OFFICE OF THE FUTURE
The workplace is currently experiencing tremendous change due to technological innovation. Office space design is undergoing a revolution, and old ways are being abandoned for a new workplace that enhances collaboration within a holistic setting. There are currently significant disruptive forces playing upon how the global corporation is transforming the workplace to create the best experience for their employees, especially in this Covid-19 environment, which is a game-changer, its impact lingering likely for years to come. This trans-formation by corporations will put the health and wellness of employees at the forefront of their corporate mission.
Increased technological power and capability will continue to drive innovation in the workplace. In addition, the role of the workplace, office buildings, and the local community, will become interconnected for a more rewarding employee experience. The workplace will continue to align with global standards of design and efficiency for creating an optimal work experience.
Before Covid-19 became an incredibly disruptive force to our health, economy, daily lives, and workplace, the “Office of the Future” focused on spaces that encouraged collaboration, high design, and amenities such as coffee bars, social meeting spaces, and enhanced technology. Corporations utilized these features to retain and recruit top talent. Several samples of these workspaces are highlighted below.
Every year, workspaces have become more dense, with more open layouts and interactive, engaging environments being combined with smaller individual workstation footprints and a parallel increase in overall amenities. This densification, which brought workers literally closer together, was a big part of Tenant installations failing to factor in the future challenges of potential health issues.
In March 2020, FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor was providing a COVID-19 update at the FEMA headquarters. This image struck me as a big future game-changer for the Future of the Office. Looking at the picture above, you can see that signs have been placed on every other workstation, effectively closing contiguous workstations to protect workers by increasing social distancing. In essence, the U.S. government put in a policy that provided their work-force more space, taking into consideration the health and safety of its employees. This is going to have a huge impact on the health and well-ness of all workplaces in the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic, as we are already seeing, is having a profound impact on The Office of the Future. Emerging technologies such as touchless entry and voice-activated elevator buttons for the office and office buildings are going to be a big part of the Future of the Office. A good example of this is Work.com, which has already laid out many best practices for tenant build-outs, including health screening procedures, safety measurements, staggered shifts, and even recommendations for the highest level of filters in air conditioning systems.
Work.com – Technology Innovation - Marc Benioff, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Salesforce was recently interviewed by Jim Cramer on CNBC about innovative software to help businesses reopen called Work.com. It is a command center to help corporations reopen their businesses safely in this Covid-19 environment. The purpose of Work.com is to leverage information technology for contact tracing and to have the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees. The Work.com command center enables corporations to make data-driven decisions to ensure their employees’ safety by implementing “best practices” for the workplace. Work.com is a single pane of glass that provides an insightful dashboard with important areas such as Wellness Status by Location, Shift Status, Contact Training Completion, and which interacts with corporate and public data sites to put the wellness of a corporation’s employees at the forefront of its business.
In April 2020, CNBC interviewed Scott Rechler, CEO and chairman of RXR Realty, a large New York commercial real estate broker that manages $20 billion in real estate assets.
Rechler stated that he believes there will be a recalibration of social norms. RXR’s tenants have already reached out to look at leasing more space, or reconfiguring their existing facilities to increase the distance between their employees. Companies and people are going to change how they work, and must be sensitive to the density of the workspace and the wellness of their employees. Companies are also considering alternating shifts and days in the office to reduce the number of workers present on any given day.
To de-densify workspaces, companies may have to consider satellite offices and reconfiguration of their main offices, if not making remote work permanent. For example, financial firms are concerned with maintaining a six-foot distance between their traders as well as lowering the number of employees in a conference room at any time. Temperature scans will be an essential metric for determining employee health as the virus surges. Building maintenance managers must be conscious of the air quality and circulation within their buildings, and ensuring that all tenants have access to outdoor spaces.
In June 2020, Rechler Inside Edition provided a tour of 75 Rockefeller Center, an RXR property, illustrating the building and safety procedures that are now in place in the new Covid-19 environment focusing on creating a safe environment for his office tenants for the present and future.
A few of these changes include:
•Everyone entering the building is required to wear a face mask.
•All office workers and tenants are required to complete a wellness test using an online app before leaving their homes.
