We have a vision for Buildings of the Future to be sustainable, hyper-efficient, resilient, and people-centric. This last point includes ensuring that buildings are safe and healthy for occupants. In support of this vision, we recently partnered with leading infrastructure consulting firm AECOM on a global study of 21 office buildings. In this post, I will provide a preview of key points from our recent white paper, including the business benefits of healthy buildings, study findings, and our proposed three steps to improve building health.
Why healthy buildings matter
Healthy buildings encompass all facets of human health including physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, environmental, and social well-being. Building owners or operators that embrace this holistic definition benefit not only their building occupants, but also their company’s profit and goodwill.
Over the past few decades, hundreds of studies have quantified the impact of certain factors on occupant health, mood, absenteeism, alertness, etc. There’s also competitive pressure from real estate companies vying for tenants who value healthy buildings and are willing to pay a premium for them. There is an opportunity for building owners to have their buildings certified for health and well-being.
Results of our global study
In order to improve human health and, in turn, performance, we need to define the six factors that affect it in the built environment: carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity, volatile organic compounds (VOCs, e.g. from cleaners), noise, and lighting.
Since December 2018, we implemented pilot studies across 21 different buildings throughout the globe, starting with an AECOM office building. The team outfitted the buildings with a family of sensors to measure these six factors, with each pilot running over a course of four weeks. At a high level, the study revealed these four findings:
- Everyone wants their buildings to be healthy, but most facility managers and occupants don’t know whether each space is contributing to well-being. Some building systems may be collecting some or all of the data required, but there may not be the right tools and insight in place that make actionable data accessible so that decisions can be made on improving conditions.
- Technology exists today to provide insight into temperature, CO2, VOC, humidity, sound, and light, and can be tightly correlated to a specific space.
- Building managers empowered with this data adjust air quality management and as a result, complaints decrease and employee satisfaction increases.
- It is possible to use the IoT sensor information on health to automatically control the building, helping the building manager even more.
3 steps to improve building health
With a better understanding of these factors, stakeholders are better prepared to uncover the health potential of their building. Here is a brief summary of the three steps they can take to improve occupant experience and performance:
- Assess. The key questions to ask during this step include: are the existing sensors accurate and calibrated, does the sensor density and distribution accurately measure the impact on building occupants, and is there a need for additional sensors to cover all relevant building zones? Determining these challenges early and addressing them provides a reliable baseline for the next steps.
- Analyze. Analyzing sensor and other connected device data provides insights into occupants’ environment. Managers can prioritize areas with the lowest health score or with the most out-of-range indicators, while tracking variability over time can indicate asset/equipment issues to support predictive maintenance. If an anomaly is detected the team can look for root causes (e.g. new furniture, construction, decreased airflow due to failed ventilation system, etc.). Analytics can model the performance of HVAC equipment, continuously checking if equipment is working as designed and helping facilities plan maintenance activities based on identified faults.
- By the time a building manager gets to this step, they should know the root cause of the issue, and have a plan to address it, either through tickets for the building management team, or automated building management system actions. These actions might include: increasing fresh air ventilation, upgrading air filters, limiting capacity in specific room, and creating quiet zones. It can also include empowering occupants with mobile applications, such as touchless controls, building entry pre-assessments, hot desking, room booking, wayfinding, and the ability to log maintenance tickets.
To learn more about this topic, download our white paper “Ensuring Occupant Health: Key Findings and Insights from Global Study of 21 Office Buildings.” Also, visit our Schneider Electric Buildings Of The Future page to learn about the suite of solutions that can support your healthy building initiatives.