As Office Tenants Expect More Tech, Even the Windows Get Smart

The windows were supplied by View, a company in Milpitas, Calif., that makes “dynamic glass.” When the sun shines, a coating between the double panes of glass will darken, like self-tinting glasses. This reduces glare (which can cause eye strain, headaches and drowsiness) and heat gain (which may require turning up the air-conditioning, thus increasing energy use), while maintaining natural light.

As smart as the windows are, they will eventually become even more functional, said Rao Mulpuri, the chief executive of View, which in November announced a $1.1 billion investment from the SoftBank Vision Fund. He said windows would eventually be used like computer screens, displaying content and used for videoconferencing.

Some expect smart technology to expand beyond windows. Andrea Chegut, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Real Estate Innovation Lab, predicts that interior office walls will one day be “turned into data centers, capitalizing on fiber-optic connectivity.”

Already, wall-hung video screens for sharing content, once seen only in boardrooms, have been proliferating. These types of audiovisual systems account for the largest cost increase in office design in recent years, according to the real estate services company CBRE. Five years ago, audiovisual costs averaged $5 per square foot; now, it’s common for developers to spend $10 to $20 per square foot on the systems.

At the gleaming new headquarters of the electronic trading platform MarketAxess, in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards and designed by the architecture firm Spacesmith, screens glow in practically every meeting space on the firm’s three floors, including the small “huddle” rooms where employees can duck in for quick one-on-one meetings.

In other ways, however, technology is intentionally concealed at MarketAxess — or it is moved off site. In the boardroom, there is no messy tangle of wires erupting from the table’s smooth marble surface; drawers under the tabletop provide electrical outlets and data ports. The room has two jumbo wall screens, but all the equipment powering them is tucked away in a walk-in closet down the hall. The office’s main data center is in New Jersey.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/business/office-technology-smart-windows.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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