A re-imagining of the built environment, for the better

Editor's note: To learn more about the convergence of technologies and the built environment, be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild November 12-13.

A building just isn’t a building anymore if it can’t think for itself.  That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

As technology has grown more and more sophisticated, the convergence of energy, information, building and transportation technologies has led to a reimagining and restructuring of the built environment. This convergence (dubbed VERGE by Greenbiz) coupled with the rapid growth of information and communications technology (ICT), has changed the office and building landscape dramatically, altering how the workspace functions and how buildings are managed, according to a new report by GreenBiz Group.

The report, called VERGE and the Built Environment, found that the intersection of these powerful technologies is altering the way in which communities are organized, pointing towards a new approach to how people work, play and live.

“Ultimately VERGE is place-based, that is, it happens somewhere,” said Joel Makower, executive editor of the GreenBiz, during the company's Tuesday webcast. “A building, campus, a neighborhood, a city, or a region.”

The 34-page report highlighted the impact of information and communications technology on the traditional workspace and the way in which buildings are managed.

The sophistication of broadband and its ability to handle large amounts of data has led to a reimagining of the traditional office, allowing a more efficient use of space as more employees work remotely, said Robert Watson, author of the report and CEO and chief scientist at EchoTech International Group, during Tuesday’s webcast. This allows companies to cut down or eliminate permanent space per employee, he said.And as organizations slowly start to trust teleworking, questions of how best to utilize office space will come into play.

“How do we re-engineer the workspace to match the needs of today’s worker?” said Melissa O’Mara, vice president of education/government solutions & high performance green buildings at Schneider Electric, during the webcast.

But there still exists a prejudice that workers who aren’t in the office are not as hardworking as their deskbound colleagues, said Watson.

“Rightly or wrongly, people who work in the office do tend to be promoted,” he said.

But the issue is generational, said Jennifer Layke, executive director of Johnson Controls Institute for Building Efficiency. Today’s young workers are more focusedon productivity and engagement, she said, and will likely want a balance between working in an office and working remotely.

“Today’s young workforce is going to look at acceleration in ways that are meaningful to them,” she said.

Photo of summer streets in New York provided by Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com. 

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