How the rise of smart cities will impact office design

Towards 2020, urban areas will increasingly evolve into smart cities. But what impact will this have on office design and the role of the office in the local community? 

The evolvement of urban areas to smart cities will have a huge influence on office designs and the role of the office in the local community. In this context, smart cities are defined as: cities that use information and communication technologies (ICT) to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and environmental footprint - all supporting innovation and the low-carbon economy.

Following the flight from the urban centers in the latter half of the 20th century, cities are reasserting themselves as central drivers of creativity in our economy. However, urban areas also differ. This in terms of the condition of existing infrastructure, the degree of implementation of smart technologies as well as in their degree of attractiveness for companies that seek new office locations. For example, while it is expected that more infrastructure and office buildings will be built in Asia over the next two decades, the European and North American markets will be more focused on retrofitting infrastructure and existing offices.

The impact of smart cities on the future of work

For facility managers and office designers, the evolvement of smart cities creates a new world of opportunities. Especially because of its overlap with other transformational technologies such as fast Wi-Fi connections, Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud Computing.

Connecting the dots, smart cities can be seen as an extension of smart buildings, allowing us to see the environment outside the office as a potential workplace, alongside our main office. To put this in context, consider the impact of having data about our use of office spaces based on meeting room booking systems, the use of IT and how these insights have helped businesses and facility managers to better support the needs of their employees. Now imagine the impact it will have if this spreads city-wide.

As cities become increasingly smart, governments and  businesses will progressively integrate with the local community, sharing resources and amenities. This will result in more collaborative networks that will share inputs and outputs, services and people.

Asian cities will have the biggest impact on the development of office design

According to the ISS 2020 Vision New Ways of Working survey, respondents opined that the Asian cities will have the biggest influence on office design towards 2020. This idea is also supported by McKinsey Global Institute and the World Bank.

As a consequence of the rapid pace of growth, accelerated pace of change, growing urban populations and relatively low levels of building sophistication, these emerging market economies will have to build new offices quickly and cheaply. These offices will have to be easy to manage and more sustainable.

Consequently,  these emerging markets possess a historic chance to reinvent not only its cities but also the very idea of a city and how these interact with their surroundings - including businesses and governments. If successful, these megacities will have scale, and ultimately they will reach a global rollout, which will have an immediate impact on the European and North American markets as well.

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