smart buildings help promote the well-being and productivity of their occupants,
and help companies and building owners drive cost efficiencies in facility
management. In emergencies, these smart buildings can boost fire safety and
security. Today, in the era of COVID-19, their capabilities have a critical
role to play in the new world of social distancing and infection mitigation.
As we begin to imagine what the post-crisis world of work will look like, there are four ways that smart buildings can help.
Remote facility management and maintenance
employees across the globe obeying work-from-home rules, most office buildings
today are largely empty. But they still need to be serviced and maintained. Network
connectivity allows service providers to monitor, operate, and troubleshoot
office buildings from afar in real time. HVAC and lighting settings can be
adjusted remotely to conserve energy and bring down costs, as much as possible.
connectivity also reduces the need for physical visits, as corrective
maintenance decisions can be made without entering the building. With digital
security management measures, service providers can monitor buildings to ensure
that intruders or employees do not gain improper access.
Monitoring and maintaining social distancing
however, we will return to the office, albeit with numerous changes and
restrictions, at least in the near-term. Smart buildings can play a central
role in implementing social distancing requirements.
applications are a fluid way to inform employees about the new safety
procedures in each location, helping them to find safe workspaces or navigate
sensors and wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can be combined
with workplace analytics to monitor spaces in order to ensure that pre-set
density limits are maintained. Access control systems can regulate the number
of people entering and exiting spaces. They can control the volume of flow by
modifying access control timings in doors and turnstiles to ensure safe spacing
between people entering an area.
systems combined with analytics can be used to segment office spaces to ensure
employees are filling spaces evenly and within set density thresholds. Moreover,
these analytics can be used to deliver real-time push notifications to office
workers, informing them of the risk of exceeding set limits on the number of
people in a given space, and can help workers choose locations in less crowded
Analytics can also
inform the frequency of cleaning and sterilization of common areas, meeting
rooms, and workspaces and determine the number of targeted cleaning actions
required. Combined with advanced predictive maintenance analytics, entire
maintenance schedules can be transformed to meet on-demand requirements.
New office infrastructure
infrastructure and equipment can be integrated into smart buildings. Fever
detection cameras are already being used at airports and other facilities. They
can become part of default office infrastructure and help reinforce the awareness
that no one should come to work when sick.
also be mitigated through touch-free smart building features such as automatic
doors, mobile-phone access control, elevators that can be activated by mobile phone
or voice, and mobile-phone control of room environments. Also, air flow and humidity
levels can be set via HVAC systems to levels that support infection mitigation.
Changing the workspace
Even with all
these innovations, there can be little doubt that office space occupancy rates
will change, as will the way space is used in the post-crisis world. With
remote work likely to remain a major fixture of infection mitigation, companies
are certain to find they won’t need as much space as they once did. Smart
buildings can help organizations use data to reorganize and rationalize their
leased office space. Workplace analytics on space utilization can provide the
data needed for real-estate managers to determine what the new norm will be and
how much space can be reduced.
The ability of
smart buildings to help organizations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
exemplifies how digital infrastructure can help in all types of crises.
Crucially, this helps us all manage the inevitable unexpected twists and turns
we will encounter along our recovery from this pandemic.