Smart Buildings: Adapting to the ‘New Normal’

"The push for Smart Buildings has traditionally been driven by the desire to promote the wellbeing."

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Sanjeevv Bhatia is the CEO of Netix Global BV

The push for Smart Buildings has traditionally been driven by the desire to promote the wellbeing and productivity of the occupants, as well as to help the commercial real estate sector achieve cost efficiencies in facility management.

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However, the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic has introduced an even more compelling set of reasons, for adopting the approach.

Most of the facility managers we’ve spoken to, in the last few months, tell us that their main focus right now is being able to ensure high quality outcomes for their clients, within the limitations that this global health crisis has imposed. The reasons for their concerns are obvious.

Till recently, the main areas of activity for facility managers were ensuring cleanliness and optimal indoor environments, as well as seamless operation of automation, lightning and security. In the new normal that the Coronavirus outbreak has led to, many of these functions have needed to be redefined.

So what are facility managers are most preoccupied with moving forward? No matter the specific challenges that each building or portfolio might throw up, the primary concern can be summed up in one sentence: “What we can do to ensure that the Coronavirus doesn’t spread in the building?”. The short answer to this query is: “by integrating intelligent technologies to create smart buildings”.

Smart Building Technologies: Enabling safe and healthy spaces
Facility managers were already working on making their buildings ‘smarter’, in the pre-pandemic world. The industry was in the process of adopting an IoT enabled approach, based on networks of sensors to capture and analyze data for optimizing asset and energy management.

Now, with the emergence of Coronavirus, IoT-driven remote monitoring will have an even greater role to play than ever. Data from multiple IoT sensors will be used in fault detection and analysis, to improve automation and control.

The insights derived from this data will aid in reducing the number of physical visits to the facility, ensuring that the smaller onsite teams dictated by social distancing do not lead to compromised occupant experiences.

Facility managers working remotely can also use cloud-hosted building management and operations capabilities, with real time analytics, to remotely monitor automation.

Since the early days of the crisis, when lockdowns became mandatory in several countries, Automatic Fault Detection and Diagnosis systems proved their worth in maintaining a semblance of normalcy.

These tech solutions were critical in ensuring that corrective and preventive maintenance of HVAC and other systemic needs - such as lighting, security and heightened sanitization – could be managed effectively.

With a reopening of the economy now underway, these technologies are emerging as crucial enablers yet again. Smart workplaces equate to healthier workplaces, in the new normal. Strategic re-designing of the workplace and use of occupancy analytics can ensure that pre-set density limits are maintained.

Facility managers can also utilize workplace apps with push notifications, to manage and track employee movement and provide real time updates to occupants regarding safe zones and routes.

These apps can also ensure that shared assets, such as meeting rooms are reserved with a limited audience, and access control systems maintain ideal numbers of individuals, at each given location.

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