At Caisse des Dépôts, smart buildings are at one with the smart city

Article published on 23 May 2023 on Journal du Net.


The French public financial institution has called on ESN Kardham Digital to link the information systems in its buildings with those of public infrastructures in order to improve the quality of life in the workplace.

Smart buildings must eventually open up to their neighbourhoods, and then to the city as a whole. This wish of the Smart Buildings Alliance, which it intends to put into practice by creating benchmarks, has become a reality at Caisse des Dépôts. Thanks to Kardham Digital’s solution, the buildings of this French public financial institution now communicate with the surrounding public infrastructure to extend the quality of services offered to employees.


The project began in response to the health crisis. Caisse des Dépôts wanted to put in place shared workstations in 2021, when the confinements came to an end. With the help of ESN Kardham Digital, it took the opportunity to optimise space management using digital workplace solutions to improve quality of life at work. Having taken this first step towards smart buildings, Caisse des Dépôts had to go further because of the energy crisis that followed in 2022. A dedicated team was set up with the aim of improving the building’s energy management to avoid, for example, heating empty rooms. A BOS was set up to control these two major uses. “We wanted to achieve comfortable, efficient, economical and low-emission premises,” explains Pascal Jahan, Director of Property and the Work Environment at Caisse des Dépôts. While this desire is similar to that of many other smart building projects in France, Caisse des Dépôts has set itself apart by opening up its information systems to the smart city.

The first application already in use concerns car park management. Employees can use an application to reserve their parking space at the times they are present. When the company car park is full, they are redirected to a nearby public car park. In practical terms, Kardham Digital has interfaced the Metpark public car park information system with its building management system to share information. Caisse des Dépôts rents parking spaces à la carte from Metpark, and when its company car park is full, employees are directed to this public car park. “We used to have a car park with a thousand spaces. Since installing the solution in our new premises in the city centre, near the station, we have reduced the use of a private car from 90% to less than 10%. For the remaining 10% of vehicles, we have a car park with two hundred spaces, and thanks to the smart building, occupancy is optimised according to when employees come to work. We are also in the process of converting our fleet to electric vehicles”, says Pascal Jahan. The next step will be to pool charging points for electric vehicles.

The second use concerns the company restaurant. In the same way as for vehicles, employees are alerted via their app when there are too many people in their cafeteria. Counting sensors connected via LoRaWAN, Sigfox or EnOcean networks send the information back to the Kardham Digital platform.

After a POC at the Angers site of Caisse des Dépôts, the solution was installed at the Bordeaux site at the end of 2022 and is used by the 1,400 employees. “Initially, employees were sceptical, but they quickly understood the approach. The benefit is that it simplifies their day-to-day processes,” explains Pascal Jahan. “Pascal Zératès, CEO of Kardham Digital, which operates the solution on behalf of Caisse des Dépôts, adds: “Employee support is essential in a project like this.

The connection between the public and private infrastructures took three weeks. “There’s no secret to successfully linking smart buildings and smart cities: you need open solutions and a platform that centralises data for both operators and occupants,” says Pascal Zératès. Kardham Digital also emphasises its ESN status, enabling it to control the entire value chain in such projects. For his part, Pascal Jahan recommends taking things one step at a time. “We need to end up with a series of small projects that will ultimately converge, rather than trying to open up the whole building to the city, the scale of which will cause the project to fail.

The new Angers site, still under construction, will be the next building to be equipped, followed by the Paris premises. With these extension projects, the smart building will continue to open up to the smart city. “Future services will depend on the needs of our employees. There are no technological constraints, it’s the users who create obstacles for themselves by focusing on different technologies”, assures Pascal Zératès, hoping that the development of soft mobility and positive energy buildings will democratise this link between the smart building and the smart city. Together with Caisse des Dépôts, Kardham Digital is proving that the concept really does work, from paper to reality.


Célia Garcia-Montero


© Sebastien Ortola – Caisse des Dépôts / REA – 2023