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Kirkstall Forge

“The fallacy that creating smart buildings is expensive is wrong” – Different by Design: Future of offices

10.12.2019 | Blog

Intelligent buildings and innovative office design were at the forefront of conversation at the latest Different by Design event, hosted by CEG at Kirkstall Forge.

Held at Number One, the event featured talks from architects Cooper Cromar and Engie – Smart Buildings on how innovation within software and hardware is condensing disparate systems into one interface, and how the ever-evolving needs of a workforce is driving change in office design.

Using technological advancements to create the offices of the future

Mark Davenport, CEO of Smart Buildings, introduced the room to the lengths that technology and innovation can push boundaries when it comes to the office of the future and meeting the demands of the modern-day workforce.

“I asked 20 people what an intelligent building is, and I got 20 different answers,” said Mark, highlighting the ambiguity of what a smart workspace is. But, he explained, in the office of the future disparate systems will need to be joined together and managed efficiently, effectively and most importantly innovatively.

As Mark put it, intelligent buildings are about reducing the capital expenditure, known as the CapEx, and improving the operational expenditure, known as the OpEx.

There are big obstacles to be overcome to develop smart buildings as the industry can often work in siloes, with a traditional mentality and a lack of knowledge and skillset to implement the technology.

Mark argued that few construction consultants can specify what a smart building is, so they need assistance from those who have the innovative vision and can build the specification, then test and deliver it. Education around this is imperative across the sector, from architects to engineers and suppliers.

Implementing one interface

Mark told the audience that the answer to an intelligent building is cloud-based technology and using one interface which is connected to all data points of the infrastructure for asset management. This not only improves how the building is managed, but also the results for the end user.

This interface manages the conventional systems that all businesses currently have in buildings, such as air conditioning and lighting, alongside the areas where there has been development for data to be shared. Mark used the example of Butler’s bar/restaurant – through having access to the data on how many people are in the building and asking them what food they wanted at lunch, they could save money by cutting the costs of food waste. Gaining access to this granular data from an individual’s smart device is best for business.

This is the era of agile working, according to Mark, so every touchpoint of the workspace needs to be a “seamless experience”. They are seeing the benefit of upgrading and integrating to one interface saved upwards of £2.2m in costs.

However, the interface has to be operationally simple as without employee pick up, an intelligent building cannot be created. At The Edge in Amsterdam, described as the smartest building in the world, only two per cent of staff used an integrated interface. So whilst it was lauded externally, internally it had failed. Mark also stated that the take up of using the integrated tech is a generational issue, with young workers being more willing than older staff.

Meeting room 2.0

Mark explained how room booking will transform completely in an intelligent building.

The lighting and aircon can be pre-set, caterers notified when food is required, and presenting can be simply passed between devices. Artificial intelligence will be in the rooms too, detecting what assets and people are in there – this will provide updates through data, rather than through visuals. Everything down to the humidity of the room can be monitored, through having the right intelligence in place.

The same innovation can be used for those coming to your building externally. QR codes could be delivered to their phones when they’re 50 metres away from office into the building, and then when they’re right outside, you can interact with them via Bluetooth.

From there, the hosts can be notified guests have arrived, wayfinding software can direct them to where they need to go and in the lobby a lift can be called ready for them. The data collected can go further in smart buildings, connecting users to all the facilities and amenities in a workspace to provide a seamless user experience.

“It’s about futureproofing the infrastructure,” Mark said, through joining hardware and software together rather than working disparately.

The evolving workspace at front of mind for 2 Kirkstall Forge

Also speaking at the future office event were Graham Forsyth and Simon Walsh from Cooper Cromar, the architecture practice which has helped develop the commercial offering at Kirkstall Forge.

Graham opened the presentation by discussing the success of Number One, the first commercial space as part of the wider masterplan. He spoke of the ambition behind designing a 110,000 sq ft commercial space of a city- centre quality at an out-of-town location, aimed to bring big occupiers to Kirkstall Forge development.

Paul Fox of Fox Lloyd Jones, who was in the audience for the evening, described the commercial development at Kirkstall Forge has being “pioneering”, as it’s rare to find Grade-A office spaces outside of the city centre.

But even through the build, Simon discussed how Cooper Cromar needed to adapt the building to meet the changing office market. The last three to five years have seen a shift towards employee driven, ambiguous spaces with a focus more on hospitality– that’s what modern businesses want.

“Would we repeat the space arrangement we have here (in Number One)? No, we categorically wouldn’t,” said Graham, as although the offices are Grade-A standard, they haven’t been designed with the WeWork generation in mind – but he stated the next office, 2 Kirkstall Forge would be.

Graham said the biggest change in 2 Kirkstall Forge would be the 200,000 sq ft floorplate. 85 per cent of commercial space lettings in Leeds are less than 5,000 sq ft, so the demand for smaller spaces is something which must be acknowledged and adjusted for– “ensuring we’re capturing the smaller occupiers which in turn build the communities through diversity is key to the project’s success.”

An emphasis is to be placed on creating a co-working, collaborative office, refiguring spaces for employees’ needs. The new model for commercial space is book-ending offices with wellbeing facilities and amenities for everyone to enjoy.

Physical barriers are disappearing, thanks to the different type of control through technology as discussed by Mark Davenport, but the same spaces will maintain their robustness and aesthetic trends. As Graham said, the modern market wants a flexible product that allows floorplates to be broken down and reconfigured to meet their demands.

After the successes of Number One, Graham and Simon were both in agreement that 2 Kirkstall Forge will outperform the industry benchmarks and be a Grade-A commercial space built with the future office in mind.

Different by Design in 2020

After a year of successful Different by Design events at Kirkstall Forge in 2019, we’re looking forward to hosting a packed calendar of keynote talks and presentations in 2020.

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