Innovation helps create smarter spaces to live and work
Using the latest technology and harnessing data across its buildings, Skanska is delivering better outcomes for tenants – and the planet. By Raluca Stanislav and Jakub Zagórski.
When approaching innovation thinking at Skanska, we always start from our core values, while keeping in mind the impact of the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reflected through the projects we develop.
One of our core values is ‘Care for life’, meaning that the health and safety of people and the planet is at the heart of what we do. Care for life is also about the people that are daily crossing our floors, some with disabilities, about how we can reach the office trough heavy traffic, about how employees can operate inside our buildings without being exposed to health risks, about the use of sun or fresh air to create comfortable working environments, and about changing our systems in sync with our partners and suppliers, together aiming for a better planet.
It is also about the structures and systems, about research and development, about operational efficiency and digital transformation. Finally, it is about the trust that we are not compromising the commitment of evolving in a technological and healthy way as a company.
Another core value that we are guided by in our innovation aspirations is ‘Commit to customers’, which means having a customer-first mindset. We listen carefully to understand their needs and those of their customers, so that we can provide the tools they both require to reach their goals. Together, we look ahead to create smarter and more sustainable solutions that bring their visions to life.
Our clients are increasingly demanding a digital experience: enhanced infrastructure to perform virtual/hybrid meetings, hands-free solutions to access, monitor and control office space, as well as digital leasing and post-sale processes. Our tenants want full flexibility in terms of connectivity with office space, ease of installation of additional sensors and hardware such as occupancy/density controls, and quality of office space. And we cannot forget about costs – the office needs to be cost-efficient with low energy consumption and low service charges.
We have a dedicated global team (Technical Quality Team) that monitors and improves the operational performance of our buildings through the use of innovative technologies. The idea is to take experiences from various locations and use the lessons learnt for each newly developed property.
We have been placing a lot of attention on environmental innovations, starting with the most impactful materials, understanding how our suppliers can support us in producing and implementing low-carbon concrete. We have also optimised building management system (BMS) solutions and lighting systems, where we have already started the piloting process. Our experts are also investigating other relevant and/or connected areas, such as ‘green’ facades, energy storage and innovative ventilation systems.
All of these are prepared and carried out transparently. We want our tenants to trust our approach and be able to observe it any time, so we have installed screens in the lobbies, which provide information such as gas, water, and energy consumption of the buildings. They also show diagrams and comparisons each day, allowing users and visitors to see where we are in terms of the use of resources even before they enter our office or retail spaces.
Meeting different needs
The set-up of our lobbies not only reflects our focus on applying climate-smart materials and responsible use of resources, but also our care for individuals with various different needs. For example, we have reception tables at wheelchair levels and baby care rooms equipped with microwaves for baby food reheating, changing tables and water access, as well as armchairs for feeding purposes.
Inside the building, we have tested and implemented luminaires printed on a 3D printer from waste. We have also added water and energy-saving options and touchless solutions wherever possible.
Outside, we have focused on mobility and health, implementing solutions such as solar-charging benches, running tracks, biodiversity and green areas, smog-reducing pavements, bicycle repair stations, and parcel lockers where packages can be left to be picked up by the addressees when it’s convenient for them.
We also believe in integrated community life inside and out. In some of our projects, there are venues for business and social gatherings, fast-charging spots for electric cars and scooters, playgrounds, parks and walking areas.
Innovation is sometimes not visible, or at least not to everybody. What we consider an important differentiator for Skanska is the flexibility and efficiency of data use, as well as the better results we can achieve with it. By creating well-centralised, structured, and accessible data we can support the decision-making processes and improve the organisation’s learning curve.
The data accumulated from previous projects gives us the opportunity to analyse and improve current and future projects, ensuring a continuous process of re-evaluation and optimisation of services.
We are already using Building Information Modelling (BIM) in development processes on all our commercial projects in Central and Eastern Europe, but our ambition is to standardise the core data captured during design, construction and operational stages and make it an asset for our tenants and investors.
IoT and smart buildings
We see huge potential in smart buildings and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies within the office development area. The technological momentum is there with enhanced wireless connection protocols, portable equipment, sensors, and many others supporting solutions. We are continuing our technological journey with a unique ‘Connected by Skanska’ offering with a vision that all buildings developed across Central and Eastern Europe will be interconnected within the ecosystem of smart buildings, exchanging data and performance measures between each other, and allowing for seamless connection between users and the working experience.
We are constantly moving the bar higher, concentrating on continued digitalisation of our buildings, viewing them as interconnected platforms allowing users to interact with them as well as monitoring and improving them.
We continue focusing on recreating and adjusting processes that congregate our activities, finding new tools that better support our daily work, from transferring information between our colleagues to our tenants and investors to sharing visual ways of how our spaces can be transformed and utilised in the most optimal way.
Innovation is a rhythm that beats in correlation with evolution – technical, mental, digital. It is part our commitment to transform the places that we build, keeping in mind that places shape us, as humans, as well.
Raluca Stanislav is Centre of Excellence Director, Technical & Innovations at Skanska’s office development unit in CEE
Jakub Zagórski is Centre of Excellence Director, Business Digitalization at Skanska’s office development unit in CEE