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How smart technology can create healthy buildings

A new business landscape is emerging. One where the health and wellbeing of a building’s occupants is mirrored by the health of the building itself. But what does a healthy building look like? And how can smart technology help? 

The notion of a ‘healthy’ building has been around for a while now but has taken on new importance in the wake of the pandemic. Staff safety and healthy buildings are now at the top of the priority list for many organisations.

The demand for healthy buildings is set to rise and rise. According to a survey from the Center for Active Design, UNEP FI and BentallGreenOak, 87% of respondents said they’ve experienced increased demand for healthy buildings over the past 12-24 months, and 92% expect demand to grow over the next three years.

In a report from the Global Wellness Institute, they state that in a survey of 200 building owners, 46% said healthy buildings are easier to lease, and 28% said they can command premium rents — according to the World Green Building Council.

Smarter workplaces

There’s also a strong commercial case for creating a healthy building, with the return on investment quantifiable. A study showed 69% of building owners who had implemented healthy building features saw improvements in employee satisfaction and engagement, with 29% reporting a high level of improvement.

The lure of the healthy building is also a strong way for organisations to attract and retain top talent. For many employers, healthy work environments are proving to be a recruitment and retention tool, making them a highly desirable place to work. Health and wellness-focused office environments also communicate and emphasise culture, brand, and corporate responsibility.

Healthy buildings are good for people and good for business. Which explains why 89.5% plan to enhance their company’s health and wellness strategy in the coming year. 61% report using healthy building certification systems and 74% agree tracking data is a key priority for integrating healthy buildings.

There is a huge potential for buildings that are designed to make their occupants healthier, happier and more productive. And fortunately, the smart building industry is well-positioned to respond. Smart technology is poised to redefine our workspaces, transforming them into living, breathing, healthy buildings which support the wellbeing of those working within.

 

Healthy buildings, powered by data

Now more than ever, data is essential for creating and cultivating healthy smart buildings.

Smart sensor technology combined with smart building software solutions can create a powerful smart system, automating many of the variables that affect building health.

This data-driven approach also enables building owners and managers to measure, demonstrate and communicate the health of their buildings to tenants, and make informed decisions.

Here we explore seven ways smart technology can create healthy buildings.

 

1. Air quality

People work more efficiently in environments with good air quality. Common pollutants that pose risks to human health include nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

High levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have also been shown to have a negative impact on brain functions, causing headaches and reducing the ability to process information and make decisions. Improving air quality can significantly improve cognitive function, raising productivity levels and reducing health risks.

How smart sensors help
Air quality sensors, such as CO2 sensors, can monitor for optimal levels and allow building management systems to automate control. Using sensors to monitor CO2 levels can alert you to any increase, and ensure you’re providing just the right amount of ventilation. For example, if CO2 levels are found to be rising, the sensors could trigger a room ventilation system.

 

2. Temperature

Healthy offices have a temperature range that can be easily and automatically controlled to keep workers comfortable. But it’s not just about people. Machinery temperature also needs to be monitored and controlled to offer optimum outputs.

How smart sensors help
Temperature sensors measure heat to detect changes in temperature, adjusting HVAC systems accordingly. Smart sensors can automate precision climate controls, maintaining ideal conditions to achieve the most efficient environments. They can also be used to measure ambient, surface, or liquid temperatures of industrial equipment in real time.

 

3. Humidity

When indoor environments are too warm and humid, occupants can experience symptoms of ‘sick building syndrome’, such as headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Comfortable humidity levels are less likely to make workers feel sick or become ill.

How smart sensors help
Humidity sensors measure the relative humidity in a room or zone to provide live updates on the conditions and support demand-driven HVAC control. Using sensors to detect relative humidity levels also means humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be automated to ensure levels across the building stay constant.

 

4. Ventilation

Making sure buildings are well ventilated is important to limit the spread of germs. Maximising the amount of natural air flow by, for example, opening windows, can help dilute the concentration effect by constantly exchanging air.

How smart sensors help
Monitoring doors and windows using contact sensors lets you automatically detect when a door or window has been closed or opened, allowing you to monitor and manage ventilation in real time.

 

5. Occupancy

For offices to operate safely, businesses need more space per person and increased cleaning. This means organisations getting creative with their space management.

How smart sensors help
Occupancy sensors work by detecting and monitoring people within a space – either using passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors to detect presence or people movement sensors to count people going in or out of a doorway. They can monitor occupancy of desks, offices, meeting rooms, break-out areas, canteen tables, meeting booths, corridors… along with other areas such as lobbies, lifts and bathrooms. Pretty much any space within a building.

Today’s smart building management systems let you automate building controls such as lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning based on real-time occupation. Not only does this reduce energy consumption – reducing expenditure and carbon emissions – it also allows you to provide a more comfortable working environment.

More crucially than ever in post-pandemic days, tracking occupancy also allows for proactive demand-driven services, such as reactive cleaning schedules and optimising service provision.

6. Space utilisation

Looking slightly longer term, by monitoring space occupancy over a fixed period, you can identify which spaces are underused and which are in high demand, then plan your use of space accordingly. Effective monitoring of space utilisation can lead to cost savings, as well as boosting a building’s ‘healthy’ credentials.

How smart sensors help
Occupancy sensors gather continual data about how a space is being used. And over time, identifying patterns in usage can help companies establish how much space they need or how they could be better using their premises. You can track how occupancy changes over time – through a day, week, month or year – to make informed decisions about how you design your workspace.

Coupled with workspace management software, they can support smart room booking, helping you to effectively manage desk and room bookings and reduce ‘no-shows’ by automatically cancelling bookings if no one turns up.

 

7. Lighting

The right lighting creates a pleasant ambience, boosting productivity. Too harsh and occupants could notice headaches, too low and they’ll be straining their eyes. Lighting can also be important for safety, illuminating isolated spaces and offering well-lit routes and exits for lone workers.

How smart sensors help
Lux sensors, combined with room occupancy sensors, can help to guide lighting controls, improving efficiency and ensuring energy is only used when it’s really needed.

 

The case for the healthy building

We’ve seen in this guide that there’s a clear and compelling case for property owners and facilities managers to adopt a ‘healthy buildings’ ethos. By investing in smart systems for healthy buildings, businesses can have a positive impact on people and the work done in their workspaces. And the steps taken now will have clear implications for the safety and wellbeing of occupants for years to come.

There’s no doubt our future will include data-driven decision making and a renewed focus on individual as well as societal health. Forward-thinking companies are wise to this.

 

Ready to get started?

Contact our IoT business development team to see how we can support your workplace management solution by integrating smart sensors.

 

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