Now more than ever, health and wellbeing are top of mind for everyone. As we shelter in place, socially distance and work from home, we also long for normalcy.
The bigger question might be: what is the new normal? While many people talk about when everything will be normal, new norms are being defined. These new norms will include a greater focus on wellbeing in the commercial buildings industry.
So, do you know if your building is in good health?
Buildings can play a critical role in helping to optimize the work environment for facilitating business, both now and in a new normal. Smart decision-making focused on the building environment will be the key to occupant wellbeing and, importantly, giving them confidence to return to work.
Conduct a building audit. The backbone of building technology – ventilation, air quality, moisture, pressure and safety – is also the starting point for a healthier building. While every building has these functions, they may not be optimized . The first step to a healthier building is to conduct a building audit – ensure that installed systems are operating properly and that the building is meeting ASHRAE standards for a healthier work environment based on the type of building you operate. A commercial building has different requirements than a hospital, for example. You also need to consider social distance monitoring, detecting health incidents and enforcing lock-downs.
Optimize the building to support business continuity and operational resilience. While some buildings – like hospitals, data centers and manufacturing facilities – are operating above capacity, others – like offices, schools and malls – are largely sitting empty.
To meet changing levels and types of utilization – while still managing the bottom line – building technology will need to be expanded, contracted or adjusted according to level of occupancy and operating hours. Building owners need to ensure their facilities are agile enough to address potential frequent fluctuation of utilization and occupancy. One way to help make this happen – and ensure business continuity and operational resilience – is by employing digitizing building operations to better act on the data generated by the building. This includes revised uptime scheduling, automatic system checks, predictive maintenance and remote monitoring.
Reassure occupants. These unprecedented times are still being defined, and they have instilled fear into our culture – which will likely continue as people return to work. From an occupant perspective, giving employees, customer and visitors confidence that a building – from offices and schools to airports and hotels – is safer and optimized for reentry will be critical. The occupant experience isn’t going to be measured just by personal temperature preferences but by also by trust that the building is being optimized for a healthier environment.
Occupants will also want to know that the building has the means to avert, identify and respond to health issues. The new standards will require real-time, transparent insight into the actions that a building owner is taking to monitor and manage hygiene, cleaner air and social distancing. Reassurance may take the form of new procedures – from limiting conference room participants or elevator passengers – but it will also rely on clear and frequent communications based on what’s happening in the building. Data – and proper analyzing of that data – can help provide accurate and real-time insights.
The benefits of healthy buildings can go beyond current concerns of occupant comfort, satisfaction and engagement while still meeting sustainability and energy goals. Healthy buildings will help improve air quality and make safer and more secure places that we can all look forward to using in our new normal.
Contributed by Vimal Kapur, President and CEO, Honeywell Building Technologies