Smart buildings: It’s a term that has taken over the coworking industry. But what does it mean? It is a building that includes the use of technology to drive efficient and economical use of resources. This, in turn, creates a safe and comfortable environment for the people using that building.
Creating a coworking space in a smart building that is functional and sustainable, comfortable and welcoming for your coworkers, which also complies with all of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and privacy laws, can be quite a challenge. However, once you know where to start it becomes significantly easier to focus on creating a great working environment and communicating its security.
Jon Seal, managing director at technologywithin, spoke to us about coworking spaces and smart buildings, the GDPR requirements and regulations, as well as how these support a sustainable smart building.
technologywithin vision is to “deliver easy to use technology that enhances the workplace experience every day”; by providing technology and connectivity to support coworking spaces and their management.
The company is presently laser focused on IoT (Internet of Things) and is in the early stages of developing IoT solutions for a full Flexible Workspace smart building concept.
They are running an active trial site in Central London; which has allowed technologywithin the ability to test solutions before launch.
“We’re adding a large amount of functionality, and one of the biggest challenges is bringing various different data sources together,” explains Jon.
Flexible work spaces are technologywithin’s speciality, and they are deeply committed to integration of technology in smart buildings which ensure that the client is well connected through the IoT in a way that is beneficial to the client, the environment and the people in the building.
The focus of technologywithin lies on flexible working spaces including coworking spaces. “We understand the demands and the tech that’s traditionally deployed,” says Jon.
Dealing with data in a coworking space
“The big thing about privacy is that you can easily fall down the cracks between what’s required and how people feel, and they’re two very different things” says Jon.
It is one thing to ensure that your space is compliant, but another when it comes to making sure coworkers are happy and comfortable. This is important to keep in mind as the people inside the building, the coworkers, see these things rather differently than regulators.
Jon and his team focus on creating a network where data can easily be connected through cloud services. Jon explains that their technical knowledge and the flex coworking space’s focus on community creates an interesting combination. It allows coworking spaces to easily collect data, but also make use of it in a responsible way.
The combination of expertise is exactly what is needed for flex coworking spaces to have smart buildings, says Jon.
How to choose the right smart building
“With any of these kinds of tech driven services, it is understanding what you’re trying to achieve for your audience.”
Jon explains some of the challenges that operators face when creating smart buildings. “Often the operators don’t own the asset. There’s a good mix in flex workspace between owner operators, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s an operator that’s leasing the space.
“That brings some unique challenges to the table when we need to start considering investment in infrastructure and the actual building fabric.”
But, the most important aspect of creating and implementing a smart building is knowing what your coworkers want.
“One of the things that is really important to look at is the flow and the movements of employees, and IoT sensors can support this. It can monitor how spaces are used, when and to what frequency. Once you understand how people move around, and what they’re doing, you can improve the user experience, you can look at the pinch points, you can improve from there.”
Sustainability with IoT
Being sustainable is a big part of creating and running a smart building. The tech and data collection gadgets are interesting, but, in reality, energy consumption is the most important aspect of running a smart building—especially in the current energy crisis climate across Europe.
Jon points out the energy consumption that many elements of a coworking space use, for instance cooling/heating systems and sensors. Ensuring that these devices are turned off when no one is making use of a room, and even at night when the coworking space closes for the day, can be a great benefit for everyone.
For a more automatic solution, technologywithin is trialling an interesting product. “What we have deployed at our trial site are tiny sensors that sit within the door surrounds that know when the doors have been opened. These occupancy sensors monitor when people are in and making use of a space,” explains Jon
This, paired with great space management systems, will ensure buildings are both sustainable and comfortable to the coworkers and staff. Naturally each solution is customised to the needs of the coworking space, to ensure that it functions the way they intend.
Another interesting way of saving money and resources is by not cleaning areas that have not been used that day. There are many ways to drive efficiency, and not all of them have to be digital solutions.
Once you know how coworkers are using your space, it becomes easier to create solutions that suit their needs. Not just that, but it can also lower overhead costs that can allow coworking spaces the opportunity to further invest in smart solutions to create a comfortable and sustainable coworking space.