If we ask you if you’ve heard of The Edge, you might think we were talking about Microsoft Edge—the “enhanced Windows 10 search experience”. But The Edge we are talking about is far cooler.
The Edge is an office building in Amsterdam, but not just any office building. This one has a gym that allows its patrons to contribute to the energy supply of the office. It has toilets that flush with rainwater and a robot security guard that will challenge you if you wander around at night. It has been dubbed the world’s greenest office.
It has huge amounts of natural light, and desks are never too far from a window. The Dutch have a phrase for all of this: het nieuwe werken, or the new way of working. It is about using information technology to shape both the way we work and the spaces in which we do it.
The Edge boasts smart ceilings embedded with 28,000 sensors that measure temperature, light, motion and humidity. The lighting is also smart—each one of the LED panels is ultra-efficient and requires only a small amount of electricity.
Workers can control the temperature, lighting and blinds via apps on their smartphones. They simply select the temperature they want from a sliding gauge on their phone, and it adjusts the valves in the pipes above their head. There are also apps for booking meeting rooms, opening lockers and checking into desks.
But one of the things The Edge is most famous for, is its innovative approach to solar power. When it became clear to the developer that solar panels on the roof were not going to be enough to provide 100% of The Edge's electricity, they turned to the buildings’ neighbours—the VU University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences—to install a further 4,100 sq m of solar panels on their rooftops in return for the free use of any spare electricity.
The Edge is wired with a vast network of two different kinds of tubes: one that holds data (Ethernet cables) and another that holds water. Behind each ceiling tile is a massive coil of thin blue piping that delivers water to and from the building’s subterranean water storage for radiant heating and cooling.
It is no surprise that this building received the highest ever BREEAM score (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) at 98.36%, which has made it the posterchild for other new buildings, as architecture is pushed to be cleaner and greener each year.
But for all of its awe-inspiring designs and environmentally friendly features, this building has a problem: making sense of the mountains of data generated by the thousands of sensors. As such, maintaining the smartness of The Edge is challenging to say the least—with real-time data points tracking the number of workers in the building at any given time, to how many visitors, to energy consumption and temperature. It also gathers data on how much coffee (and what type) the workers are drinking!
So while this Edge may not be Microsoft Edge, it is a lesson in the latest technology nonetheless: new technology is only as good as our ability to use it, learn from it, and make things even better.
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