•Before entering an elevator, everyone will have their temperature taken, and if above 100.4, a person will be asked to leave the building.
•Elevator use will be limited to four people at a time and a security pass is required to record what floor a person will be visiting.
CORPORATE OCCUPIERS PERSCPECTIVE
Corporations, as the primary occupiers of office space, are very focused on getting their workplaces up and running and simultaneously evaluating the future of the workplace.
Corporations are evaluating various strategies that include staggered work schedules alternating when employees will be in the office, de-densifying their office configurations, and implementing safety protocols to protect the health of their workforce.
The CDC is working with a large number of corporations on steps that they can take to improve their workplace health and wellness status, now and for the future. Specific areas that are being evaluated include temperature stations for building lobbies and reception areas, and very stringent cleaning guidelines. It is recommended that companies sacrifice common area space such as kitchens and meeting rooms to reduce employee contact, and install barriers around workstations to protect employees from the threat of the virus.
A significant future focus of the workplace is going to be Employee Wellness and Wellness of the Workplace. Corporations are forming task forces from various divisions of the company that include HR, real estate, legal risk management, and healthcare and hygiene consultants. Leaders are focusing their strategy on initial work re-entry and long-term occupancy plans. Tenants will likely look to their Landlord in the future to provide more common amenity space and conference rooms. Future buildouts will be impacted by new social distancing standards, and office designs will revert to a closed layout — the return of the cubicle, if not the individual office — to segregate employee workspaces.
Companies must explore ways to test and monitor the health of their workers. As an example, Amazon and General Motors have recently announced their plans to have testing stations as part of their workspace.
CORPORATE OCCUPIERS PERSPECTIVE INTERVIEW: JOE BRANCATO
Co-Chairman, Managing Principal for Gensler’s Northeast and Latin America regions
Gensler is a leading global architecture firm with 50 locations throughout the world and approximately 6,000 employees. Gensler is organized into 16 diverse practice areas and represents the highest caliber of major national and international corporations. Gensler is considered the top architectural firm in North America, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Joe Brancato is Co-Chairman and Managing Principal for the Northeast and Latin American regions and is a major force in the architectural world.
What has Gensler been focusing on to deliver “The Office of the Future” for its clients?
Gensler conducts a significant amount of research and designs a large amount of space. We are fortunate to have the Gensler Research Institute that analyzes many different practice areas and conducts a tremendous amount of research on the workplace and workplace standards. For the last 15 years, we have been implementing a workplace survey that is provided to approximately 6,000 companies. With this survey, we try to understand how corporations are utilizing space, what’s working and not working, and how productive a workplace is. Productivity is a big focus and over the last few years, we have overlaid the employee experience.
For example, we have a Workplace Performance Index (WPI) and a Workplace Experience Index (WEI). The WEI evaluates what creates a great work experience. From our research, we still believe that the work-place is still where the worker wants to be. If they are happy with the workplace experience this also leads to higher productivity.
Gensler’s 2020 survey produced interesting insights. Workers enjoy coming to work for the experience and to collaborate with their coworkers to get things done. The office still matters and being together matters. The technology for virtual collaborating today with Zoom and Webex is very scheduled, versus the office which allows for spontaneity. Being in a community and culture still matters to employees. Relationships with colleagues are still important.
Can you describe a recent project that made an impact on the workplace for today and the future?
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) at Hudson Yards in Manhattan was a revolutionary project that set the standard for an innovative workplace today and for the future.
BCG wanted to make the heart of the workplace the interconnecting stairs (illustrated above) for communal space, conference rooms, and a coffee shop. This provided BCG a special place for its workforce to collaborate, tie back in the culture, and feel comfortable at work.
The space provided a crossover of a residential, hospitality, and commercial look and feel to make a unique work experience. For example, we utilized residential lighting and a seating area to create a bespoke communal space.
What trends are you seeing in the workplace?
The trends we were seeing before Covid-19 were increased densification and utilization. In my opinion, the density equation couldn’t go any further. Then the focus turned to utilization and how best to use the space. Now in the Covid-19 world, de-densification is coming back into the workplace due to social distancing.
