Virgin Media completed their Innovation Center building, within the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, in February 2016.  In doing so, they set a precedent for high-performance buildings across the business world.  Enterprises must recognise that property is more than a basic means to an end, housing the people who generate growth.  The workspace is effectively a profitable commodity in itself – if a business can get it right.  What, then, constitutes a high-performance building?  There are a number of elements to this, broadly encompassing how a building embraces the people who use it and the surrounding landscape.  Fuelling productivity, satisfaction and collaboration is the key.

What Makes Virgin’s Building Special?

The Basalt-based Innovation Center offers crucial efficiencies – in terms of building running costs and how its residents operate within it.  It uses, for instance, 74% less energy than the average building in the surrounding area.  The rooftop solar “photovoltaic” system powering the building annually generates more renewable electricity than it consumes.

However, by Virgin’s own admission, the environmental goals were secondary to the aim of creating a “healthy, productive, and aesthetically pleasing” workspace.  True, the views of the Rockies help with that – a luxury that most businesses do not have.  Far more intrinsic, however, is the use of integrated technology, whereby residents may control easily comfort settings to support their work.  These include heating/cooling chairs and efficient, connected ventilation.  In line with the leading workspaces of today, such as Deloitte’s Edge building in Amsterdam, the building leverages cutting-edge technology for its workers’ benefit.

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What High-Performance Buildings Are All About

One can stuff a building full of wirelessly connected gadgets and suppose that makes a high-performance venue.  Yet high-performance buildings are about more than that.  We use the term because it refers to an environment that fires up general business activity.  All technology must be made compatible with the company and have a clear, defined purpose.  Technology means very little if it does not integrate with existing infrastructure, including current technical systems and building materials.

In addition, high-performance building technology should be user-friendly to workers.  In Virgin’s case, that meant establishing a balance of automatic and manual controls, on issues such as opening windows.  From a more general perspective, it refers to bringing autonomy over these systems closer, technologically, to the workers.  Engineered in the right way, a technologically-driven building can drive collective morale, collaboration, and overall output.

How To Build High-Performance Buildings

The central platform of a technologically innovative building is a cloud-based network, one that connects all devices.  The Edge building used by Deloitte, for example, uses numerous remote devices such as screens, sensors and electronic locks.  These can be incorporated through cloud applications so that the user’s own personal device can easily interact with them.

Furthermore, the cloud offers a storage platform that allows for complete flexible working, both inside and outside the workspace.  This is because all company data can be remotely accessed online, through any device.  In granting employees ownership of their working patterns, a business may engineer a higher collective morale and thereby encourage stronger, more consistent output.  This must be supported by a reliable, scalable connectivity solution within that building’s confines, or the system falls apart.

The other principal cornerstone of high-performance buildings is simple communication.  This initially refers to the flexibility and openness of an open-plan workspace; offhand interaction with colleagues is easy to conduct.  Yet in the dynamic, globalised economy that we live in, talking with co-workers is not necessarily that straightforward; travel is an essential part of business, more so than ever.  This can incur serious communication problems for companies, in terms of costs and comms quality.  The solution lies in cloud-based telephony and audio-visual software that operates on a fixed cost.  This provides a regular high-quality interaction platform that is not subject to geographical proximity.  If such a system can be integrated with existing devices within a company, it is a simple reform to make – though larger fixed screens can become an integral part of a high-performance building.

The Crux Of The Matter

Though business, as mentioned above, is increasingly fluid and mobile, it still requires a locational focal point.  The office building is still important.  What is crucial is that it is equipped to support the mobility, functionality and efficiency of the modern business lifestyle.  The high-performance building concept refers both to the output of the building itself, and the output that it generates from its human users.  Virgin have created a building according to these principles at apparently great expense.  The truth is, however, that such efficiency reforms are available to smaller businesses too.  Most importantly, they are appropriate for just about any ambitious growing enterprise.

 

 

Viastak work to support businesses looking to leverage technology, in order to streamline the way they operate.  We believe in creating flexible, dynamic enterprises that are equipped to deal with the demands of the modern global economy.  To find out more, please get in touch.