Efficiency at its Finest: Introducing the World’s Smartest Building

It has been called the smartest office space ever constructed (Bloomberg), the greenest building in the world (BREAAM ratings agency), and the most fully realized version of the Internet of Things that the world has ever seen (OVG Real Estate).

It is the Edge.

the edge atrium

Standing tall in Amsterdam, the Edge is an unprecedented, innovative office space (430,000 sq. ft) that uses less electricity than that which is created by the solar panels on its roof. The building was designed by OVG Real Estate for global financial and consulting firm, Deloitte, becoming the company’s brand-new Amsterdam corporate headquarters. The Edge was recently officially rated as the most sustainable office building in the world, receiving the highest ever BREEAM score of 98.36%, taking the crown from One Embankment Place in London.

Heating and Cooling:

The Edge utilizes 70% less energy than comparable office spaces and hosts the largest array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels of any European office building. These solar panels, in tandem with 44,100 sq. ft of panels that OVG placed on surrounding university buildings, allows the Edge to produce more energy than it consumes.

Featured above is the Edge’s atrium, a gorgeous sprawling open space in the middle of the building. Mesh panels that are located between each floor allow office air to spill into the atrium, creating natural ventilation as the air rises. The building also uses the most efficient aquifer thermal energy storage system in the world, according to Robert van Alphan, OVG’s project manager for the Edge. This energy storage system consists of two wells: one well is used to provide heat, the other cooling. When it is warm, water is extracted from one well, pumped through a heat exchange, and then back into the well for storage until a cooler atmosphere requires the heat to be used. The second well reverses the process to cool the air when the atmosphere is warm.

Lighting:

The building’s ultra-efficient and highly connected LED panels are powered with the same cables that provide data for the Internet. The Edge encompasses roughly 28,000 sensors, including motion, light, temperature, infrared, and humidity. These sensors create, as quoted by Bloomberg, “a digital ceiling that wires the building like synapses in a brain.”

Information Technology

Automation systems throughout the building collect data on, essentially, everything. Such automation enhances efficiency beyond belief. The Deloitte data analytics team presents the data to the facility manager on a dashboard so that the facility manager can monitor every single aspect of the building. Such data reveals very specific energy use (precisely when and how), but also when the coffee machines need to be refilled, when lights are brighter than they need to be, you name it. When someone walks into an office space, the connected lighting system provides 300 LUX of illumination. On days when less people are expected in the building, an entire section of electricity might be turned off, vastly decreasing heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning costs.

Employees can customize lighting and temperature through an app on their smartphones. The multifaceted and very talented app is the grand key into the Edge. This app also allows employees to view and monitor their individual sustainability behavior, making suggestions as to how to improve. Not only can employees customize all preferences and monitor energy use, the app also allows employees to manage their gym routines, and even order a dinner recipe and pick up the exact groceries needed when leaving the office at the end of the day.

The innovation continues. Rainwater is captured for flushing toilets, public transportation is highly encouraged with 500 bicycle parking spaces on-site. Beehives and bat homes located on the surrounding grounds support the local pollinators. No employee has his/her own desk, known as “hot desking”: a ploy to encourage new interactions and collaboration. It is also highly efficient. Approximately 2,500 Deloitte employees share 1,000 desks. Workspaces are provided through the app based on your schedule.

“We are planning to build a lot more buildings like this. And the next one will be smarter,  and the one after that will be smarter as well. And we won’t stop until all cities in the world are filled with buildings that are intelligent and not using any energy. We connect them, we make them more efficient, and in the end we will actually need fewer buildings in the world.”

– Coen Van Oostrom, Founder and CEO, OVG Real Estate

THE FUTURE OF WORK:

We are living in a world in which “work”, as we know it, is rapidly changing. Companies are increasingly competing on unique ways by which to encourage innovation, collaboration, and employee satisfaction. As such, a plethora of companies are offering unlimited vacation days, “Googlers” are eating all their meals for free, Nike employees are found biking through campus and playing basketball during the day, and Patagonia employees are encouraged to go mountain climbing and surfing as often as they please. Companies are increasingly realizing that their greatest assets are their people, and that today’s people are demanding more.

The Dutch have a phrase for this: het nieuwe werken, or the new way of working.

According to a 2015 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Baby Boomer switches jobs 11.7 times in his or her career, and Millennials have, thus far, changed jobs every two years or less. Moreover, the workplace is being altered by technology at an unprecedented pace: machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensors are increasingly present – and, some fear, replacing humans. In this somewhat overwhelming environment of an immense amount of technology and connectivity (today, our colleagues can reach us through Twitter, Skype, Whatsapp, Slack, Facebook, Gmail, Outlook – you name it), the office building itself plays a tremendous role. As such, new buildings are being constructed to create a place of calm and productivity. The Edge, embodying het nieuwe werken to the highest utility, is an exemplar for buildings that will succeed as the future of work transforms.

“A quarter of this building is not allocated desk space, it’s a place to meet. We’re starting to notice that office space is not so much about the workspace itself; it’s really about making a working community, and for people to have a place that they want to come to, where ideas are nurtured and the future is determined.” – Ron Bakker, architect of the Edge, London-Based PLP Architecture.

THE MASTERMINDS BEHIND THE GLASS BUILDING:

Constructing an office building as such is no penniless task. It is tremendously expensive. Deloitte, without disclosing the exact costs, proclaimed that anything with a return on investment of less than ten years was “worth it”. The digital ceiling, the most expensive part of the building to build, was estimated at a 8.3 year payback.

“There is no doubt that in the future all buildings will be connected, both internally and to other buildings. The multi-billion dollar question is who is going to do it. Whoever is successful is going to be one of the most successful companies in the world.”

– Erik Ubels, Chief Information Officer, Deloitte.


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