Wellness and health will be at the forefront of delivering the right work-place. A big focus will be to create a safe environment for people to come together with new standards. What is now going to happen to communal spaces and how are we going to keep them safe and clean? Future areas of technology for air filtration, cleaning, and hygiene standards will be important. There will be new products for touchless restrooms, elevators, and pantries.
What will be the impact of Covid-19 for buildings and The Office of the Future?
I believe the impact of Covid-19 on buildings and The Office of the Future will be a new or increased focus on air quality, touchless solutions for elevators, entry doors, bathrooms, enhanced graphics, strict cleaning protocols, and flexibility in design/construction as the environment evolves.
Corporations focus on offices and remote work plans
The Covid-19 environment continues to be a fluctuating factor in the activation of corporate offices. Corporations have been diligently working on comprehensive safety protocols and measures for workers’ safety in the workplace. However, the majority of workers are still working remotely. This should gradually change as vaccines are distributed. JLL completed a survey of 2,000 office workers in 10 countries that showed a majority of the workforce want to work remotely at least two days a week on average, and three-quarters of employees want to continue working from home on a regular basis. The JLL report also concluded that Covid-19 has pushed a large number of corporations to embrace remote working. However, the study also noted that 70% consider the office to be the best place for team building and connecting with management. In addition, close to 50% of employees expect offices to offer spaces to socialize.
Even with a large number of offices opening, a large number of workers still have not returned to the office. The recently published an interesting article headlined, “Despite New York City’s Re-Opening, Few Manhattan Office Workers Have Returned2,” in which it was reported from a sampling of 20 million square feet that a stunningly low 8 - 9% was now occupied by employees. A more robust return to work will depend on the specific game plan of corporations work policies.
ICONIC OFFICE OF THE FUTURE
To clearly understand The Future of the Office we wanted to cover two of the most iconic global projects of innovation.
Apple Park Cupertino, CA
Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple’s new headquarters (a 4-story-2.8M sq. ft. office building on 175 acres) was to create an outstanding workplace for the future. He wanted to inspire the Apple workforce (12,000 employees for this campus) to do their work in the best environment to enhance innovation, collaboration, and teamwork. The cost of the project is estimated at approximately $5 billion. On June 7, 2011, Steve Jobs presented his plan to the Cupertino City Council in his last public appearance before passing away several months later. At the meeting, Jobs stated that he believed Apple would build “the best office building in the world.3”
The architect for the project was Foster & Partners, based out of London. When interviewed about the project, CEO Norman Foster said that Jobs
was inspired by the Stamford University Campus to make Apple Park special. For example, Jobs hired an arborist from Stamford University to plant 6,000 trees on the campus. The following overview catalogs the features of this magnificent project, clearly intended to be one of the most futuristic office buildings in the world.
Apple Park focused on the goal of having no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The campus is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, powered by 100% renewable energy from 17 megawatts of rooftop solar panels. The building stays eco-friendly with a natural ventilation system, used instead of a traditional HVAC system for approximately 70% of the year.
The building also has low energy LED lighting where natural light doesn’t reach. It is surrounded by 6,000 drought-resistant trees including olive, apricot, cherry, and yes, apple trees. Apple is also utilizing 20 environmentally friendly biodiesel buses to transport its employees to all its buildings in Cupertino.
The building features incredible architectural features and high design. The entire building is clad in 3,000 of the world’s largest panels of curved glass. The natural park surrounding the building is an outstanding feature of the entire campus.
The campus features nearly two miles of walking, cycling, and jogging trails for Apple employees. There are also 1,000 bikes to allow Apple employees to make their way around the campus. Additional health benefits include a 100,000 square foot fitness center with a two-story yoga studio. There is also a four-story café with room for three thousand. Parking for the building is completely underground, which enabled Apple to provide the outstanding park that is in the middle of the building.
Steve Jobs Theater
Apple constructed an architecturally outstanding theater to showcase its products. The 1,000-seat theater is a critical part of Apple Park. The 155-foot roof is made of metallic carbon fiber. The walls of the theater are 22 feet tall, made of curved glass that connects with nature outside. Inside the theater, there are no visible building materials or wires. The sound system is state of the art yet also invisible. The Steve Jobs Theater is a tremendous marketing asset for Apple to promote their projects.
