Disruptive Technologies “Smooth” Facility Management for PTC’s New Global Headquarters
By Marc Margulies and John Civello
New technologies are disrupting traditional ways of working and standard concepts of workplace design and facility management. These so-called “disruptive technologies” for real estate and facility management functions offer opportunities to fundamentally change the workplace paradigm in three primary categories: real estate transactions, property ownership, and tenant/workplace occupancy.
While each category provides distinct benefits that facilitate better interaction and more efficient management, tenant/workplace occupancy is the ultimate market driver because it is tenant users that create demand for real estate product in the marketplace. A better understanding for the implications of these disruptive technologies can help building owners construct more cost-effective buildings and help facility managers improve efficiency and service levels for a wide range of facility management functions.
The shifting workplace – and workstyle
According to a survey by Herman Miller, 40 percent of workstations are occupied less than half the time, and private offices are on average occupied only 25 percent of the time. Corporate real estate executives and facility managers are coming to realize what an enormous waste of resources this represents – one that feels increasingly jarring as we move toward a more shared economy. Many companies are shifting their workplace from fully assigned seating to “free address” space allocation for “activity-based work.” For workers who are not devoted to one focused task all day long, the free address concept allows them to choose where they want to sit based upon their daily or hourly task, who they need to collaborate with, or what other adjacencies are important to their productivity. Remote working has also become ubiquitous as many companies develop remote working policies to help attract and retain talent. The trend toward open plan offices, collaborative work, and remote work is thus driving the use of disruptive technologies to maximize workplace utilization, increase productivity, and communicate with staff to improve employee satisfaction.
Managing such a dynamic office environment – one that must be highly flexible and responsive – is only possible via a software support platform that is both simple to use and portable, and those technology systems now exist. The world of IoT (Internet of Things) has enabled an increasingly robust interaction between the interior environment and its occupants. Sensors installed in office spaces, light fixtures, workstations, HVAC equipment, hardware, and audiovisual (AV) equipment facilitate the ability to gather data on activity, light levels, vacancy, temperature, security, and media interface. With the data, comes the ability to understand patterns and using that data to improve facility and productivity outcomes.
Disruptive technologies do it all…except the work
A myriad of disruptive technologies can provide facility managers with aggregated data across the office to analyze trends, optimize building performance, and reduce operational costs. Some systems known as “people analytics programs” gather data by tracking how and where workers engage each other, highlighting patterns of interaction and providing information to plan for the most effective strategic adjacencies. Some options include:
- According to National Grid, 35 to 45 percent of an office building’s energy cost is due to lighting; the potential to save energy and money by turning off unnecessary lights is enormous. New lighting control technology is moving beyond just code-mandated occupancy sensors in offices in favor of control systems that dynamically modify the light fixtures in open office areas too. These more refined applications allow users to adjust LED light levels in their work area to their individual preference.
- User comfort is always a priority for building managers. One person’s hot is another person’s cold. New energy management technologies now allow for more efficient heating and cooling, and customized area controls are becoming more common. CrowdComfort, for example, addresses user comfort and organizational communication by allowing individuals to use their smartphones to communicate with building management directly, facilitating micro-adjustment of systems to user preference, as well as smooth dialogue with building engineers.
- Security is of global concern, for reasons related to life and physical property and safety as well as protection of intellectual property. Building reception desk greeters have become security guards, and front doors have become entry gates. At the tenant level, smartphones can now be readily programmed with owner identification. Mobile access control has the advantage of simplified and centralized credential management, and offers the benefit of full data gathering and analysis. Knowing who and when users enter and leave a building facilitate a better understanding of how much space is really needed. An increasingly mobile workforce does not operate according to a traditional 9-5 schedule; thus, the amount and location of required space must be more deeply scrutinized.
- Audiovisual systems have become the mainstay of collaboration. Few meetings in the knowledge economy are conducted without technology support, and screen sharing has become universal. Confirmation that the right AV is available for the meeting size and purpose is one of the functions of companies like TEEM (recently purchased by WeWork), a software that not only schedules rooms and equipment, but simplifies the sharing and display of information.
- Finally, there are applications that interface with services and vendors inside and outside the office building itself. Corporate cafeterias often now support the ability to order food via an app, either for individuals or catered groups, in advance of the rush hour pickup. Many new dining facilities offer state-of-the-art software capabilities for viewing and ordering customized selections from any of the variety of their culinary options. Other services ready to ride this technology wave may include dry cleaning, health and wellness services, day care scheduling, and access to other amenities.
Case study: PTC’s new global headquarters
PTC, a global provider of technology that transforms how companies design, manufacture, operate, and service things in a smart connected world, recently relocated its global headquarters from suburban Needham, Mass. to 121 Seaport Boulevard, a new 17-story, 400,000 SF office tower in Boston’s Seaport District. PTC’s vision for future growth drove a business transformation for its new 250,000 SF, technology-rich headquarters and a dramatic shift to a new way of working with an activity-based, open office and free address concept for the workspace. PTC’s three project goals for its new headquarters were to: 1) elevate the PTC brand and profile of the company; 2) deliver space that attracts and inspires talent and taps the potential of its urban setting; and 3) create a world-class technology experience for customers.
