Industry News Details

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Workspaces Posted on : Aug 31 - 2020

It is a truth universally acknowledged that artificial intelligence will change everything. In the next few decades, the world will become intelligible, and in many ways, intelligent. But insiders suggest that the world of big office real estate will get there more slowly - at least in the world’s major cities.

The real estate industry in London, New York, Hong Kong and other world cities moves in cycles of 10 or 15 years. This is the period of the lease. After a tense renewal negotiation, and perhaps a big row, landlord and tenant are generally happy to leave each other alone until the next time. This does not encourage innovation, or investment in new services in between the renewals. There are alternatives to this arrangement. In Scandinavia, for instance, lease durations are shorter - often three years or so. This encourages a more collegiate working relationship, where landlord and tenant are more like business partners.

Another part of the pathology of major city real estate is the landmark building. With the possible exception of planners, everyone likes grand buildings: certainly, architects, developers, and the property managers and CEOs of big companies do. A mutual appreciation society is formed, which is less concerned about the impact on a business than about appearing in the right magazines, and winning awards.

Bottom-up demand

Outside the big cities, priorities are different. To attract a major tenant to Dixons’ old headquarters in Hemel Hempstead, for instance, the landlord will need to seduce with pragmatism rather than glamour.

Tim Oldman is the founder and CEO of Leesman, a firm which helps clients understand how to manage their workspaces in the best interests of their staff and their businesses. He says there is plenty of opportunity for AI to enhance real estate, and much of the impetus for it to happen will come from the employees who work in office buildings rather than the developers who design and build them. Employees, the actual users of buildings, will be welcoming AI into many corners of their lives in the coming years and decades, often without realising it. They will expect the same convenience and efficiency at work that they experience at home and when travelling. They will demand more from their employers and their landlords.

Christina Wood is responsible for two of Emap's conferences on the office sector: Property Week's annual flagship event WorkSpace, and AV Magazine's new annual event AVWorks, which explores the changing role of AV in the workspace. She says that “workspaces are undergoing an evolution that increasingly looks like a revolution, powered by technology innovation and driven by workforce demands for flexibility, connectivity, safety and style.”

Responsive buildings

Buildings should be smart, and increasingly they will be. Smart buildings will be a major component of smart cities, a phenomenon which we have been hearing about since the end of the last century, and which will finally start to become a reality in the coming decade, enabled in part by 5G.

Buildings should know what load they are handling at any given time. They should provide the right amount of heat and light: not too little and not too much. The air conditioning should not go off at 7pm when an after-hours conference is in full flow. They should monitor noise levels, and let occupants know where the quiet places are, if they ask. They should manage the movement of water and waste intelligently. All this and much more is possible, given enough sensors, and a sensible approach to the use of data.

Imagine we are colleagues who usually work in different buildings. Today we are both in the head office, and our calendars show that we have scheduled a meeting. An intelligent building could suggest workspaces near to each other. Tim Oldman calls this “assisted serendipity”. View More