RedstoneConnect sits at the infrastructure and platform/applications convergence point. Sue Weekes finds out the main challenges to smarter buildings
SCW: What remain the main challenges to creating smart buildings?
KJ: The challenges really do depend on whom you’re talking to.
The biggest challenge is that in construction, there’s still a build-first, apply-tech-later attitude, with uptake of smart property tech remaining slow.
As work changes, so must the buildings that accommodate it. Progressive developers and landlords realise that in order to stay competitive, they need to address the fundamental issues surrounding the workforce’s interaction with the space; they see technology as the key enabler to this.
This perspective is fuelled by overwhelming research evidence that shows smart buildings provide a more efficient space, to support a more motivated, flexible workforce. But not everyone sees it the same way.
Enlightened business leaders, however, are seeking out new smart working visions to the way their real estates are designed, managed and utilised by tenants. The challenge is to then better present the case for a smart building approach, because when we succeed in this, we achieve results that positively impact everyone involved.
Is there enough collaboration in smart building projects as there should be or is there still a tendency for those involved to take more of a silo-based approach?
There are many disciplines that we engage with on a smart building project, whether it’s a new build or consolidating an existing real estate portfolio, and most companies have gaps in their organisational structure -- a multi-disciplined individual is a rare beast -- but our clients’ organisation structure rarely hinders the project. Our role, along with practical tech implementation, is largely consultative, so it’s our job to fill and communicate through those gaps to achieve company-wide agreement and understanding.
However, as the smart building movement proliferates, we are seeing multi-disciplined roles emerging, which blend technology, property, HR matters and commercialisation, which is a development we welcome, especially as it reflects a growing desire to invest in a progressive relationship with our working environment.
Where are mistakes still made in the design and build of smart buildings? And what lessons can we learn from there?
The common mistakes are very much in the planning stage, mainly due to a lack of awareness about how key technologies can influence the fundamentals of physical design.
We support architects and space designers with our experience of what we know works -- and what definitely doesn’t. We’re about helping professionals push the boundaries while avoiding fundamental issues we know can cause critical problems post-launch.
We all know that smart buildings should work for those who use them as well as those who own them, but how can we ensure this happens?
Our relationships with customers are about solutions that work not only today, but work tomorrow and into the future as well. They must be equipped to develop, learn and adapt over time to ensure the smart solution is always relevant, and continues to be properly optimised.
This is about the culture and needs of the building’s inhabitants; owners need to be on board with the idea that the building is designed to interact with the people who spend every day there, and no amount of smart technology will work if it doesn’t fit in with the way people use their space.
A technology-first approach means a people-first approach – user experience is key to engagement and a truly smart workforce. Owners need to engage with the culture of the people who use it, not with guess-work but with smart technology that measures the way people interact with the space. Only then can you design a building which truly reflects the needs of its people.
What developing technologies excite you most?
Our own road map, of course! We are on a path that will see us strengthen our existing relationships with the likes of Philips, IBM, Cisco and HP Aruba, as well as key facilities management service providers.
Our open architecture by design and flexible software stems from our own collaborative culture, and the recognition that alone, none of us can solve every smart building issue; so we’ve purposefully set out to be the glue that binds our technology with the best of both existing and future offerings. You never know what amazing technology might be right round the corner!
The traditional approach is to deploy lots of physical sensor units across an office building. We optimise and integrate this with our own soft sensor that allows us to measure user activity across a network. That allows for more rapid, lower cost roll outs of our technology across any geography and property portfolio.
For me, building information modelling (BIM) presents the next step of a living smart building, with augmented and virtual reality having a genuine practical purpose in a smart building. As this type of tech presents the opportunity to view and analyse our customers’ smart building data in ways that would have been laborious and challenging 10 years ago. This has wonderful applications for a wide range of users, from services, engineering to space planning, and beyond.
Which of your products have seen the most growth/uptake over the past two years and do you see this changing?
RedstoneConnect is where infrastructure converges with platforms and applications to connect the end user to the buildings we connect. These disciplines are coming together in a really exciting and constructive way. Redstone’s huge physical infrastructure heritage, fused with the Connect LABS division that stems from what was then known as Connect IB, has developed our core software platform and application solutions for our customers’ smart buildings and smart destinations, including our smart workspace application OneSpace.
This technology directly supports the drive for improvements across an organisation, whether that’s through efficiencies and margins, managing more flexible spaces, or increased employee freedom to work the way they want to.
Increased wellbeing, and ultimately, productivity needn’t cost the world in upfront investment or a cultural 180. An incremental process based on careful, precise monitoring, in a style and at a pace that everybody is comfortable with is the key to sustained flexibility and success.
What developments can we expect from RedstoneConnect over the coming years?
At the heart of what we do is a passion for collaboration and best practice in technology. This is what I believe is the root of our growth, and the string investment that supports that growth. Sharing our roadmap with key partners and building an eco system to support collaboration of smart technology is key to our continued success.
The UBS building you were involved in is seen as one of the smartest in Europe, what made that such a successful project?
UBS 5 Broadgate, is a living, breathing representation of how technology can ignite positive change. Key to its success was an enlightened leadership, engaging in open and transparent dialogue across every constituent person and part of the project. In terms of mindset, they were already there; we simply helped them along the way! This was a huge project and in many respects the project is not over. That’s the point of OneSpace; it’s built to evolve and adapt to its changing and progressing environment, be that workforce or new technology.
To date, UBS has over 8,000 mapped desks in the UK, and is extending the OneSpace remit to US and Poland. It comprises a highly flexible 700,000 sq ft working environment for over 6,000 staff, 50 per cent of which are agile workers. OneSpace monitors at many different levels, including desk utilisation, neighbourhoods, departments, individuals, floors and the building itself using the infrastructure design and implemented by Redstone’s infrastructure team.
Through effective monitoring and analysis, desk utilisation has achieved a desk to colleague ratio of 1:1.2 with further gains coming. There are now nearly one and a half people to every desk, which scaled up, represents a huge monetary saving for UBS.
Of course, this is happy collateral to the longer-term investment UBS has made in responding to the needs of its workforce, as one of the key drivers for UBS is the tools and applications extended to their employees enabling them to connect to the new working environments.
Can you tell us about any current/ongoing RedstoneConnect smart building projects around the world?
There is a huge demand for our services in the UK and London is incredibly active.
I’ve personally been clocking up a few miles helping initiate projects in the US and Far East. It’s surprising how affected by geography the appetite for Smart Buildings is. Some markets we are working in are incredibly hungry for tech driven change, and advanced smart building approach is seen as pretty much standard. Some markets are very cautious.
The demand isn’t just focused on commercial office buildings; we’re also applying the same smart thinking to stadia and retail destinations.
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