Pat Gaughan looks at three ‘superbuildings’ – California's Apple Park, Perth's Woodside HQ and Amsterdam's Edge – to examine how facilities management is changing the workplace and how it shapes people and organisations

Citrius, Fortius, Altius – Stronger, Braver, Higher.

The motto of the Olympics might very well be used to describe where facilities management (FM) in the workplace is heading. The world of facilities management is ever changing, as organisations constantly strive to become more creative. The aim is to develop the workplace as a place that enables teams to be productive in surroundings that get ideas flowing.

FM is making advances in the workplace and how it shapes the people and their organisations. As always, technology is at the centre of this change, with new ‘superbuildings’ such as Apple Park in Cupertino in California, the Edge in Amsterdam and the Woodside HQ in Perth, Australia are leading the way.

Edge Building, Amsterdam

Edge Building (image: Photographer: Ronald Tilleman)

Dubbed the smartest building in the world when it was built in 2014, Amsterdam’s Edge Building occupies 40,000sqm, has a BREEAM rating of 98.36% (the highest in the world), has 28,000 sensors – and claims to have great coffee. Deloitte, which is the main tenant of the building, has 2,500 employees for 1,000 desks. This type of desk to user ratio means that the data interface between user and technology is critical in ensuring the smooth running and operation of the building.

Dashboards track everything from energy use to when the coffee machines need to be refilled. When fewer employees are expected in the building, an entire section can be shut down, reducing the costs of heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning.

Central to all of this is the smartphone, which acts as the point of access for the building occupiers to the Edge. Everything from adjusting the air conditioning to ordering a meal or booking a meeting room can be done via your phone. As all the desks have wireless chargers, the phones can remain charged throughout the day.

The data collected through the sensors helps the facilities team to anticipate the needs of the users, such as which types of coffee need more frequent refilling and when towels need replacing. Based on this type of data feed, the FM team have even been able to reschedule the hours of the cleaners more effectively.

Apple Park Campus

Apple Park (image:

The Apple Park Campus, nicknamed the ‘Spaceship Campus’ because of its flying saucer-like design, is due to be completed by the end of 2017. The 175-acre campus is estimated to be costing in the region of €4.3 billion – something which has caused quite a stir with the shareholders.

In line with its sister super building in Amsterdam, the Apple campus already boasts strong green and sustainable features, with an on site, low-carbon central plant, the planting of 7,000 trees and recycled water systems. The campus will house 12,000 employees and it is estimated that it will take six months to relocate them.

When planning the layout of the building, the architects had to consider the different departments that would need to work together, and considered vertical proximities as well as horizontal ones. The concept of the building is inspired by Steve Jobs’ vision of creating landscapes from his youth such as the Stanford Campus. This has blended with the architects’ concept of a modern city square, surrounded by buildings.

Interestingly, Apple Park seems to be moving away from the current trend of tech companies to blur the lines between work and home, with the new Apple building making a strong and clear distinction between the two. Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times columnist, has even gone so far as to dub it as the “office space for grown-ups”.

The ‘spaceship’ ring shape is only four floors tall and offers a more egalitarian feel to how employees will interact with each other, removing the traditional approach of skyscrapers’ enforced autocracy, whereby the chief executive is always housed on the top floor.

Woodside HQ, Perth

Woodside HQ (image:

The third of our featured buildings is the Woodside HQ in Perth, Australia. Woodside is Australia’s largest oil and gas company and is looking to develop what it calls the ‘campus of the future’. The developers of Woodside are looking to learn from the past mistakes of ‘super buildings’ and have carried out extensive field trips prior to designing their piece de resistance.

The completed campus will consist of three buildings over 689,000 square feet, and housing up to 5,000 staff. The campus boasts of having 50 types of workspace to choose from in order to support agile and activity-based working, encouraging people to perform at their best.

Already, Woodside is incorporating robots into its day-to-day work experience, where they ‘sit in’ on a variety of meetings and interface with staff. The robots allow the company to analyse the data collated at a much quicker rate than previous and allow it to make changes that improve the performance of the organisation in real time.

While all this sounds positive, it does bring some challenges – in particular, the way people interact with technology and how they react to being directed by that technology. While in the main most people are comfortable with using technology, it does tend to take longer for people to get used to being guided by that technology.

At the Edge Building, for instance, some 20% of people checked themselves in via the app when it first opened. This has now dropped down to as low as 1%. The knock-on consequences have been the lack of ability to allocate hot-desk spaces and meeting rooms being double booked or unused. It seems people just want to sit in the same place every day with their colleagues.

The use of robots by Woodside brought about some interesting challenges, particularly with local Australian slang in some of the regions where they were located. This has now been overcome with newer prototypes having the local idioms built into their programs.

Promoting interaction and connection

All the top organisations recognise that it is not only technology that is moving FM forward, but also the people side of it still remains extremely important. Interaction and connection between people are key drivers to building a culture within an organisation that drives them together in a common purpose.

FM is very much part of this process and is an integral part of ensuring that this happens. Advanced Workplace Solutions recognised this in the training arena and set about developing a set of FM courses that put interaction and communication very much to the forefront. The skillsets that facilities managers require in a modern, fast-moving and agile environment are as much personal ones as technical expertise.

Advanced Workplace Solutions has five public courses available and also works with a number of large organisations to deliver tailor-made courses to suit specific needs.

As the pressure on the facilities manager to keep abreast of changes in the FM world is constant, networking is crucial. The FM community in Ireland is open and engaging. People are happy to share good ideas and best practice with like-minded people.


Pat Gaughan (Photo: Chris Bellew. Copyright: Fennell Photography 2013)

Pat Gaughan is managing director of independent training and consultancy company Advanced Workplace Solutions. He established the Ireland Region of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) in 2014 and is current chair of the organisation. Over the last two years, he has been involved in a new FM conference, the FM Summit, which focuses on bringing new and innovative ideas to an Irish audience. The FM Summit has played at both the Aviva Stadium and Croke Park in 2015 and 2016. It is now recognised as the largest one-day conference of its kind in Europe.

Pat Gaughan is set to host two upcoming courses for Engineers Ireland at 22 Clyde Road in September and October of this year.

  • For more details on the September course, An Introduction to Facilities Management’, please click here.
  • For more details on the October course, ‘Strategic Facilities Management’, please click here.

 Anyone wishing to get more details on the FM training courses run by Advanced Workplace Solutions can log on to O'RiordanMechfacilities management,technology
Citrius, Fortius, Altius – Stronger, Braver, Higher. The motto of the Olympics might very well be used to describe where facilities management (FM) in the workplace is heading. The world of facilities management is ever changing, as organisations constantly strive to become more creative. The aim is to develop the...