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A Look Inside the Smartest Building in the World

December 17, 2015
Enlighted Inc.

The smartest building in the world may also be the most enjoyable to work from.

The Dutch have a term for the future of work. They call it het nieuwe werken. It means “the new work” and it refers to an ongoing digital and cultural renewal of the mental models and physical spaces surrounding work.

Unsurprisingly, the Dutch have also built what many consider to be both the greenest and smartest building in the world, a capsule and living experiment in creating the necessary conditions for het nieuwe werken to arrive and thrive. The building, located in Amsterdam, is called the Edge and it’s a collaboration between innovative Dutch real estate developer OVG Real Estate and global management consultancy Deloitte — who use the building as their corporate headquarters.

So what does daily life look like in the most advanced building on the planet?

The central atrium is fifteen stories tall and acts as both the lungs and the eyes of the building, circulating fresh air throughout the building and capturing and distributing daylight.

Smartest Building

The design embraces open office concepts and Deloitte encourages serendipitous encounters, which they believe lead to better and more creative business outcomes. Every workspace is within 23 feet of a window and outside noises are muted by an acoustically designed roof.

The atrium also acts as a central meeting place and social hub. Deloitte has about 2500 people working in the building, but there are only 1000 desks and people are encouraged to use desks only when they are needed.

A variety of other spaces are designed to meet specific work needs, like tiny rooms with a single lamp and chair, perfect for a phone call. According to a profile of the building by Bloomberg, there are game rooms and coffeebars and smart espresso machines that remember how you like your coffee. Occupants can also use mobile apps to take control of lighting and heating for specific spaces in real-time, or let algorithms decide for them.

Smartest building

The building leverages the Internet of Things and is home to 28,000 light, heat and motion-detecting sensors, making it highly optimized for both energy efficiency and for the improved human experiences. Because of this, the British green building standards association BREEAM gave the Edge a score of 98.36 — the highest score of any green building ever. It is also the second largest building to ever receive BREEAM’s highest “Outstanding” rating.

The building’s heating and storage systems are designed to benefit from passive sunlight from the Earth’s transit, and also uses an aquifer thermal energy storage system. Rainwater is used for internal flushing, washing, and watering green spaces, and the building is well connected to public transport. In Amsterdam style, there are also 500 bicycle parking spots on site. There are also solar panels on the building exterior that generate enough renewable energy to power all smartphones, laptops, and electric cars in the building.

Smartest building

For building occupant Deloitte, the building is a laboratory; the management consultancy is gathering and applying reams of data. Using occupancy sensing and space planning technology, portions of the building can be shut down on days when few occupants are expected to be present, or even dynamically redesigned to meet the observed space, light, and heating needs of building occupants.

The malleability of the design is what makes the smart buildings like the Edge stand out. While many physical attributes of the building are fixed at the time of the building’s construction, most of the digital aspects of the building experience are programmable, and can change over time in step with the evolution of the occupant’s needs.

Take a quick visual tour of the Edge: