The ‘edge’ of tomorrow

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Published: April 10, 2016 6:03:51 AM

A peek into Deloitte’s Amsterdam facility—hailed as the world’s greenest office building

A peek into Deloitte’s Amsterdam facility—hailed as the world’s greenest office buildingA peek into Deloitte’s Amsterdam facility—hailed as the world’s greenest office building

THE EDGE is billed as the world’s most sustainable office building and has the certification to prove it. But it’s more than that. The place is, well, fun. And interesting. And inviting. So much so that professionals are actually applying for employment with Deloitte Netherlands because they want to work in the building.

The Edge produces more electricity than it consumes, an achievement made possible by an array of solar panels—some of which are placed on neighbouring buildings—and below-ground thermal energy storage. Its Ethernet-powered LED lighting system is 80% more efficient than conventional illumination. Rainwater is collected from the roof and balconies and used to flush the building’s toilets and water its gardens. Even the contours of the structure and its orientation to the sun play a role in its resourcefulness.

Upon its completion in late 2014, The Edge was awarded the highest Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) accreditation score ever for an office building—98.36%—by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the global assessor of sustainable buildings.

The innovative, connected lighting panels do more than sip minute amounts of voltage; they contain about 28,000 sensors that detect motion, light, temperature, humidity, and even carbon dioxide levels. It’s these sensors, providing real-time data, which make The Edge possibly the smartest and most occupant-friendly office space in use today.

The sensors allow facility managers to assess how and when certain parts of the building are being used. “In our building, IT and facilities management are a combined function,” explains Tim Sluiter, property manager, IT and workplace services, Deloitte Netherlands. In the short term, collected information can be used to determine where cleaning is and isn’t necessary on a given evening. Long-term, emerging patterns, showing light use of certain locales on certain days, can lead to rooms or even entire floors being closed off to save energy.

Sensors also make The Edge an interesting and enjoyable place to work in. For example, software updates to a smartphone app, developed by Deloitte Netherlands, will soon make it possible for coffee machines to recognise individuals when they approach and dispense the blends and add-ins they desire.

The app already assigns daily workspaces that best fit users’ preferences, and allows them to control the brightness of the lighting above their work surfaces and adjust the climate of their particular areas. It can direct people throughout the building, reading a meeting location from one’s online calendar, for example, and suggesting the route to get there. Employees can even use the app to track their progress in the on-site gym—where some of the fitness equipment actually feeds generated wattage into the building’s power grid. The building is close to public transportation, a high-speed rail link, and a cycle route network. More than 500 bicycle parking spaces encourage tenants to pedal their way to work. Those who must drive arrive at a high-tech garage that identifies their vehicles, points them to available parking spots, and uses sensor-equipped LED lights that brighten and dim as drivers arrive and leave.

As per Sluiter, personal data cannot be accessed by managers or anyone else. Privacy laws ensure nobody can track a person’s whereabouts, monitor how many meetings they’ve missed, or see what times they’re using the garage. “This building offers the technology to do certain things that would make tenants’ lives even easier, and most of them would gladly accept the functionality,” he says. “But, at the same time, it’s extremely important to protect people’s privacy and conform to the law,” he adds.

Those minimal barriers certainly aren’t hindering The Edge’s reputation. “Our aim was to make The Edge the best place to work in,” says Erik Ubels, director of IT and workplace services, Deloitte Netherlands. “Our meeting areas are filling up because every client and employee wants to experience this building. It’s not too small yet, but the economy is growing and the building is getting crowded. It’s possible we made it too popular.”

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