro­vid­ing opti­mal IAQ could improve pro­duc­tiv­i­ty by 811%. The fol­low­ing year, a dou­ble-blind study from the Har­vard School of Pub­lic Health report­ed that peo­ple in well-ven­ti­lat­ed offices with clean air had dou­ble the cog­ni­tive func­tion of work­ers in offices with aver­age air qual­i­ty2. More recent­ly, the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency report­ed that indoor pol­lu­tants can be two to five times high­er than out­doors, and clean­ing this air can increase work­place pro­duc­tiv­i­ty by 11%2.

Putting people in charge 

Light­ing may also affect work­ers’ mood and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. While the pos­i­tive impact of nat­ur­al light in the office has been well doc­u­ment­ed, man­ag­ing a building’s elec­tric light­ing can also improve the employ­ee expe­ri­ence. Today’s ener­gy-effi­cient intel­li­gent light­ing sys­tems can self-adjust in response to the amount of nat­ur­al light avail­able. In addi­tion, some smart light­ing sys­tems allow indi­vid­u­als to con­trol the light in their work­space or in a con­fer­ence room.

Sim­i­lar­ly, smart build­ing sys­tems can be con­fig­ured to allow an employ­ee to con­trol heat­ing and cool­ing of their work­space. As facil­i­ties man­agers will con­firm, tem­per­a­ture is the most com­mon source of com­plaints in the office. Pro­vid­ing employ­ees with even a mod­est lev­el of per­son­al con­trol over their ther­mal com­fort can return sin­gle-dig­it improve­ments in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty (accord­ing to the WGBC report) by reduc­ing the dis­trac­tion of being too hot or too cold at work.

Hines believes smart build­ings are not just about build­ing per­for­mance, but about help­ing the peo­ple inside feel their best and achiev­ing their best per­for­mance at work. From the employ­ee point of view, invest­ing in a build­ing with a brain is an intel­li­gent thing to do.