Smart Buildings: The Future of Office Working Is Due to Evolve in a Post-COVID-19 Normality

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1Q 2021 | IN-6090

Smart buildings in any form are not a new concept and have traditionally focused on driving down costs for day-to-day practices through the use of sensors and Building Management Systems (BMS), which has been considerably improved with Building Automation Systems (BAS). These systems were rolled out to manage a building’s interior environmental conditions effectively and efficiently to ensure a happy medium of user experience and cost efficiency.

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COVID-19 Evolves Building Management Requirements


Because COVID-19 has caused many office buildings to be temporarily closed, workforces are working remotely. Remote working may be here to stay for many businesses; however, the future of office working is due to be revamped and evolve, and this will be made possible with a variety of different sensors as the world faces the new post-COVID-19 normality.

The reopening of many workspaces is an exciting yet apprehensive time for many employers and employees due to the anxiety that many have over the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of smart building technologies will enable building management and operators to understand how their buildings will be used as offices reopen their doors. It is likely that many buildings will operate in a manner to encourage hot desking—an option for workforces to go into the office as they please. The use of internal sensors and beaconing will offer actionable insights regarding how building floors are being used.

Efficient Buildings Results in Efficient Workforce


For most employers, one of the biggest concerns with the reopening of their offices is the social-distancing element—ensuring that there are not too many employees on the office floor at any given time. Implementing this type of solution means that employers not only can ensure that their workspaces are COVID-19 safe but also can manage and enhance their workspaces. For example, regarding hot desking, it may become apparent that specific areas of the office floor are favored over others, meaning that management should be able to make decisions to improve the environment in which the employees work.

Vodafone offers a bespoke solution that allows building management to ensure that their buildings are COVID-19 safe, that they are being running cost-effectively, and that they offer an optimum environment for their users. Environmental optimization will be incredibly important for building management as the users’ working environment will determine the office space usage. If the office space is not desirable or usable to employees, businesses may withdraw their contracts.

What Are the Key Management Focus Points with Returning to the Office?


In building management, there are many key elements that need to be considered when employees return to the office. These elements include hygiene and cleaning management, space management, and environmental monitoring. Space management is a crucial aspect of ensuring that buildings are safe from COVID-19. Available solutions offer information on usage levels, enabling managers to ensure that social distancing not only is able to take place but also is being adhered to. Traditionally, energy and cost efficiency have been the top driving factors for the building automation market; however, with new, evolving technology and new-building user concerns, there is a real shift in incentives for installing BMS or BAS into buildings.

A building’s entrance and access control are the first points where business manage operators can increase efficiency with the addition of new devices—such as heat detection cameras—that can be integrated into the system. These devices can detect an individual’s body temperature as they enter the building. The camera and software duo enables alerts of potential threats (high temperatures) that are accessible to the individual on duty no matter where they are located within the building. This means that security staff can monitor those entering the building while completing other duties—an example of how technology can offer maximum efficiency.

To summarize, the technology used for smart buildings isn’t the only thing that is evolving. The overall market is shaping differently due to new factors driving the desire for smarter infrastructure, including better space management and cleanliness control. When seeking ideal solutions, these problems will be prioritized in building management requirements as key areas are required to be covered for making a building COVID-19 safe and therefore will be drive hardware and software manufacturers to have these offerings as part of their portfolio. It is crucial that hardware manufacturers offer hardware that is easily integratable to existing platforms while addressing the new needs of building operators so that the installment is at a minimal cost and is quick and easy. If the hardware—that is, heat-detecting cameras—is not integrable with existing management platforms, the hardware will incur further costs for building operators, minimizing uptake and therefore limiting business for hardware original equipment manufacturers.