A good day is one where I set out to accomplish whatever I have on my plate. So when I am called on to participate at gatherings like the Smart Office Summit, I aim to do exactly what is expected of me – to share insights from my own experiences as a designer. But I often come away learning a lot more from these interactions, enriched with diverse perspectives. It consolidates my belief that the knowledge one puts out into the world gets multiplied by the unique experiences of different individuals, helping us put together a more informed view of our environment.

Here are my five key takeaways from the event:

The evolved role of the facility manager

The theme for the panel discussion this year was ‘The Lifecycle of a Project’, which ultimately boiled down to a discourse on ‘facility managers vs architects’. Expertly moderated by Capt. Rajesh Sharma, Managing Director – IFM & Asset Services at Cushman & Wakefield, the panel brought to light the evolving role of facility managers. In recent years, they’ve graduated from operating workspaces only when they are finished, to being involved in workspace design projects from day one. I believe that this development has helped architects like us to incorporate their unique insights into the design right from the conceptualisation phase. In fact, as project managers, they are tuned to setting the architect up for success, owing to their grasp on what works for specific teams across organisations. From elementary things like capex and opex to design aspects such as lighting and material palette – each input from their end is an invaluable addition.

A new model to watch out for

An eye-opening presentation this year was the one by Flipspaces, a new IT-based design & build startup with a very enthusiastic set of IITians at its helm. While they’re still new in our environment, their model made for a fit showcase at this platform. It corresponds to the stage between ‘Deceptive’ and ‘Disruptive’ (cited from Peter Diamandis’ 6Ds for exponential organisations). I will certainly be watching out for them, and expecting more such innovative start-ups to emerge in our industry.

The need to reduce digital dependency

Sometimes these summits can provide learnings from completely unrelated fields. Dr. Kanan Khatau Chikhal, President at LifeCures Wellness, spoke so convincingly of how digitally dependent we are, at the cost of our own mental and emotional stability. This talk was an impetus for me to start my journey towards further reducing the time I spend on my devices. The certified executive coach also highlighted that healthier workspaces are not just a sum of the ergonomics and green elements, but also a function of how emotionally secure their team members are.

The rise of team-centric offices

Saint-Gobain have established themselves as evangelists of best market practices. They always emphasise that they are in the business of “designing, manufacturing and distributing materials and solutions which are key ingredients in the wellbeing of each of us.” So it was only fitting that Tridiv Ojha, their National Head – Project Sales & Key Accounts, headlined the talk about the evolution of workspaces. He spoke eloquently  about how workspaces have clearly moved from being purely functional spaces aimed at maximising productivity, to more wholesome environments that are centered around the well-being of the team.

A lesson in successful collaborations, courtesy the Commercial Design team

Unlike many similar events, the Smart Office Summit is an intimate affair and its success can be attributed to the efforts of the Commercial Design Magazine editorial team – headed by Rashmi Naicker and Bibhor Srivastava. They brought together facility heads, facility managers, project managers and architects for an exchange that was brimming with optimism, reinforcing the belief that all endeavours run like clockwork when everyone brings their unique ability to the table – whether it’s a design & build project, or a panel discussion.

As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” By this parameter, the seeds of knowledge planted during the summit were enough to make it a good day. But it all came back to me ten times over, in terms of the insights that I imbibed through the session.