‘Smart buildings’ – what are they, and what are their advantages, disadvantages and impacts on markets and property development? Associate Darren Ashworth explains here.
There are numerous examples, scattered around the world, of office buildings which are at the forefront of smart technology and Europe has some noteworthy models. For example, the Gherkin in London manages internal temperature and the opening and closing of blinds autonomously, which helps to reduce day to day operating costs by up to 50%. At the Agnelli Foundation in Turin, each employee can set his or her own preferred ambient room temperature (which follows them around as they move).
Perhaps most impressively of all, the Edge building in Amsterdam contains a network of 28,000 sensors which record a wide range of usage data. Those recordings in turn allow for heating and lighting controls to be applied across the space as a whole to maximise efficiency and for cleaning to be targeted on rooms subject to heavy use. It is reported that it even has a robot security guard and a coffee machine which recognises those who approach and suggests a drink type.
Even at a more basic level, a smart building can offer its occupiers the potential to exercise remote control of temperature, light and air conditioning facilitates. That should, in theory, result in a reduction in energy consumption (a prospect which has increasing value as the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards for buildings approaches in 2018).
Advantages of smart buildings
To take a few examples:
- Monitoring the use of space can help to inform reorganisations and reconfigurations to facilitate the most efficient use of physical space and resources. An occupier can downsize or explore shared use options if it is found that a significant proportion of its current demise is underused.
- For developers and investors, smart building designs are “future-proof” and potentially represent a safer bet in the long run. Advances in construction techniques help to limit construction and material transportation costs which would, previously, have been excessive.
- It is thought that a modern, efficient office environment helps to attract new employees and maximise the productivity of existing employees (although the prospect of employee tracking services, which are available in some buildings, may not be popular with everyone!).
- The availability of hyper-connectivity facilitates aggregate “all in” fees for rent, service charges and outgoings, which offers businesses greater certainty in compiling business models.
- Increased data collection can also help to influence, and reduce, insurance quotes.
Challenges and impacts on the market
The increased availability of technology also brings its own unique challenges. For example, it heightens the need for robust cyber security and privacy controls.
Some commentators believe that the greater availability of smart buildings in the next few years will change the dynamics of the office lease market. For example, it is expected that agile working will become more widespread, increasing demand for shared spaces in fully serviced offices on shorter lease terms.
All of that raises some interesting challenges – for example, are the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 still fit for purpose in the modern business world? That’s a question to tackle on another day …
Author: Darren Ashworth
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