Smart Buildings – How to avoid ‘tech’ for the sake of ‘tech’

Smart Buildings can create thriving environments for their end-users when the correct strategy is put in place. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of using technology for the sake of technology. Florence Brusse, Smart Places Analyst, discusses how can you avoid this.


‘Tech for the sake of tech’ has become a coined term in the industry. It comes from the idea that technology tools are used simply because they exist, without considering if it serves a substantial purpose. I believe that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the use of technology, data really can be the new gold. However, we should not be using a technology tool simply because we can, but rather we should set clear goals that technology can help us achieve. Developing this agile roadmap for digital implementation and the debate that comes with it is something we encounter when we develop Smart Building strategies.

Understanding how to carefully guide a Smart Building strategy has proven to be complex, paradoxical and multi-layered. It is easy to assume Smart is all about the competencies that technologies bring with them; being able to turn on lights with an App, gathering data on room occupancy or adopting heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) analytics to save energy. Yet, the difference between a technology-enabled built environment and a truly thriving one is the user experience.

In a post-pandemic world, the definition of a thriving space is uncertain. The hybrid-working model has heavily impacted the way users value office spaces. To create thriving environments that people will want to return to, we need to understand people’s motivations and drivers. Thus, taking a human-centric approach to decision-making and Smart is crucial.


The experience that you want users to have is fundamental to the Smart Strategy

A Smart Strategy process starts by understanding what Smart is and what your goals are, by simultaneously adopting a human-centric approach. The starting point is to perceive the desired outcome and ideal end-user experience that you are aiming for. Technology will allow us to do anything. However, it is the ‘anything’ that you must define for yourself. What is the ideal user experience and how can we help the end-user reach their goals?

Together with clients, we explore these questions, which can be challenging at times. Still, I believe there are so many things we already know without knowing we know them.

What does a healthy building feel like? Why do we enjoy going into the office? What does the ideal day in the office look like? These open-ended questions can be challenging and overwhelming, but I believe the answers to them lie in our deepest feelings, memories, and recollections of wellbeing. By answering these questions, you make the unconscious conscious, which allows you to design and deliver a Smart building from a place of sense, wisdom, and experience.

A thriving space is one where Smart Technologies serve a purpose for its end users. By interviewing end-users of the building and doing workshops, we aim to understand the way that users interact with the building. This means getting an understanding of who will be using the building and how they will use it, to enable a user experience through technology that is best for them.


Human-centric decision making for an inclusive Smart Building

Smart Technologies should not be an afterthought late in the design phase of a project. Rather Smart and its technologies need to be embedded and engrained in every step of developing a building. No matter how advanced the technology, if you do not involve people in the process of developing Smart Buildings, it will alienate users and not achieve what it was intended to. It is about getting clear on your goals and then finding ways to integrate those technological solutions in the day-to-day of the users. Therefore, we do not believe in ‘tech for the sake of tech’ and take a user-centric approach to develop a Smart Building strategy, so that you can create a Smart Building that serves a genuine purpose for the end-users.