We started looking at our buildings in a very different light
It is impossible to avoid it: the corona crisis will impact our accommodations. Many employees and employers got a taste of working from home. And a large group appears to want more of the same. So now the question is: how much is going to change and what does this mean for our office buildings.
More possible than expectedBefore the pandemic, over one third of those employed in the Netherlands worked at home from time to time. Only a small minority (6%) did this full-time. At the beginning of the corona crisis, the number of employees working from home rose to approximately 50% and a large portion did so full-time or almost full-time. The larger majority appeared to be able to handle this very well. These figures come from a study conducted by the Dutch Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy. The conclusion is clear: for a good part of the workforce there are plenty of opportunities for them to do their work fully or partially from home. And there is no doubt that this is going to change our world.
How do you convincingly show users that you offer them a healthy environment? This is something we need to discuss with each other, in order to design this new world together.
Mix of working from home and at the officeHow are employers going to deal with this, when in the near future there no longer is a social need for working from home? From various discussions I’ve had, I conclude that many companies will focus on a mix of working from home and at the office. Consultations and meetings at the office and production at home. For building owners the question then becomes: what does this modified function exactly require from the building and its facilities? Because employees will come to the office with other objectives in mind. This is activity-based working, whereby meeting is a key focus. This requires more and larger rooms to meet with colleagues, to consult with your team and to exchange knowledge. But at the same time enough quiet spaces to be able to concentrate on your work.
A new way of dealing with spaceThe changed building function affects the building’s layout, but also requires its use to be scheduled. To avoid that there is no room available or that a floor becomes overcrowded, a reservation system is desirable. In other words, employees indicate in advance that they are coming and exactly for what reason. This way user needs can be aligned with the availability of workplaces. At the same time it is useful to as much as possible prevent space from being heated and lit, while it is not being used. Reservation systems solve this issue by providing for an efficient distribution of people across space and time.
The pandemic has made us even more aware of the importance of our health and how vulnerable our health really is. It is therefore reasonable to expect that in addition to sustainability, health and safety will be given lots of attention.
Wellbeing is in our DNAThe pandemic has made us even more aware of the importance of our health and how vulnerable our health really is. It is therefore reasonable to expect that in addition to sustainability, health and safety will be given lots of attention. Of course there already was a focus on this theme in the facilities world – just take a look at the changed menu in company cafeterias. However, a healthy lunch and a fruit basket near the coffee machine are no longer enough. The focus on health will have to be greater in terms of breadth as well as depth. A good example is ventilation. This is a major area of focus during the pandemic, because ventilation counters virus transfer. At many locations, the ventilation proved not be in order, obsolete or inconsistent with the refined guidelines. High time for building managers to catch up on this deficit.
Technology and the user
Aside from providing a sustainable workplace, smart building technology also provides lots of opportunities for providing a comfortable and healthy workplace. Not only that, we can also actively involve users in this. They are increasingly used to having information and insight, and digital tools with which to influence their environment. In a smart building, users are provided with information about the status of their working environment through means of displays. An alert is displayed when a limit value is exceeded accompanied by advice, such as opening a window or leaving the room. This technology provides the building with an extra dimension and a different experience. This nicely responds to the desire of employers to give their office buildings an appearance that emphasises their brand identity.
Central data source
There are plenty of opportunities to prepare buildings to respond to new requirements and different uses. However a condition for this is that all building data must be collected centrally. Here I am not only talking about how the technical systems operate, but also about the building’s utilisation and the condition of the various rooms, and perhaps even the individual workplaces as well. This data is required for the new services to be provided to users, but also provides valuable management information for building managers as well as facilities management parties, such as security services and cleaners. Such a central data pool with numerous applications is known as a Digital Twin – a technology that in the near future will become an indispensable part of the facilities management world.
Designing the new worldIn short: due to the corona crisis all kinds of new questions are suddenly emerging about our buildings. What is needed to facilitate the changes in use? How do we accommodate safety and health in addition to sustainability? How do we keep performance manageable, so that the building and the services constantly adjust to the users? How do you convincingly show users that you offer them a healthy environment? We have to engage in a dialogue together to address these questions, so as to design this new world together.
This blog is also published on the Duurzaam Gebouwd [Sustainably Built] platform.