Smart Buildings After Lockdown

As Covid-19 vaccinations continue apace and the UK government has published plans to ease the country out of lockdown into a post-pandemic world, organisations and property developers are actively looking at ways to increase the use of smart building technology.

Additionally, the desire to reduce energy consumption, work towards net zero targets and keep their staff healthy by improving air quality in their offices have become essential as businesses plan to bring their employees back into the workplace.

With the emergence of modern building standards like Well from the International Well Building Institute, the focus of building management has shifted from purely energy efficiency to encompass employee health and wellness. Reassuring employees that their work environment is safe to return to is particularly important in the wake of the multiple lockdowns.

Buildings with the technology to monitor indoor climate conditions and track environmental variables from temperature to humidity and lighting levels to sound quality, whether retro-fitted or as part of the standard for new developments, are becoming more commonplace.

According to Johnson Controls’ Annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, given that Covid-19 spreads through aerosol transmission, air quality is set to be extremely important for building and employee safety. According to the survey of organisations globally:

  • 79% are planning to increase, or have already increased, air filtration.
  • 75% are planning to install, or have already installed, an air treatment system.
  • 72% are planning to increase, or have already increased, outdoor air ventilation rates.

Additionally, with more companies adopting hybrid working practices, post-pandemic, occupancy sensing technology provides useful data that can drive usage-based sanitation and traffic control to ensure appropriate physical distancing and cleanliness of common areas.

Net-zero energy efficiency has taken on new importance as the Paris Agreement obligations loom closer. Organisations are striving hard to achieve net-zero targets, with 70% of organisations likely to have one or more facilities nearly net-zero or at net zero in the next ten years, and 63% have invested in on-site renewable energy – a 22% increase since 2019.

Reducing consumption is only possible by utilising accurate real-time consumption data to let you draft an energy action plan. Combine this with other smart, sensor-based technologies like occupancy sensors that can control heating and lighting, so it is only used when someone is in the room.

Getting into a building and your office has traditionally been when you come into contact with multi-use surfaces. To avoid this problem, organisations are using handsfree technologies to activate automatic doors, turnstiles, call the lift for you, and even tell you which lift to use for your floor. This isn’t new and can be retrofitted to buildings or installed in new developments.

According to the EU Community Research and Development Information Service, building maintenance can far exceed the original construction cost. Difficulty seeing the condition of equipment like air conditioning units means that unexpected breakdowns can take organisations by surprise.

Retrofitting next-gen wireless smart sensors to the equipment allows for its operational status to be monitored, and if the system sees signs of impending failure can schedule preventative maintenance.

A recent commercial new build HUSH PM&C is project managing highlights the innovative ways technology can be used to make the lives of tenants easier, safer and more cost-effective. The project in Whitechapel, London, aims to put the building at the forefront of smart building technology.

Contactless access to the building and lifts is by a smartphone app, which also provides tenants with data on occupancy, optimising usage. Additionally, control of building services is via the Smartphone app, and tenants can benefit from real-time energy analysis, increasing the building’s flexibility and efficiency.

HUSH PM&C were vital in managing the liaison between the main contractor, the professional team consisting of the architect and services engineer and the client’s technology supply chain, and project managing the team responsible for delivering the internet, telephone, and electrical utilities upgrade work.

We have always advocated using smart technology in our new builds and fit-out projects. The exit from this pandemic just highlights the immediacy of the necessities of these requirements. With the changes to building utilisation, these technologies are increasingly important to promote safe working and cost savings for the buildings of the future, staff’s well-being and companies efficiency.

Tracy Marsh, Managing Director 

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