While PTC management was embracing the new changes to come, it recognized that moving to 121 Seaport represented a major shift for the company’s workplace and workstyle, most notably:
- Suburban location to urban hub
- Three-story horizontal campus to nine-story vertical workplace
- Private offices and workstations to an open office plan
- Assigned seating to 100 percent free address.
PTC’s previous office planning model was dated, cramped, and didn’t allow for cross-pollination of departments. Of the 1,000 employees in headquarters, 40 percent worked in private offices and 60 percent in workstations that limited interaction. Conference rooms were mismatched to size and function. Based on facility data, the office had just 65 percent utilization on any given day and 40 percent attendance ratio on average, necessitating the rollout of a remote work policy. In sum, PTC’s former space was sub-optimal for how it needed to work.
To address these challenges and improve work flow, PTC collaborated with architecture firm Margulies Perruzzi (MP) and the Boston office of project management firm Cresa to devise a workplace strategy that embraced an open, activity-based workplace design with an abundance of technology. The free address model facilitates “accidental collisions” among employees and creates opportunities for interaction across departments. PTC’s transformational new headquarters reduced from 321,000 SF to 200,000 SF overall and 321 SF to 196 SF per person.
Evaluating disruptive technologies with MIT Center for Real Estate
As with any new facility where a new workplace paradigm presents a major shift for its occupants, PTC’s goal was to implement facility management and employee productivity technologies that would facilitate input from their 1,000 employees in the 250,000 SF workspace, ensuring that the new facility works properly as designed, gathering facility data in order to maximize space utilization, and identifying employee concerns to respond in a timely fashion.
As part of the design of a new physical work environment, PTC recognized the opportunity to meld its role as an innovator in software for product design, IoT, and Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) to make its headquarters a global model for excellence in the use of disruptive workplace technology. The task? Evaluating the most appropriate workplace and facility/real estate management technology in an industry known for lightning-speed evolution.
To assist PTC and MP with evaluating the most appropriate technology options, the MIT Center for Real Estate (MIT/CRE) was engaged as a research collaborator in the use of disruptive technologies. With a strong background in understanding disruptive technologies, MIT/CRE was well-positioned to help facilitate a conversation about the goals, opportunities, challenges, and processes for a variety of potential technological directions.
The day-long workshop led by MIT/CRE’s Innovation Lab helped the team to: 1) define the technology landscape, and 2) curate the building technology stack. Discussions included how to work differently, engage the community, provide smart green spaces, use technology to improve commuter and visitor experiences, and integrate technology solutions into PTC’s platforms. After a collaborative team process, MIT/CRE provided recommendations and a roadmap for researching and evaluating disruptive technologies to incorporate into PTC’s state-of-the-art headquarters.
The selected technologies measure space utilization and heavy-use patterns in real-time, and provide PTC’s facility managers with aggregated data across the office to analyze trends and adjust space allocations, optimize building performance, and reduce operational costs. These technologies included:
- CrowdComfort crowdsources occupant and building information to improve efficiency and service levels for a variety of functions, from climate control, lighting and acoustics issues to maintenance, audiovisual needs, and space utilization. The CrowdComfort mobile application delivers an employee-driven data set, including geo-location and photo evidence, that facility managers can analyze to make informed maintenance decisions, saving time and money.
- Steelcase’s Room Wizard and Workplace Advisor help to maximize productivity, collaboration, and space utilization. With sensors installed in all workstations and conference rooms, facility managers will be able to identify areas of heavy utilization, and communicate with users how to change meeting schedules to avoid congestion or modify facilities to meet the need. The software can be accessed by users remotely via their mobile devices to book collaboration space, and facility managers can measure heavy-use patterns in real-time, anticipating pressure on the space before it becomes critical.
Perhaps the most interesting lesson from the adoption of these dramatically impactful technologies is that new management practices and skills are necessary to interpret and respond to the plethora of data. For example, anecdotal reaction soon after move-in was that there were not enough desks available to meet demand. Sensor data, however, showed only 65 percent occupancy. Upon visual inspection, it became clear that users were leaving their personal possessions (laptops, coats, shoes, etc.) at workstations even if they were in meetings elsewhere. When the policy on using and vacating workstations was clarified, the problem went away.
The feedback through CrowdComfort has been voluminous. Just the newfound ability to easily comment has encouraged thousands of comments about the interior environment. This has allowed PTC to categorize issues and bundle them for efficient response, and brought to their attention seemingly small issues that can be easily addressed to increase staff satisfaction. It is clear that these new tools have radically changed how PTC operates its workplace. PTC’s facility management team itself has noted that it can’t imagine trying to manage a workplace this dynamic without these tools.
As companies seek to offer highly personalized employee interactivity within the work environment, it’s essential that facility managers research and evaluate the most appropriate workplace management technologies for their facilities.
About the authors
Marc Margulies, FAIA, LEED AP, is a principal and senior partner at Margulies Perruzzi, one of New England’s top architectural and interior design firms. Margulies Perruzzi designs workplace, health+science and real estate projects that inspire and nurture human endeavor. Marc may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Civello is vice president of corporate real estate and workplace for PTC, a global software provider with 6,000 employees in 30 countries and FY18 revenue of $1.2 billion. John has more than 25 years of experience leading facilities, real estate, strategy, M&A, and design and construction. John may be reached at email@example.com.