Putting People back in Smart Building Technologies

12CU – Meet the Minds Nr 6
July 12, 2021

How do I reduce real estate costs while boosting employee productivity, keeping them happy and engaged?” This question touches upon the challenge of balancing. Balancing the money spent on space with the comfort of workers. The ultimate goal is to promote happiness among workers. Hence we selected the theme of happiness for the upcoming few Meet the Mind articles. We started by asking ourselves the question: What makes you happy at work. One of the first answers: Feeling like you can be productive! Hence today’s focus: Promoting Productivity using Smart Building Technologies When do you feel most happy? You feel happy when you have been productive!

As mentioned before, the everlasting battle between Finance or Human Resource management is cost vs employee happiness. This battle boils down to the following question: “How can we save on the staggering costs of real estate, without compromising on my employee’s motivation?” and what insights do I need to know how much space my employees need? Drivers to this question are the changing attitudes towards a more traditional workstyle as well as climbing real estate costs in bigger cities. It is only when you work in an environment that fit your work style that you become productive. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The answer to this business dilemma possibly lies in Smart Building Technologies.


Simply speaking, buildings with intelligent systems in place can automatically control many of its functions, for example, lighting, security, climate and a whole myriad of additional operations. However, this is not smart yet. What separates an intelligent building from its big brother, the way more capable Smart Building is the smart system integration. This integration includes a building’s operational networks, IoT devices and use of information technology. By integrating these individual systems, all of the retrieved data combined lead to insight into how the building is used and interacted with. This data can then be analysed in greater detail.

We ate 12CU analyse data in real-time implementing artificial intelligence software. As a result, two-way dialogue between user and building can be created. This takes Smart-Building even further. What makes a building truly smart is that a self-learning system grows and learns over time to answer to its users’ needs – a building becomes increasingly helpful to the people who use it over time.


All of the above sounds fantastic doesn’t it. Still, there are two options when implementing Smart Building Technologies both with very different result.

First of all a Technology-centric approach. What do we mean by a technology-centric approach? Implementing Smart Building technologies for the sake of staying up to date. Today, everyone is discussing the different opportunities technology offers to make our buildings function better. Professionals provide an overwhelming flood of AI, IoT, Big Data Solutions, Algorithms, ones and zeros and the pressure to go along with trends is higher than ever. In a rush to stay relevant we fill up our buildings with the most expensive hardware. We listen to the most beautiful promises of how these technologies will improve our lives. In the process we lose track of the work style of our employees and thus the needs of employees, leaving them struggling to be productive. By the end, we are left with a high-tech optimised pile of concrete that isn’t truly helpful to our employees and therefore fails to make them happy and productive.

The second option we prefer is a Human-Centric approach to Smart Building Technologies. In essence, Smart Building Technologies build connections, creating an environment that connects building users with information about the space specifically. It does so to be helpful to building users. So the questions to ask in a human-centric approach is: what Smart Building Technologies would be helpful to my building users? Our answer would be tools that allow users to save time, find colleagues faster, book meeting rooms for them, show where best to sit down and work, and that’s just the beginning. It is crucial in every choice to refocus on your people and find the tools that will allow you to attain the goal of increasing productivity among your employees in as little space as possible. The only way of doing so is by creating a Smart Building that can learn and get to know it’s users needs.


Now we still haven’t discussed what factors within a building influence productivity. So we haven’t answered our initial question quite yet. We have found that, productivity increases when we have a workplace able to respond to the needs of employees, a workplace that relieves stress over trivial things such as noise, privacy, search for a workplace or other office amenities.  Allowing employees to work productively means that an office layout should reflect the workstyle enjoyed by its employees. The past couple of years have seen a marked increase in workplace mobility – generally few people work from the same desk or even the same building every day. Employees walk, brows, switch, leave a trail of laptops, phones, papers and pens behind, and also occasionally work from home. With this flexible and remote working becoming the norm, a gap comes to exist between the workspace and work style. Consequently, the workspace needs to evolve to accommodate this new approach better.

So how can a Smart Office help solve the problem of empty desks while still enabling a flexible work style and make employees happy?

Smart buildings can analyse building users and show where they like to work and floors employees would rather avoid. Places that remain empty all the time probably do not fit the workstyle needs of employees. Smart Technologies focused on people could notify business leaders and come up with a real picture of building use. As a result, business leaders can come to understand how people walk, brows, and use office space. Based on an understanding of “productive behaviour” the office layout can be adapted. As a result, how a building is used becomes the basis of your office layout and the amount of space you rent. By understanding office use and making decisions based on the behaviour of building users we strike a balance between costs and employee happiness/productivity. We at 12CU like to call this process of analysing: Human-Centric Office Analytics.


We see two positive results of Human-Centric Office Analytics. Firstly, this approach harnesses the power of a smart building, generating a material reduction in operational real estate costs. Additionally, it draws attention to the needs of your employees. Answering to the needs of employees will help them become more productive.

Today, companies have started to place employee welfare and productivity way higher on the company agenda than ever before. One of the most important enablers of this paradigm shift in working culture has been technology. We believe it is technology that will help people conduct business in new ways. It has already done so for years as Youth Incorporated underlines in their article how has technology changed the way we world. From a human-centric perspective, technology will only become truly helpful when our focus is placed on people and not just because everyone else is using it! This is why we focus on people in our 12CU products. Technology and people can go hand in hand with the right guidance and a strong human-focus.

So can Smart Building Technologies contribute to employee productivity and help save on real estate costs? Absolutely, as long as we put people back into Smart Building Technologies, select tools only when they lead to an understanding of how employees work, and tools that help us understand what employees need to become productive. At least that’s 12CU’s opinion.

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