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Social Innovation

Three offices of the future

The next generation of offices will be smarter and more sustainable than ever before.

Most of us spend a lot of time in the office.

But do you spare much thought to how your office can negatively impact the environment and whether it meets your needs as an employee?

Offices are evolving; they are becoming smarter. They are becoming more responsive to your needs and they are becoming more environmentally friendly.

Here we look at three ways technology is helping to create smarter and more sustainable offices:

1) The data-driven office

At The Edge (Deloitte's headquarters building In Amsterdam) staff can control the heating, lights and even the blinds through an app when they are not in the office. The Edge goes even further than apps to control energy use; you can be so “plugged in” to the office that it recognises your car when you drive into work and directs you to a designated parking spot.

UBM’s London headquarters can detect when employees enter the building, calling the lift at the right time and powering up their workspace so that it’s ready for their arrival. It can also tell when it’s too sunny and automatically provide shade, whilst ensuring that plenty of fresh air is circulating to keep people productive.

2) The energy efficient office

Commercial buildings account for 40% of the world's electricity consumption, but smart technology is now helping to reduce the amount of energy wasted in offices. The Edge has been described as ‘the greenest building in the world’. Rainwater is collected to flush the toilets, the building is powered by solar energy (but it also harnesses energy from exercise machines at the on-site gym) and, during the summer months, water is pumped to an aquifer below the building, where it is kept insulated and can then be used for heating during the winter. All this helps to explain why The Edge generates more energy than it consumes.

3) The virtual office
Virtual reality is not just for gaming and Sci-Fi movies – it’s coming to a workplace near you. Virtual reality is coming to an office near you. Atkins, for example, is using virtual reality to showcase designs to its clients. Clients can be transported into a new space and they can experiment with the look and feel of a final product without wasting resources by developing physical products.

But virtual reality technology may also mean the end of the need for a traditional physical office at all. As it becomes more and more sophisticated, virtual reality technology can be used to bring people across the world together for meetings, or even recreate the office environment from the comfort of the home.