21 March 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Planning for future technology disruption is challenging, as the time lag between the design and handover of a building is often many years with technology moving on, according to a new book published this week.
Future Office: Next Generation Workplace Design by Nicola Gillen argues that office buildings, therefore, need to be highly adaptive, enable technological change and be easily reconfigured for changing user needs.
Gillen, who is workplace market sector lead for Europe, Middle East and Africa at multinational engineering firm AECOM, also says the rise of agile working is already influencing office design, with a growing trend for a mix of space types that encourage today's diverse workforce to meet, collaborate and socialise.
New technologies such as voice and sensors will help future offices adapt to their users' needs. These types of technologies will personalise environmental conditions, learning people's individual preferences for lighting levels and temperature, for example. Voice technologies will take minutes of a meeting and dispatch lists of agreed actions to the participants.
The installation of sensors is relatively inexpensive if carried out during construction, but is difficult and more expensive to retrofit. Workplace designers and developers need to understand how these changes will impact future workplaces, says AECOM.
Sensors will also gather data to enable more efficient building operation. This will require a more in-depth understanding by workplace designers of what owners and tenants want from their building in use, says AECOM. Architects and engineers will need to become more adept at understanding data about building and people performance.
The future office will make much greater use of data science and the design process will be ongoing, with feedback loops from live environments influencing the next design, according to Gillen's book.
Gillen said: "The world of work is changing, but workplace design is slow to catch up. To stay ahead and play a role in designing the offices of the future, workplace designers need to keep a constant watch on new trends and developments. Retrofitting down the line is much more costly, so workplace designers need to become more adept at spotting and planning for disruptors that are going to change the way we work and use offices. Many of the offices of the future are being designed now. Work is leaving the building, following people wherever they go, so designers will need to become anthropologists and data scientists to keep up."