The changing workplace – a guiding light for facility managers
The workplace is changing. It is becoming increasingly activity-based and more open plan, with desk to employee ratios dropping below 1:1 and shifting towards 1:1.4 in typical workplace layouts. There is now a focus on creating collaborative spaces to break down silos and engineer ‘serendipitous encounters’ that are widely recognised as fundamental to business success. Office space leasing is also a material portion of a company’s fixed costs, so maximising the utility of this space is important.
The lighting industry has also undergone a major transformation in the past 20 years. The first transformation, beginning in the late ’90s, introduced energy-efficient high-brightness LEDs (light emitting diodes) into the workplace. The second transformation, which is unfolding now, builds on the digital nature of LED technology to bring illumination and IT together, allowing light systems to go beyond illumination and participate in the Internet of Things (IoT).
With its entry into the IoT, the lighting industry is following a technology trend that is fundamentally changing the way devices in ‘smart’ office buildings, such as thermostats and sensors, interact with each other and the people who use them. In the IoT, devices, including LED light fixtures, collect data about themselves, their users, their environments and the other devices with which they connect. This data provides insights that were never available before, allowing facility managers to create and utilise connected applications and services that deliver new capabilities and value to building owners and users.
For facility managers, IoT-connected lighting technologies are quickly being seen as a guiding light for office building design and management, and support what is anticipated to be the backbone of the workplace of the future.
Creating smarter, more intelligent workspaces
To fully realise the promise of the IoT, facility managers will see IT companies and lighting companies partner to provide facility managers with a seamlessly integrated connected lighting system delivered over Power over Ethernet (PoE) IT architecture. PoE is a technology delivering power over standard Ethernet data cables, eliminating the need for a separate power infrastructure.
This means luminaires can provide much more than simply illuminated office space; they can be a portal to data, energy savings, sustainability and personal comfort. Luminaires merge with the base building’s IT network and are uniquely identified by an IP address, allowing them to be individually monitored, managed and controlled. Data captured by the sensors in the luminaires will enable building managers to mine data pertaining to the workplace, to optimise building performance, and employees will also be able to achieve maximum comfort by controlling their lighting environment.
The IoT at work
Data can be collected from banks of PoE-enabled luminaires equipped with sensors to capture temperature, light level and activity for optimising user comfort. Connected lighting system management software, running in the building’s IT environment, allows system managers to monitor and manage each light point via a dashboard application. The system also stores data over time, allowing managers to assess occupancy patterns and optimise lighting operations based on historical trends and findings. This opens up avenues for innovation into data-rich applications.
PoE-connected lighting systems also provide a platform to support real-time building use. Easy visibility to each fixture, for example, allows facilities managers to respond to maintenance issues faster, lowering labour costs. Visible Light Communication (VLC) and sensors also enable a range of indoor positioning options.
Importantly, PoE technologies support futureproofing of buildings by enabling building infrastructures to take advantage of the emerging opportunities associated with truly smart infrastructure and the IoT.
An enabler of workplace innovation
When it comes to Workplace Innovation (WPI), there are two primary drivers. The first is economising the utility of a workspace, and the second, sometimes forgotten, factor is about maximising productivity.
Lighting technologies such as PoE primarily support this second and arguably most important driver associated with improved workplace design. Once a workspace is designed, where PoE technology is employed, that workspace can be monitored and valuable insights may be gathered that can over time help to ensure spaces are being utilised to their full potential.
For facility managers, CEOs and human resources directors, new connected lighting system technologies can provide valuable insights as to how open plan workspaces are being used. Sensors for the purposes of heat mapping, in particular, allow them to identify occupancy over time for discrete workspaces.
For employees, these PoE-connected systems also enable facility managers to reintroduce some of the personalisation lost in the move to embrace open plan flexible workspaces. Personal smart device apps have been designed specifically for use with connected lighting systems, aiming to give employees more control over their environment. This includes allowing employees to adjust lighting levels in zones local to their workspace – such as a high light level to boost energy or a lower light level to promote creative work. This ability to personalise a workspace also supports both ends of the demographic range, where older employees will require greater light levels while younger employees may see the world smartphone in hand.
Indoor positioning capabilities of PoE systems can also provide opportunities to build site maps in large scale multi-floor tenancies, allowing employees to identify where other team members are sitting or to find an empty meeting room.
Delivering on energy efficiency
In addition to the energy savings achieved by using LED luminaires instead of conventional luminaires, PoE-enabled luminaires can be fitted with sensors to support daylight harvesting and presence detection. Sensors also enable energy reporting by fixture or by area, with each luminaire able to report on operating hours, energy usage and remaining expected life span.
For example, the connected lighting system installed at The Edge (a cutting edge office building developed by OVG Real Estate for Deloitte in Amsterdam and designed by PLP Architects) has achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) Outstanding certification of 98.4. The certification recognises that best practice has been used to ensure that the building is designed, constructed and operated to high sustainability standards.
As part of its BREEAM accreditation, the building, which includes 40,000 square metres of office space, employs a Philips connected lighting system using PoE technology, a 2:1 luminaire to sensor ratio with daylight harvesting, presence detection and a personal control app to ensure light is only used where it is needed.
The future of workspaces looks bright
The widespread building use and management benefits associated with Connected Lighting Systems using PoE technology in comparison to traditional independent power and lighting systems are fast being recognised. Data from The Edge in Amsterdam and WaterPark Place in Toronto, for example, is showcasing the real value of energy savings, cost savings and optimised usage of building spaces.
With revolutionary new technologies such as the Philips Connected Lighting Systems using PoE technology bringing illumination and IT together, lighting systems go beyond illumination to inform facility managers of maintenance requests, occupancy trends, temperature control and more – to ensure workspaces of the future will become more efficient, more sustainable and more comfortable, not just brighter.
This article appeared in the February/March edition of FM. The author, Marcin Wilinski, is head of Professional Lighting at Philips Australia. His role at Philips combines over 15 years of management experience and his passion for how technology improves the lives of communities and individuals.