How IoT Reinvents Space Management in Smart Buildings

Today, the corporate world is witnessing a major shift towards the mobile or distributed workforce. With trends like flex office, freelancing, telework and co-working taking off, gone are the days when employees sat at their desks all day long. Agile work settings and enhanced collaboration are becoming the new definition of a happy and productive workforce. At the same time, the evolving workforce reflects a drastic change in the way our office space is being used.

According to a recent report by JLL, the average worker spends only 40% of the ordinary workday at their desk. Another study by AECOM showed that 40% of the office space organisations pay for is left empty. With real estate being among the top two or three operational costs, you simply can’t afford to ignore these numbers. In parallel with more efficient usage, you need to ensure changes in office plans go hand in hand with employee requirements and satisfaction. In a quest for a dynamic approach towards workspace management, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart building technologies are answering the call.

What IoT delivers is an unprecedented level of visibility into space utilization – one of the core pillars in Smart Building concepts. Imagine how costly and inefficient, if not impossible altogether, to have staff manually record office occupancy data throughout the day. Given this challenge, you probably find yourself missing the big picture of how your offices are actually being used. Now, smart occupancy sensors enabled with next-gen wireless technologies can automatically capture and communicate utilization rates of every single room or even desk. Marrying IoT sensor data with an advanced analytics solution, companies can derive actionable insights to save costs and enhance daily operations.

Space Management in Smart Buildings
Business Cases for Space Management in Smart Buildings

1. Optimize Space Planning and Utilization

By creating and analyzing real-time heat maps of different office rooms and areas, businesses can crystalize employees’ work patterns to make strategic decisions on office layouts and amenities. High-traffic space can be expanded and better equipped, while underutilized space can be trimmed down or repurposed accordingly. As such, managers could configure the optimal mix between open, co-working areas and individual zones to foster collaboration, innovation and productivity. At the same time, they can track whether the capacity of each room aligns with current usage. For example, if existing conference rooms are meant for more than 5 participants but most meetings comprise of less than 5 participants, you may want to subdivide these conference rooms to better serve growing requests.

Detailed insights into space utilization additionally allow for effective allocation of office resources to different teams and departments – based on actual demand. Likewise, this data helps rationalize important amendments in the next leasing contract, while enabling implementation of new policies like flexible seating, to reduce unnecessary office footprint.

2. Enhance Energy Efficiency

Energy conservation is another significant benefit when it comes to tracking workspace utilization. New statistics have revealed that approximately 30% of energy in commercial buildings goes to waste every year. As reducing carbon footprint increasingly becomes a business priority, energy efficiency will be a key focus if companies are to achieve sustainability targets.

By monitoring occupancy and corresponding energy usage, you can effectively detect waste sources throughout your facilities to streamline consumption and maximize efficiency. For example, you may recognize that your HVAC system is set to operate until 7 pm, but most employees only stay until 6 pm. Adjusting the HVAC accordingly will help you save one hour of energy usage every day.

3. Improve Employee Experience

From an employees’ perspective, occupancy sensing can assist them in their day-to-day work to augment productivity and satisfaction. Tied to room reservation systems, sensor data can help notify when a meeting room is booked and left empty. Similarly, employees can easily find out whether there are available spaces in common work areas or whether the cafeteria is currently overcrowded.

4. Streamline Maintenance Effort

Knowing the utilization patterns of different office zones additionally allow facility managers to schedule demand-based cleaning activities. By aligning priority and cleaning frequency with the traffic of each space, managers can ensure proper sanitation is maintained across the building. This, in turn, will have a direct impact on improving employees’ wellbeing and satisfaction.

Final Notes

Driven by new trends in the modern workforce, IoT is poised to revolutionize space management in smart buildings. IoT data renders unprecedented visibility and control over your office facilities to identify bottlenecks, save costs and improve operations. At the same time, it facilitates the transition towards an agile, human-centric workplace that promotes flexibility while boosting collaboration and creativity.

Fully harnessing such potential requires a robust IoT architecture that starts with versatile edge connectivity. Compared to wired solutions, wireless IoT is much more cost-effective and easier to implement. When navigating different technologies, power-efficiency, scalability and excellent building penetration are key requirements to keep in mind. On top of that, you would want to ensure data ownership and simple integration of the wireless infrastructure in your existing business systems.

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