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Mark Cowlard
Global President, Places

Intelligent building designs are undoubtedly the future of building industries and are becoming increasingly important in the current climate.

Office owners are thinking carefully about how to optimise their assets to make them appealing as many companies look to reevaluate their office space and also the purpose of their office space.


It is critical that office environments look to address the changing needs as we start to recover from the global pandemic. Many organisations have highlighted that the purpose of having office environments has changed or is likely to change. It is key that building owners start to consider the experience building users will have when using their assets. It is for assets owners to create differentiation in the saturated urban office market.

Key focus areas we consider can differentiate assets are as follows:

User experience

A building/asset that operates excellently

A buildings or asset which provide insights which enables owner and occupiers to make informed decisions which enhance its operation to inform business decisions and enhance user experience.

The key to addressing these focus areas is being able to collect and use data which is generated by the building components. This therefore helps by creating smart elements within the asset. At Arcadis we believe that real value is only released when you create an intelligent building, not just buildings with smart components.

What is an intelligent building?

An intelligent building integrates technology and processes to create a space that is safer, more comfortable for employees with wellbeing at the forefront, and more operationally efficient for its owners. Intelligent buildings have sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are all connected so occupiers have insight into many aspects from how efficient the building is to whether aspects of the building aren’t working. Occupiers can easily be informed if toilets are broken and which desks are available, as well as being able to pre-book bike space and lockers. Previously, buildings had various systems which were not interconnected.

With the numerous benefits intelligent building designs can bring, let’s start with the all-important reduction in energy use. In the EU, the European Commission noted that building consumption was 37% of its final energy, larger than that documented for industrial sectors (28%) and transport (32%). Here in the UK, the amount of energy usage in buildings is even higher at 39%. Intelligent buildings offer opportunities to decrease energy in a number of ways.

One example can be seen when monitoring and controlling lights in a building. When manually checking and switching on and off hundreds of light sources each day, it can be a very time-consuming process. IoT smart bulb monitoring systems can resolve the issue by automating the operational maintenance and enhancing performance quality, and also lets the facility manager track if a bulb has stopped working. Efficiencies can be made by adding motion sensors which make sure lights are turned off if people aren’t in the room.

Importantly, intelligent buildings also contribute significantly to the wellbeing, efficiency, and productivity of employees. With smoother systems, better air quality and access to tools that support the everyday working experience, employees are happier and that certainly helps to support staff retention. A company could theoretically have less floor space and get the same output or an even better output in a larger space that doesn’t utilise smart technology.

Our new partnership with ICONICS

Arcadis are experts at designing and building intelligent buildings that can meet the required adaptations of the new normal in the workplace. We recently joined a new partnership with ICONICS, an industrial automation provider, to provide a wide range of software solutions to meet the requirements of various markets. The unique mixture of software expertise and deep knowledge of property sector and built assets the partnership will look to bring something which really helps transform the experience users will consume when using the buildings in which they touch and influence.

Looking ahead, we’re keen to incorporate intelligent building designs into our own office buildings. After all, the benefits are plentiful and it is clear that moving in this direction will also contribute to a low carbon economy and improve workplace satisfaction. In order to stay ahead, developers must grasp the opportunities these solutions offer.