The world is at an inflection point when it comes to the choices we make to live healthier, more sustainable lives. The construction and renovation of the buildings in which we work is one of these key choices. Technology is evolving quickly, and we have more choices for creating spaces that better serve the people who use them.

A little over a year ago, with the world still navigating the height of the pandemic, I wrote about hybrid work and the debate about what the future of work would hold. I talked about the need for smart spaces that could help people plan their day, whether they were working in the office or remotely. I said companies need to ensure they are properly set up to accommodate hybrid work.

Today, I’m still telling people to design and plan with flexibility in mind. As the future of work continues to evolve, the focus should be on smart spaces that can serve employees wherever this future takes us. Deliberate decisions to build and remodel for a sustainable future can support not only our own health and well-being, but that of generations to come.

Recent data reveals that the real estate sector contributes approximately 40% of global carbon dioxide emissions . Of that, approximately 70% comes from the operation of buildings; the other 30% from real estate construction.

If we address the air pollution created by how buildings are built and operated, we can make an impact on the global goal of net zero.

Approximately, two-thirds of the buildings that will exist in 2040 already exist today and won’t benefit from new, smart design and construction. However, that doesn’t mean those buildings can’t be improved.

Our very own New York offices have been redesigned and renovated to create a space that is smart from an environmental and human point of view.

PENN1 lessons

Cisco recently transformed PENN1, our offices in New York City. It took two years to retrofit the building, and we learned a lot of great lessons during the redesign and build of the space. The traditional office that existed before the pandemic had seen modest use.

Now, it’s vibrant and reenergized by smart building technology — and we want to share what we learned about creating this sustainable, hybrid workspace with others who want to create the same inviting environment for their teams.

The first and most important step is to determine what your objectives are. Shoot for the cloud, embrace sustainability, enable secure hybrid work, and focus on the well-being of employees. It’s better to start with a long list of goals you can whittle down than to later regret that something wasn’t considered.

The second step is to assemble the partners and technologies you’ll need to create your smart, people-first, hybrid-work-optimized design. We learned a lot from our employees at Cisco about what they truly needed from an office space, and traditional designs were not providing optimal spaces.

Beyond hot-desks, people need to be able to gather in small groups — often, just two people, who may need to also have a few people join remotely. We also created collaboration rooms that provide for the various ways people gather, not assuming they want a table to sit around. We invite you to take a virtual tour.

At the core of the design, of course, is Cisco technology. The Cisco Spaces Smart Workspace product is the control point of the office, and it is managed from large displays located throughout the office. Each display offers users information on available rooms, air quality, temperatures, and more. With a tap, a room can be reserved.

As our CEO has stated, “the office is a magnet, not a mandate.” We have this in mind as we continue to update our offices across the globe. We have also been lucky enough to learn from PENN1 as we developed our new Atlanta office, which opened its doors to the public in May.

We expanded upon our sustainability goals in the ATL Tech Square office and designed them with building certifications, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED (a certification that focuses on environmental impact and sustainability) and International WELL Building Institute’s (a certification that focuses on people’s health & wellness) at the forefront. Atlanta is LEED Platinum certified, which is a huge accomplishment and further developed from our basic certification in NY due to our learnings.

Building smart buildings

Approximately, one-third of the buildings that will exist in 2040 haven’t yet been built. They are an opportunity to be much smarter in how we build.

Impacted by the evolution of how people work, buildings that are being planned now must take into account the unknown. Designing these buildings requires planned flexibility and adaptability, along with rethinking how people truly need workspaces to function.

Designing and constructing smart buildings requires consideration for everything from the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting systems to security and how people attend meetings, both physically and remotely. The cloud plays a critical role in smart buildings, securely providing access to information and controls that allow for more efficient use and management of physical spaces.

Smart buildings can collect actionable data through sensors and from on-premise user devices. These buildings are not only programmable but through artificial intelligence (AI) technology, they can be responsive to create comfortable and secure environments for people to work at their best.

Building new smart buildings also allows us the ability to choose locations that are beneficial to the local community. Our Atlanta office location was strategically selected near Georgia Tech to attract and develop talent and create job opportunities amongst the community. This allows our office to support sustainability through an environmental lens, as well as growth within and for the community. As we develop new technologies, the possibilities for smart buildings are practically limitless. Most people don’t even realize how far we’ve come and what is already possible.


Book a free, zero-commitment consultation today

to learn more about smart buildings and how Cisco can help you reinvent your workspaces for the future of work.



Cliff Thomas

SVP and General Manager, Global Enterprise Segment, Americas