The ‘Edge’: Is it the Future of Office Buildings?
A garage that recognises your car or bike, opens the gate and guides you to an available parking place or a free electric charger. An app that finds you a free desk based on your schedule and your mood/preference for standing or sitting, sociable or quiet. An app that tweaks the lighting and heating to a precise degree. This is the ‘Edge’, Deloitte’s new Amsterdam office building. It might just be the ‘smartest’ building in Europe and could be the model for “the office of the future”.
The building’s heating, lighting, in fact just about everything, is connected by a huge network of around 40,000 sensors. The architects used Philips products to hook up every light in the building to ethernet cables, so not only can they deliver wi-fi, but every piece of lighting has its own IP address and can sense when space is unoccupied, turning down heat (and light) to conserve energy.
The Edge provides Deloitte with huge amounts of data, ranging from relatively menial things such as how much different toilets are used and when the espresso machine needs refilling, to potentially more economically advantageous data. Since employees no longer need assigned desks, but are assigned space as needed, the office is able to make far more effective use of the area that it does have, while using less energy in the process.
In reality, this building represents only an initial foray into a connected office space and the potential for re-imagining workspaces. It shows what might be possible, and in a world where buildings are an expensive investment, and the average office is 30-40% empty, developing ‘smarter’ buildings brings with it some promising economics.