24 Jul 2019

Smart spaces create happy people

When organisations aim to optimise their facilities, there is an understandable focus on digital technologies. Modern facilities are expected to be smart, data-driven and automated. There is a danger, however, that in doing so one of the oldest and most important rules of human endeavour will be forgotten - that an organisation is nothing without its people. The balance is shifting to asset optimisation such as energy savings and space reductions. These aspects are easier to achieve than, for instance, an increase in people’s happiness, wellbeing and brand identity. Organisations can invest heavily in digital technologies, but if these do not directly contribute to the people upon which these enterprises are built, then it could be money down the drain.

From journey to added value

Identifying the needs and opportunities of an organisation is all about asking the right questions to the right people. On the one hand, it is about challenging and focusing on the ambitions of the organisation; what is the identity of the company, what differentiates it from its competitors? On the other hand, incorporating the user into the design process is vital to capture the real added value. Gathering relevant data to build a thorough understanding of how the various users work and behave in their environments - whether it is an office, a hospital, a university or a transport hub - is important to help identify the real needs of users and explore future opportunities to make the building even better.

Mark is visiting the hospital for a health check-up. He has to visit multiple departments, including haematology, microbiology and cardiology at different locations in the hospital and the waiting time for each department is quite long, as the clinics are running late. He is forced to wait in a waiting room until the nurse announces his name. The lack of communication and information about his appointment time, plus his time spent in the waiting room unable to do anything, create a poor and stressful experience. This process is neither cost nor time efficient.

In a different scenario, Mark could enjoy a seamless and efficient visit to the hospital during which the waiting time will be a comfortable and pleasant experience. As soon as Mark enters the hospital building, he is given a pager like those used in some self-service restaurants. In a restaurant scenario, when the meal is ready, the guest receives an alert to collect the meal. The pager creates an invisible queue, reducing congestion in the restaurant and leaving guests free to wait where they want. Imagine the added value of this application in a healthcare environment. Instead of sitting in the dull waiting room until he is seen, Mark can go for a pleasant walk or visit the cafeteria with a relative. Five minutes before the appointment time, Mark receives a notification on the pager and heads back to the clinic knowing that he will be seen straight away. Not only does this create a more agreeable experience for Mark, it helps improve the overall efficiency of the hospital.

By exploring the journey of a visitor, all of the touchpoints of the visit can be identified to form the starting point for redesigning the user journey either by adding digital technologies and smart tools or by changing the physical design of the building office floor. It’s at this point that the company’s values should be incorporated. What type of experience does it want to create for visitors and how does it want to be perceived by them?

These insights should be used to translate the organisational values and ambitions into new work processes which are built upon real user experiences. Together, this helps define the smart requirements for the building. In the value case*, the value potential around the people experience and the cost-saving opportunity in the building can be determined. It’s a powerful tool which brings focus and helps to define budgets for the planned upgrade, renovation or new-built project.

Smart by design

The consequence of an experience-centric approach is that elements of the building, the facility services as well as the business application, work together. Traditional silos need to be connected because the value is typically delivered through new use cases that focus around user groups and personas, not organisational departments. To make buildings truly smart by design, you must change the specification as well as the governance in the built process. This is where engineering consultants who are critical in setting conditions and writing smart building specifications add real value.

Delivering continuous value

As independent consultants, we are technology agnostic advisers and will match the best technology fit for your demand. By integrating investment decisions for your organisation process, your accommodation process and your work process, we help to optimise the smart requirements for your building and make the total environment deliver optimal value. We believe that such projects should not be thought of in terms of cost per square metre, but rather focus on bringing value to the people at the core of your organisation. Think of the value potential of a happy employee who acquires new clients or boosts your brand value.

We know one thing for sure; organisations will be always dynamic and the buildings they are accommodated in will be always static. Putting a digital layer in between helps to bridge this gap to embrace change. This requires an organisational and human-centric approach which can adapt to future changes and be ready for the future.

The key takeaways:

  1. Put your users at the centre of your new plans.
  2. A smart building should reflect your organisational ambitions.
  3. Make your building smart by design based on an integral data and information vision.
  4. Be aware that the real work starts once the building is ready and user start using it.

*A value case is a business case focussed on adding value instead of reducing costs.

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Onno Willemse
Global Business Director Smart & Healthy Environments
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Linda Supheert
Consultant Smart & Healthy environments



Smart and Healthy Environments