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Since the beginning of human history, every generation of people has been defined by their buildings. From caves to mud huts, stone to brick houses, to steel and concrete houses, the places we live work and play have continually evolved to cater better for our demands. Today’s emerging generation, the millennial generation, demands connectivity, flexibility, and intelligence from the built environment. This emerging generation will be the smart building generation.
By 2020, as much as 50% of the workforce will be millennials, and 75% of the workforce by 2025. This group will seek out workplaces that offer them unprecedented control over how and where they work. Hotdesking, remote working, and co-working spaces will continue to increase in popularity – 30% of corporate real estate portfolios will consist of flexible office space according to Markus Winterholer of the Building Technologies Division at Siemens.
“Younger workers are cutting the cords that tied employees to their desks, through flexible and remote working options. Smart design and greater connectivity will be required to ensure spaces and enterprises are equipped for hot desking and remote working, as well as mobile and wearable technology,” we explain in our report: The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era. “This need not be at extra expense. in fact, progressive corporations are already reducing the scale of their office below the size of their workforce to account for the increased numbers of remote workers, for example.”
Millennials will also demand workplaces that incorporate the latest technology for comfort, health, and wellbeing. This includes circadian lighting systems that mimic the natural rhythms of the sun to keep our internal clocks in check, which scientists have discovered is being disrupted by bright artificial light in the afternoon and evening. Technology savvy generations understand that we no longer need to suffer through one-size-fits-all policies on office temperature, for example, and will demand greater control of their personal workspace.
“These are generations that have grown up with digital and connected technology, and they will prioritize smartly designed and technology rich workplaces when choosing between employment options,” our comprehensive workplace report continues. Millennials take their health more seriously than previous generations, for exmaple. “They will place great importance on companies and workplaces that promote health through lighting and environmental control systems, as well as those who offer them the time and facilities to engage in healthier living,” the report continues.
Millennials have grown up in the age of technology but also an era of heightened environmental and social responsibility. Beyond personal demands for greater health, comfort, and flexibility, these groups will place much greater priority on ensuring their employer makes a positive contribution to “the world.” This could be bad news for the world’s corporate polluters, but for the vast majority of companies, a smart workplace could act as an important recruitment tool.
“To attract and retain talent, a business needs to show Millennials it is innovative and in tune with their world-view”, said Barry Salzberg, former global CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. “Our society faces many critical issues and it’s become clear no sector should ‘go it alone.’ By working together and combining their different skills, business, governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) have an opportunity to reignite the Millennial generation and make real progress in solving society’s problems.”
Today, 41% of energy worldwide is consumed by buildings and as much as 80% of total lifecycle cost of a building occurs in the operation phase, according to a presentation by Markus Winterholer of Siemens. Again, smart technology has arisen to address the issue.
Smart lighting and environmental control systems utilize occupant tracking to ensure that electricity is not being wasted on empty spaces. While sensors positioned all around the building are feeding central artificially intelligent systems with all the data they need to find new, un-thought-of ways to create greater efficiency and conserve more energy.
All this smart technology is going to require unfathomable amounts of data. There are already eight billion devices connected to the internet today, by 2030 that figure is expected to forecast to reach one trillion. Consequently, we should expect a 60% increase in the amount of data collected from smart buildings year over year, meaning data volumes double every two years. This incredible change is already well underway, the World Economic Forum states that 50% of the world’s data, in the history of mankind, was created in less than the last year.
All this will be adopted and driven by the millennial generation, whose comfort with technology and moral compass is shaping the technology towards health, flexibility, and environmental responsibility. This millennial generation will soon be followed by another. In fact, this year, 2018, generation Generation Z (those born after the year 2000) will begin to enter the workforce, in 20-30 years they will be the dominant force shaping the workplace with a new breed of technology under a different name. For now, however, we are entering the smart building era.