ICONIC OFFICE OF THE FUTURE
New York, NY
One Vanderbilt is truly an iconic addition to the Manhattan skyline and delivers a state-of-the-art building that will define The Office of the Future. It is the fourth tallest building in Manhattan with an impressive height of 1,401 feet. SL Green, the building developer/owner, has committed significant capital to integrate the building into Grand Central Terminal with One Vanderbilt’s adjacent location. The project cost approximately $3 billion and the building opened in 2020. These are some of the features of this cutting-edge skyscraper located in the Grand Central District that will define The Office of the Future.
The goal of the developer of One Vanderbilt is to be the standard model for sustainability. It will have the highest level of LEED Certification and the building’s green features will include a 50,000-gallon water tank that will capture rain-water for reuse in mechanical systems and irrigation.
The building will also have high-efficiency restroom fixtures designed to reduce water consumption by 40%. The building materials — structural steel and concrete — will contain recycled content which will reduce the reliance on raw materials. The building systems will include water and air-side economizers which use ambient temperatures to heat or cool water or air before making use of internal systems. One Vanderbilt is also designed to achieve one of the lowest carbon footprints among buildings with a similar scale in New York.
One Vanderbilt architect Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) is recognized as the leading architect of supertall skyscrapers, with buildings ranging from 300 meters (984.3 ft.) to 600 meters (1,969 ft.). The tower is clad with glazed terracotta sprandles which are meant to resemble the Guastavino tiles within the Grand Central terminal, yet allow them to be viewed with a modern eye.
The floor plates range from 40,000 rentable sq. ft. on the base to 20,000 square feet for the tower floors. Every floor features floor-to-ceiling heights ranging from 14.5 – 18 feet. Several floors have ceiling heights up to 20 feet. This allows for an abundance of natural light and spectacular views.
One Vanderbilt will have a 30,000 sq. ft. tenant-only amenity floor that includes a 30-seat boardroom and atrium, hotel-style social lounges, and travel showers. There will also be an observation deck at 1,000 feet which will provide unprecedented views of Manhattan, and a Daniel Boulud restaurant, considered to be one of the best restaurateurs in New York City.
Tech Trends 24/7 researched important technologies going forward for Office of the Future office buildings and determined the following to be critical elements:
Emerging Technologies for Office/Office Buildings
Building Air Systems: With Covid-19, there has been an explosion of demand for air purification systems, specifically a bipolar ionization system that delivers a cost-effective, environmentally suitable health product that reduces the presence of the coronavirus. Atmos Air’s technology proactively emits bi-polar ions that help neutralize Covid-19, and is being deployed in office buildings such as the Empire State Building, residential buildings, and fitness facilities such as Soul Cycle, Rumble, and City Fitness.
Virtual Collaborative Tools: The recent “work from home initiative” has led the workplace to rely on video conferencing solutions such as Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, etc. These technologies will only improve over time and will be an enhanced productivity tool in the workforce.
For example, Cisco Webex Board is a video collaboration solution by which multiple team members can work virtually together on documents and whiteboards. Webex Board enables workers to save all data (video, audio, and documents) to the cloud. This also provides a communication tool for global teammates to be productive throughout an entire 24-hour period across their respective time zones.
Smart Glasses: A major trend in technology is to make smart glasses a big part of work and personal lives. All the major tech companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are working on computers that will be worn on the face, which might one day replace smartphones. Current models are bulky and very expensive. However, smart glasses have become a useful productivity tool for the office and home and will represent a significant opportunity for the tech company that gets it right.
Building Access: Due to Covid-19, there will be a host of new apps and building products to access public areas of buildings, such as elevator buttons, entrance, and office doors, pantries, etc. with touchless solutions. This technology will include voice-activated elevators, cell phone-controlled entry, hands-free temperature controls, etc.
Antibacterial Fabrics and Finishes: Future architectural designs and office construction will feature materials that will be antibacterial. Lapitec and Richlite are two such materials, and have already been used in wall panels, countertops, and furniture, and are both durable and highly sustainable.
