The big question that arises today in the world of work and construction, after a year punctuated by lockdowns forcing to homeworking, health protocols and social distancing measures, is to know what awaits us in the future.
What essential elements and concepts in terms of construction and design will persist over time? Which ones will be improved? Or which ones will be completely forgotten?
Through our reflections, and with the participation of Tom Beiler, Architect and Partner of Beiler François Fritsch, and Benoit Martin,
Director at the Luxembourg agency for the energy efficiency of buildings, COCERT, we have identified 4 dimensions that define what the office building of the future could be:
1. A connected and intelligent building 2. A responsible and sustainable building 3. A living place 4. A building built and fitted out differently
A connected and smart building
Artificial intelligence and technologies will certainly play a major role in what the office building will become in the future, both in the functioning of the building itself and in the well-being of its users. One can easily imagine that the building of the future will be equipped with numerous technical and technological equipment allowing better management of the elements essential to comfort (such as air quality, water, acoustics management, or even lights).
The building of the future will be equipped with numerous technical and technological equipment allowing better management of the elements essential to comfort.
It should also allow each individual, from their smartphone, to access the building without a badge, to identify an available workspace corresponding to their needs or their mood, to book meeting rooms, or even to order lunch, to manage the reception of their visitors or to find an available parking space.
A responsible and sustainable building
The sustainable and environmental aspect of a building is also a subject we can no longer skip in our current society, and especially the one to come "The office building of the future should be thought as a technical platform that can be used to produce, store and redistribute energy. It will be even more energy efficient, in particular through ever more ambitious regulations. It is part of the city of the future in order to integrate local distribution channels, flexibility and strengthen its autonomy", explains Benoit Martin, Director within the COCERT agency.
The principle of circular economy, which is also a topical subject in Luxembourg, will increasingly serve as a driving force in the construction of buildings. “The carbon footprint will have to tend towards more neutrality, with circular materials that respect the environment”, continues Benoit Martin.
"The office building of the future should be thought as a technical platform that can be used to produce, store and redistribute energy."
We are also thinking, among other things, of the integration of wood in constructions, which is gaining ground but where a lot of work remains to be done for constructions made entirely of wood. "It is obvious that there is a real reflection on this level, but which unfortunately remains for the moment rather marginal, because a large part of the companies and engineering consultancy offices in Luxembourg do not yet fully master this type of construction”, testifies Tom Beiler, Architect and Partner at Beiler François Fritsch.
Other concepts leaving more room for nature and the environment will also be added, for example through the upgrading of roofs, where can be created terraces, gardens, greenhouses, or even photovoltaic cells or beehives. "The association with new noble building functions such as urban farming will be passive levers to reduce the carbon footprint. Vegetation and water will also have a predominant place. Bringing more plants also improves air quality”, adds Benoit Martin.
A living place
The office will no longer be considered only as a workplace but rather as a living place. “Since a lot of people are now working from home, or have the ability to do so, we must give all other interests in the workplace to bring them back to the office. The office therefore becomes a platform for exchange, where we meet to see each other, discuss, move forward on common projects", says Tom Beiler. And therefore no longer just for working, on an individual basis.
And this is a key point that seems unanimous. “The health crisis has accelerated this process. Those who started to reflect about it long before the crisis were just a few, but since then other actors have been asking the same questions. And their responses seem to have all taken the same direction”, adds Tom Beiler.
"Since a lot of people are now working from home, or have the ability to do so, we must give all other interests in the workplace to bring them back to the office."
The activity within a building will focus on more community and customized concepts. “Hospitality is very important. The fact of feeling welcomed, of knowing that we are in the right place, for example with the possibility of drinking a quality organic coffee in an informal reception area, or any other little attention already shows us what is the philosophy of the company that welcomes us, and I think that is what we are looking for now”, says
The office building of the future will also, and even above all, have to prioritize the well-being and health of its occupants, with on-site services and facilities aiming at creating a welcoming environment, vector for exchanges, sharing and socialization. “Employees find themselves all day in the office, away from home, and they need to be able to feel good there and find what they need to relax, take a break or a workout session, have a bite to eat, have a drink, or have a social life with their colleagues, simply living”, explains Tom Beiler.
And Benoit Martin adds, "The quality of life at work is an important subject for qualitative productivity, it must be part of the CSR policies of companies".
The creation of these spaces and services, vectors of relaxation and discussion, must be able to integrate intelligently into the office, in a spirit of continuity and all in harmony. "Having outdoor relaxation spaces linked to the interior of the building by the ground floor, with landscaping in which the building fits well and allowing a link between the exterior and the interior is very important”, says Tom Beiler.
A building built and fitted-out differently
The welcoming atmosphere and customization will be a key point of the office building of the future, which are not offer by large office complexes with five-digit areas, where it is easy to get lost and where exchange and sharing are made more difficult by their size far from being human.
We will probably look at building buildings with more reasonable dimensions, on a "more human" scale, where open space is not doomed to disappear but rather to be used differently. Transforming the cliché of the open space where workstations are crowded, into different types of surfaces, with a more airy layout and leaving more space for users to move around. "I believe that the open space makes sense to stimulate exchanges and work dynamics, but the benches would rather be limited to 4 workstations, in order to integrate more informal surfaces between them, favorable to communication or concentration”, explains Tom Beiler.
"Workers will seek more flexibility, in particular with the creation of new tools and furtniture allowing greater mobility."
Limiting the size of the work benches is also a guarantee of health security, where more space will be left between each bench and type of surface.
The aim will be to offer dynamic, flexible and interactive interior layouts, offering more possibilities in their use, and adapting to the desires of all users. “Workers will seek more flexibility, in particular with the creation of new tools and furniture allowing greater mobility”, underlines Benoit Martin.
And it will be about providing a comfortable and enjoyable work environment that encourages employees to spend less time on individual, focused tasks and more time collaborating. And always with a priority given to well-being and health, with the corresponding technical equipment, whether in terms of acoustics or air management, for example.
And what about homeworking ?
It will be part of every company's strategy to be able to offer their employees the flexibility to choose whether they want to work in the office or from home, depending on their needs. But it will never replace the office and its working environment. In other words, it will not force companies to reduce the office space they use, but rather to think differently about how to occupy them. And Tom Beiler adds, "I think there will be reflections over the layout of the office space, but not necessarily on reducing the area used by a company".
"There will be reflections over the layout of the office space, but not necessarily on reducing the area used by a company."
In conclusion, the office still has good years ahead of it, because companies will always need surfaces to work, meet and exchange. And what we remember at CBRE is that the 4 dimensions of the office building of the future will put people and the user experience at the center of everything. The awareness within the property sector on these major considerations is real, and the transition is already running and well advanced among many players in the profession.
About CBRE Luxembourg
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2019 revenue). The company has more than 100,000 employees (excluding affiliates) and serves real estate investors and occupiers through more than 530 offices (excluding affiliates) worldwide. CBRE offers a broad range of integrated services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services.
In Luxembourg, more than 30 employees have been advising our clients on commercial real estate for nearly 13 years.