We had a brilliant day hosting some of the smartest minds from the Smart Building community at 150 Holborn last week, one of the smartest buildings in Europe.

Why do we call it a community?

On the day, we had IT, technology and construction experts, who like us, spend their lives creating the infrastructure that gives each Smart Building its phenomenal intelligence, agile operability and sustainable performance.

We welcomed end-users that want to know how to make their own spaces more intelligent. In the company of 150 building owner, Sidara, that included professionals from banking, education, electronics manufacturing, energy, entertainment, fashion, healthcare, legal, pharmaceuticals, real estate, retail and telecoms.

And job titles on the day ranged from Technical Solutions Architect and Head of Facilities to COO, CIO, CTO and ESG Director.

This broad church reflects the benefits intelligent IT network design and implementation can deliver to enhance building efficiency, improve workplace experience, and give building owners and tenants better control over costs, space usage and environment.

Sidara explain their vision for the building

150 Holborn is owned by, and was developed by, Sidara, a group that includes some of the world’s leading consultancies for design and engineering of the built environment. 150 was designed to bring all of its UK companies together in one place for the first time and to create a showcase of what’s possible.

Dan Cope, IT Manager at Dar UK, who runs the Smart Building infrastructure at 150, explains: “We were creating a house of brands for Sidara; the various group companies designed it together. And today, we live in it together.”

Sidara began the journey nine years ago with a clear vision to create a best-in class working environment, underpinned by the concept of a place that could allow ideas to thrive and encourage visual and physical connection between the Sidara companies occupying the finished building.

“We also had clear output goals. So, everything we did, from the architectural design to the network capability, we referenced back to how it would help us to improve aspects against our core list:

Integrating operational and occupational functionality

Moto Shakoori, Founder and CEO at Ideal, said: “We have created Converged Network Systems (CNS) and high-spec Wi-Fi for over 20 Smart Buildings, but 150 is unique.

“Because Sidara were the developer and the eventual tenant, we were able to design the Shell and Core and the Fit Out network concurrently, which enabled us to fully mesh operational functionality and occupational functionality.

“Why does that matter? Well one example is the meeting room functionality. Each room knows how many people are in it at any time, so it manages the room climate appropriately. Based on the booking data, lights dim to signal a meeting is ending, creating a positive meeting room culture. The aircon then pumps in fresh air ready for the next meeting. That level of experience can only happen with hyper-connectivity.”

Leading edge technology behind the scenes

Andy Waters, BEMS & IoT Smart Building Specialist at Schneider Electric (SE), who provided much of the core building management technology, explained that SE developed some specific technology based on Sidara’s vision.

“One example is that we made an independent data layer that collects information from all the separate systems. This allows new systems, digital services and applications to be added without affecting existing services or requiring complicated collaborations. We had never done that before. Now that’s best-practice.”

Creating a Living Lab

Lisa Kenny, Head of Client Experience at Dar UK, London, explains that the resulting building is what they call a ‘Living Lab’. “We now have a building that provides clear data. That enables us to learn as we go along and to make informed decisions at all times.”

Moto Shakoori shared a real example of how this Living Lab is already delivering: “Intelligent IP blinds were originally planned to automatically close on sunny days to keep the building cool; these were then value engineered out at the construction stage to save costs.

“Now we have 18 months of data, we can see that aircon on the south-facing side demands around 35% more energy than the rest of the building. Now we can make a decision about retrofitting the blinds based on commercial as well as ecological sense.”

Workshop identifies key issues

Lively workshops at 150 identified a range of issues that are front of mind in Smart Buildings today.

These roughly fell into 3 categories:

1. Why?

As with any new technological possibility it’s easy to get swept up with all the shiny new products and services on offer. One delegate described it as “like being a kiddy in a sweetshop.” But are you actually going to use this new functionality? Will your Facilities Management staff have the skills needed to run the systems? Will IT be able to interrogate the data? Will there be an appetite to drive change based on what the data tells us?

The group concluded that drilling into why you’re applying Smart technology and what you really want to achieve, like Sidara did so successfully, is a key to practical real-world success.

2. Scope and timescales

A typical building development could take many years. Obviously, over that time, technology can deliver things that were never even thought about at inception. But developers and contractors are reluctant to move away from the initial scope and the effort and cost involved in driving changes through the process can feel prohibitive.

There is often friction between construction firms focused on practical completion against tight timescales, and network and IP partners who might want to re-spec in order to deliver the best possible solution.

What Sidara’s journey to Smart shows us is how close collaboration and open, positive relationships between partners can be key to making a better outcome.

3. The user experience and business case

Attendees came from the private and public sector and found that user experience and expectations were vastly different.

One delegate from the Higher Education sector, described how he knew that Smart technology could inspire students across his campus. After all, who would appreciate Open Roaming Wi-Fi or app-enabled location data more than young people? But getting senior management to invest was the real challenge.

The private sector perspective was almost the opposite. There is huge appetite for Smart; but there’s a chicken and egg situation to create a business case or calculate the ROI. You need data to substantiate the commercial viability. But you haven’t got the data without the ‘smarts’.

What everyone agreed is that workshops like this, where experts and users get together, helps enormously. As a specifier, you realise that no-one has all the answers, which is comforting. As a user you get a better vison of what is possible. And as a technology company, you get to understand what customers priorities really are.

The rooftop plays a starring role

The day ended with the chance for everyone to get together on the beautiful rooftop Pavilion, surrounded by gorgeous plants and thriving nature, in the heart of London.

It was an appropriate place to end a fruitful day. Sidara deliberately sunk all of the building services out of sight, so that the rooftop could be used in this way. The vision for 150 was collaboration; the lively hubbub here certainly attested to the success in this space. And the indigenous flora and fauna is a testament to the sustainable credentials of the building.

Moto Shakoori, Founder and CEO at Ideal, summed up the event: “It was a fantastic day. The flurry of ideas in the workshop illustrated what a dynamic field we work in. The networking on the roof sparked so many diverse conversations my head is still buzzing. We’re at the very forefront of something exciting here and it’s great that so many people have given up their time to share their experiences.”

What role did Ideal play?

Ideal was appointed early on. That meant that we were able to work with Sidara’s own experts to influence the design on the Converged Network System (CNS), before implementing the Shell & Core implementation and the Fit-Out.

To ensure a Smart Building delivers to the maximum effect, it’s important to connect as many services as possible via the CNS. At 150 that included:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Audio visual and meeting room management
  • Mobile regeneration
  • BMS (building management systems)
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)
  • Access control
  • CCTV
  • Energy Management Systems

The CNS is predominantly based on Cisco technology, including Cyber Security, Switches, WLCs, WAPs, Servers, ISE and WAN aggregation.

  • Each Sidara company has their own network, their own Firewalls, that uses the CNS for internet The CNS’ Wi-Fi broadcasts for each
  • Sidara company, into their network, using their authentication
  • Each company accesses common printers

Ideal commissioned Schneider Electric (SE) onto the CNS, ensuring the secure inter-operability of their Smart EcoStruxure architecture.

We also integrated meeting room Audio Visual devices via Pro-AV and introduced Planon’s Integrated Workplace Management, which controls booking meeting rooms, climate, and FM ticketing.

Finally, we’re using the Smart Managed CNS Premium technology we installed to run collaborative Managed Services. That provides endpoint monitoring to proactively manage potential issues and intelligent service ticketing that routes to the most appropriate experts in Ideal and to other support partners.