By now, it’s clear that the buildings industry is permanently changed. As we all wait to see what returns to normal and what changes stick around, it’s worth remembering that certain things remain iron-clad, such as the human need for connection, belonging, and togetherness.
Buildings are where we come together to find that connection. Yes, some buildings may never see the same occupancy levels. Some former office workers will start working from home permanently. But our lives will continue to unfold in buildings; we spend about 90% of our time indoors, and that likely won’t change much.
As an industry, we thus face a formidable mission: To make the buildings where we live, work, and play safer and healthier — fast.
Four objectives for safer, healthier buildings
What gives me hope is that many of the specific operational challenges we’re facing — physical distancing, space management, air exchange — already have solutions. We’re not starting from scratch.
In this article, I’ll introduce proven solutions for building owners and operators to adapt to four key objectives of the new normal.
- Safer space management
- Enhanced occupant well-being
- Improved occupant engagement and trust
- Streamlined operational efficiency
Objective #1: Space management
You may be facing questions you’ve never asked before:
- Is your conference room exceeding the occupancy threshold?
- How many people are currently in your hotel lobby?
- Are the office desks spaced far enough apart?
All of a sudden, there’s much more monitoring to be done.
You don’t have to do this monitoring manually. Digital tools already exist for space management and workforce optimization — but that’s not all they can do. You can also repurpose these tools to keep tabs on proper social distancing, occupancy thresholds, and equipment requirements.
Objective #2: Occupant well-being
Now that you can keep occupants at a safe distance, it’s all about improving occupant well-being and air quality.
- Do you need to replace an air filter or a leaky valve?
- How close are you to your optimal humidity level?
- What’s causing the air handling system to malfunction?
Data-driven analytics and monitoring put real-time answers at your fingertips, infusing intelligence and resiliency into your HVAC system. That way, you can keep careful control of your building’s air quality.
Objective #3: Occupant engagement and trust
A key part of bringing occupants back to your building is to offer them insights into the building status.
- How many desks are available?
- When was the building last cleaned?
- Who used the elevator, and when, and can you reach them for contact tracing if need be?
These are important questions in the pandemic era.
With engagement apps that integrate with building system data, you can keep occupants aware of key updates, manage teams rotating between home and office, assist with contact tracing, and enable easier navigation through your building.
Objective #4: Operational efficiency
Of course, adapting successfully to the new normal isn’t only about your occupants; it’s also about making the most of your energy and resources.
- How can I save energy during low-occupancy operations?
- How can I limit access to the gym or café?
- Where do I need to deploy my janitorial staff for extra cleaning?
No surprise again, the way to answer these questions is through digital monitoring tools that make sense of all your building’s data.
Empowered by this actionable intelligence, you can optimize your HVAC system, maintain resilient power, and overall get the most out of your building.
Four objectives, one solution
Meeting these four objectives may seem overwhelming. You may be asking yourself: How many products and vendors will it take to screw in my light bulb and make it intelligent?
Fortunately, you don’t need to cobble together a piecemeal set of solutions. We at Schneider Electric offer EcoStruxure Building, a single, holistic digital architecture that delivers on all four objectives laid out in this blog. EcoStruxure unites your building management system, your power distribution, your IT, and other key infrastructure under a single “system of systems.” That way, you can pursue these four objectives using a single vendor with a single pane of glass.
To discover more about how EcoStruxure Building helps you tackle these four objectives, download our e-guide.
 “The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): A Resource for Assessing Exposure to Environmental Pollutants,” Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, 2001.