Improving workplace experience and sustainability with automation

22 June 2022 4 min. read

As organisations welcome the workforce back to physical offices, employers should take the opportunity to construct offices that are not only healthier, but also smarter, more user-friendly and more sustainable, writes Sabrina Venish, Head of Platform Solutions at PlaceOS.

Australia’s built environment makes up almost a quarter of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and more than half of electricity consumption. Energy demand from buildings continues to rise, driven by greater ownership and use of energy-consuming appliances, and rapid growth in global buildings floor area.

Globally, the buildings and construction sectors combined are responsible for almost one-third of total global final energy consumption and nearly 15% of direct CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Buildings (IEA).

Sabrina Venish, Global Head of Platform Solutions, PlaceOS

As hybrid work takes hold, so does the need to consider building design and management that are more sustainable.

The case for sustainability at workplaces

When considering the case for sustainability, operators tend to first address the financial return on investment, such as asset lifecycle, space consolidation and reducing utilities. What is less apparent is that sustainability has a larger role than ever due to drivers like climate change and the policy changes.

Increasing implementation of building sustainability rating systems such as the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) Green Star Rating and the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) has sharpened the broader focus of environmentally friendly buildings. They are better for the bottom line, better for staff and clients, and better for the planet.

Building automation drives a better user experience

The increasing digitisation of buildings presents an opportunity for organisations to better achieve their sustainability goals and improve their employee experiences at the same time. Automation in buildings can help them manage emissions and operating costs, while increasing the value of the assets and maintaining a more comfortable environment for tenants.

Automation provides volumes of data that can be used to drive user experiences for tenants. Automation, connection and analytics can be leveraged to ensure all technology in the building is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. By connecting to every disparate technology system we have all the data to solve sustainability issues and deliver exceptional user experiences.

A human centred design approach can deliver a better experience overall for tenants seeking a productive time in the office, such as HVAC optimisation to reduce utilities and better space utilisation.

Overcoming barriers – it starts with workplace culture

A key challenge for any organisation is breaking down siloed technology and focusing on workplace experience. When you're spending everyday in and around the workplace (or away from it now), this puts you in a position to define your workplace culture, what requirements people need to perform, and what roadblocks people are coming up against.

Further reading: Reinventing the workplace to meet employee expectations.

Workplace solutions were historically built by IT and Facilities, HR to a lesser extent. This is changing. If all the appropriate stakeholders, including compliance (to sustainable building standards) are involved in scoping a solution, the more coverage that final product will have in meeting user needs.

For example, automatically start video conferencing equipment just before a meeting, or control lights in work spaces, efficient and sustainable operation of HVAC systems and smart lighting by turning them on and off based on foot traffic in that room, calendar schedules and organisational protocols are some of the features of smarter work spaces that save money and the planet.

Additionally, the uplift in workplace experience contributes to the overall culture. HVAC and lighting systems can use data to inform employee settings, so they can work as efficiently and effectively as possible to create a comfortable employee experience that is also focused on optimising energy efficiency for sustainability practices and certifications within the building and its tenants.

An opportunity not to miss

As we continue navigating and redefining the work environment, shaped by the events of the last two years, we have an unprecedented opportunity to make our buildings smarter, healthier and more sustainable. Now is the time for organisations to harness building technology in promoting a culture that supports efficiency and sustainability while improving the workplace experience.

About the author: Sabrina Venish is the Global Head of Platform Solutions for PlaceOS, a smart building integration platform. In the role, she combines her academic business knowledge, background in building technologies and love for learning about digital transformation to guide customers through their smart building journeys.