Health and Wellness Technology for the Workplace: As a result of Covid-19, the wellness and health of employees will be a primary concern in The Office of the Future. Medical sensors such as temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar readers will be part of future work installations. The sensors can capture real-time data to provide health recommendations for the workforce as an added benefit. Stress management design will also be prevalent with meditation rooms and invigoration zones to enable workers to recharge and re-energize.
To attain a better understanding of how technology is being leveraged for smart buildings and tenants, Tech Trends 24 interviewed Akshay Thakur, Senior Director, Head of Technology of JLL for the EMEA and the Asia Pacific. Akshay is based in London and has been very active in analyzing and implementing technologies for smart building. Akshay also assists occupiers in creating digital road roadmaps.
TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE OF THE OFFICE INTERVIEW –
Senior Director, Head of JLL EMEA/Asia Technology
Can you give us an overview of your responsibilities at JLL Technologies?
I head our JLL Technologies Group that focuses on technology consulting in the EMEA region and the APAC region. Our group focuses on wider technology consulting for organizations such as occupiers and investor groups, looking at their functions rather than just looking at their real estate. We analyze where they are in terms of the maturity of the technologies that they are using, how they are looking at their data, and if they have metrics associated with platforms and systems that enable them to reach their goals. We create digital road maps for groups, which is getting a lot of interest at the moment.
The way we position digital roadmaps for our clients is first recognizing that the clients are all going to have different objectives and goals. Once you have mapped these goals, you ensure that you know what those key KPIs are for corporate real estate to function. When you incorporate those KPIs, whether they focus on sustainability, energy savings, human experience, financial agility, or digital index, you are then able to map out those objectives and create an agenda for the organization. This roadmap will explain the metrics that the goals are going to be driven by, and the technologies that we have currently. Then the most import-ant thing is determining what are the most important technologies that we need to ensure the datasets that we measured will allow us to go towards our goals such as sustainability goals, wellness goals, or even human experience goals.
From conception to final implementation, it usually takes about four to eight weeks depending on the company size to create the digital road-map. Of all the biggest issues that we have had within smart building consulting, the biggest is being able to prove the ROI to investor groups. We are looking at all of the other technologies available at the time, the innovation, and how it is all going to come together to position the asset in the future while overlaying the economics to ensure a return on investments. We are always asked for the return on investment for any existing asset or anything that has been repositioned. We tieback those key metrics that the organization is rooted in.
These are very big goals, topics, and concepts that will be all rooted and built upon the platform which will be a smart building. To achieve any of those goals or regulatory compliance rules, you need to have data and connected systems. These are the fundamentals built within a smart building. This isn’t to say that I think all of real estate is going to be centered around a smart building, but I do think that technology as a whole industry is now recognizing that it’s going to be the enabler for the building’s own future What are the major technology trends that are impacting buildings today?
The biggest innovations we look into for investors are to ensure that the buildings are future-proofed. They have realized that “Keeping Up with The Jones’” is only good enough, but now you need to be able to keep up for the next ten to 15 years, because technology is moving so quickly. We now design buildings slightly differently from the way they were designed previously when it comes to the new ways that technology enables buildings. That is one of the key fundamentals that we talk to our investor clients about. How to organize the different basement systems to be able to be connected in a seamless manner that also allows for data to travel to different systems. The management systems, the BMS, the axis control, all of these systems are still performing their separate functions, but the data and control from each system are shared and one can send messages to another. You can also have a conductor in between that will essentially be able to set the rules for the entire building and all of the base building systems. This is fundamentally one of the biggest things that we are pushing into the investor side of things. Tenant engagement is always at the top of the mind for investors, as they want to not only engage their tenants but ensure that they are keeping them happy. Mobile apps have always been big in the industry as well, but this demand has only accelerated in need due to Covid-19. It ensures that workplaces can be touchless, and that simple check-ins can be done from your phone. This, as well as hygiene safety, is at the top of the list for the investors.
What are the major technology trends for corporations?
