Amsterdam smart building shows off its 'Edge'

April 6, 2016

The Edge office building in Amsterdam prides itself on good coffee, lots of natural light - no desk is far from a window - and a gym that allows users not just to get fit but also to contribute to the energy supply of the office.

It also flushes its toilets with rainwater, has a robot security guard that will challenge you if you wander around at night and a whole range of clever technology to make the building sustainable.

The developers behind it, Dutch firm OVG, liked it so much that they moved in when it was finished, reports the BBC.

So is the office that has already been dubbed the world's greenest, really as smart as it seems?

The building, whose main tenant is consultancy firm Deloitte and was designed by London-based architects PLP Architecture, boasts "smart" ceilings embedded with 28,000 sensors, which measure temperature, light, motion and humidity. The lighting, designed by Phillips, is also smart – each one of the LED panels is ultra-efficient and requires only a tiny amount of electricity.

Workers can control the temperature, lighting and blinds via a series of apps on their smartphones and work is ongoing to unify them.

Users select the temperature they want from a sliding gauge on their phone and it will in turn adjust the valves in the pipes above their head. Each valve controls the temperature of around four desks so they do have to hope that the colleague sitting next to them is also happy with the change.

Workers can also use apps to book meeting rooms, open lockers and check in to their desks.

When The Edge opened in September 2014, around 20 percent of the workers checked themselves in via the app. That quickly fell to 10 percent and is now at around 1 percent, facility officials said.

When it became clear to developer OVG that covering the roof with solar panels was not going to be enough to provide 100% of The Edge's electricity it turned to its neighbors – the VU University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences – to install a further 44,100 square feet of solar panels on their rooftops in return for the free use of any spare electricity.

The slanted atrium also has a job to do, draining rainwater to be collected in troughs and reused for cleaning and flushing the toilets.

The building is heated and cooled via an aquifer thermal energy storage system. Hot water is stored in wells in the ground during summer to help heat the building in winter and cold water in the same way in the winter to cool the building in the warmer months.

There are no radiators in the building. All the heating is provided by cables that run through the ceilings. One carries data and the other water to provide an ambient temperature across the whole structure.

Both Deloitte, the building's main tenant, and OVG, the developer, are open about the fact that The Edge is an experimental project and that not everything has worked.

One of its biggest challenges is making sense of the mountains of data generated by the sensors, the BBC reports.

For the moment the answer lies in data dashboards, which both the facilities teams and workers can access. It displays a variety of real-time data points, including the number of workers in the building at any given time, how many visitors, energy consumption and temperature.

It also has some more fun data sets, such as a pie-chart showing how much coffee, and what type, is being consumed in the building at any given time.

It became apparent from the data that lattes and cappuccinos were by far the most popular choice, meaning milk was frequently running out so Deloitte asked the manufacturer to make a new bespoke model with a larger compartment for milk, a real world example of how access to data can improve working lives.

Every coffee machine is also connected to the Internet, meaning facilities staff can see which ones are getting low and refill them before someone finds it empty. The towel rails in the bathrooms are similarly connected.

The hours that cleaners work have also been changed as a result of the data.


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