A recent experience has got me thinking. A forward-looking client in India wants an infinitely flexible workplace because he operates in a very fast moving world and any configuration today will be redundant tomorrow. Many, if not most of the elements in a workspace can be portable, or at least easily moved, so the challenge is getting the wires to follow the kit as it migrates. At the moment this means we can reasonably go wireless for telephones and internet connections, but we get stuck on the power for laptops, screens, mobile phones and the other devices we all have.
The usual response is to use the 50-year-old solution of a raised floor with all the cabling emerging where it is needed, but this client is in India, where developers do not install raised floors. We could build a bespoke floor and muddle through the problems of ramps, lift thresholds, stair landings, window sills and door heights, and of course a reduced ceiling height, but the cost is painful and the quality in a region where it is not done is unlikely to be guaranteed.
This is where batteries come in. I thought about our New York office, where they have the same problem of distribution, but for a different reason. My colleagues there inhabit the iconic Woolworth building, which is great but has many design restrictions due to its conservation status – which means no raised floor. So they too want flexibility in an inflexible building.
A tentative suggestion to look at battery power was taken up wholesale 18 months ago and now the whole office of 60 people drive their laptops and screens from small portable battery packs, which they charge overnight. Meeting rooms are hard-wired as they are next to the core, but the entire open space is a cable-free zone, and they have not looked back.
True flexibility is theirs, and battery technology has already improved in this short time to make cordless power even more efficient.
We will now see how this can work in India, at scale.