When you look at the occupier side, you still have the hygiene and touch-less and contactless requirements, but now people are realizing that the pandemic has really highlighted how much they did not know about their buildings from an operational and user standpoint. We are seeing a lot of interest in the air of understanding specialization. People are wondering how their space is being used and how it is linked to portfolio strategies in terms of space reduction. Because of the pandemic, there is a lot of focus on planning how they can reduce space and knowing how much space they will actually need to accommodate social distancing requirements within the workplace. The sensorization through IoT is very prevalent at the moment in the areas of desk and room booking.
For example, now when you go to the office at JLL, there is a red team this week and a grey team next week. This kind of A&B phenomenon will continue for a while, ensuring people and teams can continue to work together without unassigned seating.
What are some technological innovations that you think will last beyond Covid-19?
Touchless will now always exist moving forward. Even just in terms of hygiene, this is better for our people and our buildings to have your own device be a remote control. I think that we will all see more automation within the buildings themselves. If you want something to be touchless, the best way to do it is to let someone else make that decision for you. So, the systems that control the buildings will have a lot more control of the buildings, how people are using the buildings, and also predict how the environment can become more suitable for the needs of the people within the buildings. Remote access and remote automation are going to become very important.
One of the interesting things we have seen is the digitization of our documentation. It was surprising how few organizations had digital copies, whether or not they knew they needed them. Examples of that would be floorplans, drawings of where physical assets within the building reside, etc. Now we have seen the emergence of digitizing document management increasing a lot in the Covid environment.
What do you see for the future of IoT, artificial intelligence, and Digital Twin within smart buildings?
I am hoping that the technology of Digital Twins is integrated within the market. The term “Digital Twin” gets used quite a lot, by a lot of different people. It could be as simple as having a digitized floorplan, all the way to a fully functioning digital replica of all of the systems modeled within the crowded environment. All of the different systems come from your building, into the cloud infrastructure, which in turn will allow for you to make better decisions on the definition of digital twins. I am expecting a bunch of government regulations that will reposition the building into the operational side of things. This will populate the model with a lot more context, you will start pulling all of the IoT data from the overall model, and that is what will really become a digital twin. Some of the image-based solutions that are coming out will represent that digital model into something more graphical. The goal for the future is that at some point, you will be able to put on a VR headset and walk around your building and see the different systems, pull data from the different systems, and understand what the technician will do once they get on site. I do not think we are too far away from this goal, either. As a result of the pandemic, we are going to see reliance on more contact-less collaboration as fewer people will be in the office and communication has to be more virtual. This is going to require more of these types of technologies to enable people to do the work from remote locations. That is why you will see these things accelerate now more than they have before. In the past, you would have someone on-site, and because human capital is cheap, so you could throw human capital at the problem. But now, we can’t do that. We have to enable this technology to allow people to make the right decisions How is technology going to impact The Office of the Future?
I think the biometric aspects of buildings will gain a lot more momentum. One area we have seen grow is facial recognition software. But there are other biometric technologies out there as well, so rather than having my face scanned to be able to access a building, I could wave my hand over a scanner and the light would be able to pick up on my veins and my unique etymology. This is a better example of identity management. These types of things will emerge a lot more, and I think, will put our minds at ease because all of us have concerns over privacy. I do believe that these types of technologies will emerge rather quickly, as a result of touchless technologies.
In terms of air filtration, even before Covid, JLL was looking into this research for organizations. Fresh air filtration has got the science behind it that sustainability and energy require to heat or cool a building. We have found monitoring temperatures to be extremely important during these times, as well as noise, organic compounds, MOX levels, and humidity.
When we talk about smart buildings and technology innovations, I think the biggest and clearest message we must send is that integration is the key aspect. The network that allows these systems to link together within the building and with the cloud, is the heart of a smart building. If you don’t start there and put the right effort into that technology-based platform, you are going to have a very difficult time implementing these smart buildings and bringing these smart solutions into the buildings themselves. The platform, the integrations between the systems, making sure that there are standards-based protocols, will enable you to be future-proof. The idea of a smart building is not the gadgets inside, but the technology that allows for seamless experiences for the people inside. If you can have those experiences with the technology acting invisible, that is a smart building because it is just doing what it needs to do.