The office building of 2030: how tech can build a greener future

This WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at a major new report which charts a rise in investment in smart technology to meet sustainability targets – and at a green workplace concept from Hong Kong

After real estate investment in smart building technology suffered in the pandemic, experiencing a two-year dip in funding, things are now looking up again for the smart office. Investment in smart building technology has soared to its highest level since 2018, according to a new report from CB Insights.

What has prompted such rapid reinvestment? Sustainability is at the heart of the matter. As global regulations focus on green buildings, the real estate industry has little choice but to rethink the efficiency and energy consumption of the property portfolio. This means a major shift for the future of the office building.

The CB Insights report, entitled ‘The Future of the Office Building’ looks at how the office building of 2030 is poised to operate more sustainably and efficiently than ever before using innovative smart building technology. The report covers five critical smart building technologies that are emerging into mainstream office infrastructure.

‘The report covers five critical smart building technologies emerging into mainstream…’

The first is the introduction of IoT-connected heat pumps into the workplace. Heat pumps are designed to replace the energy-guzzling traditional HVAC systems by electrifying heating and cooling and improving energy efficiency in buildings. When heat pumps are coupled with IoT sensors around the building, facility management teams can better manage and control where and when energy is used. Top-tier systems will be augmented with AI to predict heating and cooling needs.

As building managers gain better control of energy usage, they can dial energy consumption up or down to act as a virtual power plant for the local grid. Virtual power plants can become a significant – and much needed – source of revenue for corporate real estate. As initial pilot projects prove the benefits of virtual power plants, companies facilitating this will need to work quickly to scale up projects to include office buildings and their energy resources.

Other smart building technologies include the use of ‘smart glass’ – a window coating which monitors the sun’s movement to reduce energy loss – and AI-assisted occupancy and security technology which uses sophisticated 3D image recognition to identify objects and people to monitor who is in the building and how much energy is required.

The report also highlights the digital twin as an emerging smart building technology. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real set of objects, constructed with real-world data collected from IoT sensors. Digital twins are growing in popularity because of the increased investment in the metaverse and in 5G-connected devices. Ultimately, they will drastically reduce the amount of human input needed in office building facilities management.

‘Digital twins are growing in popularity because of investment in the metaverse…’

The building of 2030 will draw on emerging innovative technologies and advances in AI to increase efficiency. The future of corporate real estate looks bright, says the report, but only for those seizing the opportunities of smart building technologies which will meet the increasingly demand of new regulations for energy efficiency.

Future-ready workplace

In keeping with the theme of sustainable workplaces, Hong Kong-based architects Ronald Lu & Partners have designed an eco-conscious workplace concept called Treehouse. The project aims to reconnect the relationship between humanity in nature.

The award-winning Treehouse design considers three core principles: interactivity, flexibility and user centricity. The concept draws on innovative technology and AI to achieve a highly sustainable and digitally connected workplace. The project uses technology as a means to analyse information, learn, and communicate better with colleagues.

Sustainable in Stockholm

Join us at WORKTECH22 Stockholm to hear from EY about the creation of its new sustainable workplace in Stockholm. WORKTECH is offering tours of the innovative EY office alongside key insights from the EY workplace team at an in-person conference. Organisations all over the world are transitioning back and forth between remote working and hybrid working. The transition demands new technology, effective office space and more collaboration. EY’s session explores how best to create effective and sustainable workplaces of the future.

Read a review of the WORKTECH22 Amsterdam conference here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 11 May 2022.
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