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The integration of technology in commercial architecture has emerged as a transformative force, reshaping the way businesses operate and the environments in which they function. Smart buildings, characterised by their ability to intelligently adapt to the needs of their occupants while optimising energy efficiency, have gained prominence as a symbol of modernity and sustainability. Moreover, the concept of smart buildings has evolved significantly over the past few decades, propelled by breakthroughs in information technology, data analytics, and sustainability. Today’s ‘smart’ buildings are not merely structures equipped with gadgets; they are capable of being dynamic ecosystems that leverage a sophisticated network of sensors, data analytics, and automation systems to enhance occupant comfort, reduce operational costs, and minimise environmental impact. As architects are finding new ways to use technology to enhance the user experience in commercial buildings, we explore the rapidly growing and industry-changing trend of integrating technology in commercial architecture, and focus on the evolution of smart buildings and their myriad benefits for contemporary commercial businesses. As Hrishikesh Borse, an Architect at RMJM Dubai, explains: “I believe these new upcoming technologies are an extra benefit to architects. It has allowed us to explore new possibilities, enhance the way we design, ease the way we communicate, and help us collaborate better.”

Automation and Sensing the Environment
Central to the smart building concept is the deployment of sensors throughout the structure of contemporary projects. These sensors monitor a wide range of parameters, including temperature, humidity, light levels, occupancy, and air quality. By continuously collecting data from these sensors, smart buildings gain a deep understanding of their surroundings and can make real-time adjustments to improve conditions for occupants and optimise conditions based on the building’s specific uses. For example, RMJM was appointed to deliver an exemplary world class exhibition centre through the Minsk Exhibition Centre. The ambition project reinforces the entrepreneurial spirit of Belarus and showcase innovation and progressive business principles. The special location is split up into several sections- each requiring its own specifications- and as such sensors have been utilised throughout for example, to detect an empty room, which then can adjust lighting accordingly, while adjusting the room temperature to accommodate for the lack of heat  that would otherwise be added when occupied. Conversely, when a room or specific area is occupied, the systems can adapt to ensure comfort and optimal conditions.

The incorporation of such technology and the progression of smart buildings is an inherently energy-efficient concept and practice, thanks to the ability to optimise resource usage based on real-time data, as outlined above. Businesses can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and operational costs by implementing such energy-efficient technologies and practices within these structures. Furthermore, the integration of renewable energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, can further enhance a project’s sustainability credentials.

A further example of how the advanced automation of technology is benefiting businesses can be seen in the design of RMJM’s 5* Hilton Hotel. The 500 key hotel, located at the southern boundary of Al-Maktoum International Airport. The building has been carefully arranged on the plot to ensure comfortable and spacious accommodation for the maximum number of luxury rooms,  an extensive F&B courtyard and a large underground retail section. While an advanced HVAC system automation to further conserve energy, (alongside other environmentally beneficial features outlined previously), the later area has integrated cutting-edge security system sensors, including biometric access control, video surveillance, and advanced alarm systems. These systems provide comprehensive protection. Moreover, AI-powered analytics can detect anomalies and potential threats, enabling rapid response and mitigation- all of which creates a more positive and safe sense of environment for clients, employees and guests.Minsk Exhibition Centre, Minsk, Belarus

Advanced User-Centric Control
The integration of technology in commercial architecture offers a wider plethora of advantages for modern businesses, aligning with their objectives of sustainability, productivity, and employee well-being. One relevant hallmark of smart buildings is their focus on user-centric control. RMJM recognises the significance such access delivers not only when creating architectural environments in the present day but also for informing how we will build in the future.

RMJM’s Meydan Business Park project is an interconnected office park located in an upcoming area of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and has been designed to be a place that grows and evolves with the times, changing from day to night, from season to season, RMJM focused on creating a venue to attract top talent and become a popular entrepreneurial hub. One such way this will be achieved is by allowing occupants to interact with the building through user-friendly interfaces such as mobile apps and touchscreens. This empowers individuals to customise their workspace environments, from adjusting lighting and temperature to reserving meeting rooms and accessing security features. 

Moreover, such control interfaces can provide valuable data on user preferences, helping to fine-tune systems for maximum employee satisfaction and productivity. It is no surprise that comfortable and well-maintained environments contribute to higher employee productivity, thus the significance of businesses creating workspaces that respond to the needs and preferences of their employees. The wealth of data generated by allowing such user-centric control is a valuable resource for business decision-making. Analytics can provide insights into space utilisation, energy consumption patterns, and occupant behaviours. Armed with this data, businesses can make informed decisions about space planning, resource allocation, and sustainability initiatives, leading to cost savings and strategic advantages.Meydan Business Park, Riyadh, KSA

The integration of technology in commercial architecture is an ever-evolving field that represents a transformative shift in the way contemporary businesses operate. These technologically advanced structures offer a multitude of benefits, ranging from enhanced sustainability and productivity to improved security and data-driven decision-making. As businesses continue to embrace the potential of smart building, they position themselves at the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the commercial real estate landscape, setting a new standard for the workplace of the future that is even more sophisticated and which offers new possibilities for businesses. 

Effectively summarised by Judy Jabbour, a forward-thinking Architect  based at RMJM Dubai, “Since technology is developing rapidly, it’s difficult to predict what the architectural scene will be like in 60 years. However, I believe architecture will be more experimental, and our definition of spaces and buildings will be redefined. I imagine the projects will be dedicated to how we choose to deal with climate change.”

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