A to Z of Smart Buildings

O: Occupants

Posted by The Comfy Team on Aug. 9, 2016

Buildings come in all shapes and sizes—tall and short, old and new, simple and streamlined, to complex and seemingly gravity defying. Though we’ve discussed how buildings have evolved over the years in response to both technological advancements and socio-political influences, it's worth reiterating a building's primary purpose: to service the evolving needs of the occupants inside.

Buildings that provide more optimal environments for their occupants are inherently more desirable. For owners, they can lead to higher tenant occupancy rates and increased asset value. For tenants, these buildings have the potential to enhance employee attraction and retention, and improve productivity. So, we understand that satisfying the wants and needs of occupants are important, but what exactly does that mean?

It's all about occupant experience. Read on to learn about the top three things today's occupants want most.

1. Occupants want a smart office

The advent of the smartphone is widely considered one of the most influential technological advancements of our time, fundamentally changing the way we operate on a daily basis—how we interact with others as well as with our environment. As we’ve mentioned before, buildings—especially commercial spaces—have been unfashionably late to the smart-party...and it has not gone unnoticed.

According to a workplace survey that Dell released earlier this month, 44% of employees worldwide feel that their workspace isn’t smart enough. They’ve become accustomed to the conveniences of smart tech in their hands and in their homes and now they’re waiting for, if not demanding that, their buildings step up to the plate. In fact, 42% of surveyed millennials said they would quit a job with substandard technology and 82% said workplace technology influences what role they would take. Smart office = smart occupants.

2. Occupants want a more environmentally sustainable workplace

Millennials are currently the largest cohort in the workplace and will make up nearly half of the workforce by 2020, bringing with them higher expectations of their employers, particularly when it comes to sustainability initiatives. This generation has first-hand experience with the repercussions of environmental neglect and are putting their (carbon) foot(print) down. In addition to driving sustainability programs, millennials are reportedly three times more likely to apply for a job because of its social and environmental efforts. Therefore, it’s becoming crucial for companies—and thus, building owners—to recognize the importance of sustainability for both existing and prospective employees and occupants.

Essentially, those small blue recycling bins are no longer going to cut it. Occupants make eco-conscious choices at home—reducing their waste, recycling, composting, and investing in energy efficient appliances—and they want to be able to do the same at work. Fortunately, many of the features provided and built into smart, high performance buildings are also sustainable by design. In a 2008 Deloitte study, 93% of organizations reported that it was easier to attract talent after undergoing a green building renovation. The smartest building technologies reimagine the way we use standard systems and amenities to both leverage their capabilities and lower their ecological footprint, some even going as far as net-zero energy consumption.

3. Occupants want greater control of their physical environment

It's clear by their desire for smarter, more sustainable offices, that occupants are looking for a more seamless transition between home and work. Advanced tech, especially on-demand services, have revolutionized once stagnant industries—from online shopping (Amazon) to transportation (Uber, Lyft) and food (Grubhub, Seamless). Today, you can get almost anything you want at the click of a button…except when it comes to the office.

One distinct difference occupants experience at work is a considerably diminished degree of control over their environment. That lack of control translates to everything from finding a quiet space to take a call to dimming glaring overhead lights to adjusting the temperature to suit their personal needs.

A 2015 Leesman workplace survey of over 102,000 respondents showed that although temperature control was named one of the top features considered to be an important part of an effective workplace, it is also the feature with the highest reported dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, the ability for individual workers to control the temperature at their workstation has been shown to improve individual productivity gains by 3.5% - 36.6%. (And no, that is not a typo. We're talking about ROIs of 23% - 205% when occupants have more control of their physical environment.) Today’s occupants are no longer accepting the status quo in their office, especially when it comes to basic amenities like lighting, space, and temperature that can have a real affect on both their comfort and productivity.

Building owners want to attract and retain quality tenants, who in turn want to attract and retain quality employees…in order to do so, they have to provide an office environment that meets, or exceeds, modern expectations.

One of the greatest things about existing and emerging smart building tech is that it’s providing a way to satisfy occupants’ needs without breaking the bank...or the walls. Owners can leverage existing infrastructure utilizing the power of the cloud to make significant improvements in occupant experience. Bonus? The three things occupants want most out of their buildings—a smart, sustainable workplace with greater personal control— often go hand-in-hand. Today’s smart buildings are bridging the gap between occupants’ high-tech personal lives and their offices, subsequently getting more efficient and sustainable, and—ironically—doing so in part by giving occupants more control.

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