Smart Building Technology: Regaining Trust in a Post COVID-19 World
The global pandemic has shaken up the entire world and fundamentally disrupted our daily work and life. Home offices have become the new normal as a radical measure to curb the spread of COVID 19. Yet, as office and retail buildings start to reopen following the lockdowns, property owners and corporate tenants are forced to rethink the way buildings are operated. Above all, delivering peace-of-mind and confidence to employees and visitors alike is a top priority. Thankfully, smart building technology is here to help.
The Changing Landscape of the Built Environment
Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, the focus on tenant comfort and wellbeing had taken the spotlight in the commercial real estate (CRE) sector in recent years. Realizing that people are the greatest asset in the built environment, companies and owners have turned to IoT and smart building technology to enable a healthy, comfortable and engaging environment. Now, the pandemic is rapidly expediting this trend on a global scale.
As firms increasingly embrace home office and other flexible work arrangements, many predict that the physical workplace will lose its relevance. This is hugely mistaken. The modern workplace will indeed need to be redesigned to keep pace with drastically changing tenant needs. Nevertheless, its presence and importance aren’t going to fizzle out any time soon. A recent survey by Gensler reveals that after a month of working from home, the majority of U.S. workers want to return to the office most days of the week. Collaboration and socialization top the reasons for this response, highlighting the irreplaceable role of physical connections and interaction.
Rebuilding Trust – A New Imperative for CRE
As much as people yearn to come back to their workplaces or start going shopping again, they are faced with the vast unknown of the current reality. Are building areas sanitized as frequently as needed? Is indoor air quality optimized? How can distancing be guaranteed? These are just a few out of numerous questions many are pondering. As companies begin to put in place reopening plans, they are tasked with a difficult mission – restoring trust and confidence in the built environment for every individual user.
Enter IoT and Smart Building Technology
A data-driven strategy for building operations is nothing unfamiliar to forward-thinking CRE companies who look to improve facility management and energy efficiency through digitalization. Today, it proves to be just as powerful in helping to navigate and tackle the unique challenges of a post-pandemic world. Smart building technology, especially IoT and wireless sensor solutions, are allowing owners and operators to effectively enforce new building guidelines and protocols, ensuring optimal ventilation, hygiene, distancing and tenants’ wellbeing.
To better illustrate, below are a few examples of how wireless IoT sensors can help answer the urgent need to augment safety and mitigate infection risks following reentry.
Anonymous presence detectors and people counting sensors can gauge occupancy density and dwell time in common areas, as well as foot traffic through each door. With this information, operators can detect existing hot spots or events like occupants tailgating at entrances/ exits and control access accordingly.
Applying space usage data, operators can execute on-demand janitorial services such as cleaning and consumables replenishment to maximize hygiene at high resource efficiency.
Coupling real-time data from indoor air quality sensors with traffic density information, ventilation requirements can be effectively determined to minimize airborne transmission risk.
Vital sign monitoring sensors help monitor employees’ physiological parameters, including respiration rate and resting heart rate to detect early signs of respiratory disorders.
Leveraging IoT Sensor Data to Enhance Transparency and Tenants’ Peace-of-Mind
IoT data empowers owners and operators with a holistic facility view to optimize workflows and standard operating procedures for a safe and anti-virus indoor environment. Nevertheless, its value doesn’t simply end there. Safeguarding health is fundamental, but making sure employees and visitors feel comfortable enough for reentry is just as important. By democratizing sensor data and making it accessible to individual building users in an anonymous and non-intrusive way, companies can make great strides in regaining tenants’ trust.
Experience/ workplace apps have been around for some time as a communications channel with building occupants to boost engagement and retention. Now, their role and functionality are elevated with real-time insights and enhanced visibility brought by wireless IoT sensors. Having up-to-date information about building-wide occupancy levels, air quality and other important parameters at their fingertips, tenants can rest assured that their presence in the indoor space is being well protected. Through push notifications, they can also be instantly informed when traffic thresholds at certain common areas are surpassed and easily navigate themselves to less crowded zones. What’s more, with reservation systems integrated into these apps, employees can quickly locate and reserve workstations or meeting rooms that have already been disinfected and are available for use. Ultimately, all of these services are poised to foster transparency and tenants’ confidence in the built environment while further facilitating physical distancing enforcement.
As the world cautiously restarts its business rhythm, it’s critical for CRE companies to not only ensure occupants’ health and wellbeing, but also make them feel safe when entering stores and offices again. Incorporating smart building technology into their reopening toolkits can help to do just that.
Having said that, the applicability of smart building solutions isn’t only limited to combatting the post-pandemic challenges. Beyond catering to today’s imminent needs, the same IoT sensor data can be used for other long-term business initiatives in improving space efficiency, risk management and employees’ productivity and satisfaction. In parallel, a future proof wireless IoT technology allows companies to ceaselessly expand the use case and value spectrum by adding new smart devices into the existing network infrastructure. After all, it boils down to a solid underlying strategy and selecting the right set of technologies.