A perfect storm: how the pandemic draws attention to smart, healthy buildings.

Over recent months, we have seen dramatic changes across the world affecting global markets, with commercial real estate not being an exception. The pandemic shifted the paradigm of healthy buildings, the need for data in real estate and the surge for indoor air quality.

With multiple policies coming into play for a variety of nations who are putting higher emphasis on sustainability goals, healthy building expectations are sure to be up next. The focus of commercial real estate is drastically advancing upon the trends that arose to the surface throughout 2020–2021. It is in the building owner’s best interest to embrace the change for buildings that not only reach energy saving standards but also support the wellness of occupants. As time and tide wait for no man, now is the moment to sail out of the perfect storm towards this new horizon.

How smart and healthy buildings generate value for all stakeholders

A smart building system can provide the technical means to reduce building operational costs, save energy and lower the CO2 footprint. The value of implementing such technology goes further since COVID-19 ignited the surge in healthy building technologies to improve the building occupants’ wellness, comfort, safety, and experience.

COVID-19 has not only increased our hand-washing practices but also brought our attention to the invisible problem in most buildings. Air. We spend 90% of our time indoors, and the air is often 2–5 times more polluted inside than outside. Thus the quality of air we breathe is not only important in stopping the spread of viruses but also important in the productivity and health of our daily and work lives.

On top of this, another change sped up by the pandemic is the increase in flexible, hybrid and virtual work. Though the enjoyment of meeting others physically and collaborating in a workspace together is something that is missed when working from home. From the Workforce Sentiment Survey conducted by CBRE across 18 countries surveying 10K employees, research states that the office is here to stay, because 62% of the participants agree they need the office for team connection and a sense of community around them. Merging these trends, it is key to have an interactive building that provides a collaborative experience for the workforce in a sustainable and healthy indoor environment. This new generation of office space serves both the need to attract talent and to keep talent by integrating wellness in the core of its value proposition.

Why commercial real estate needs to innovate

Innovation is crucial for the existence of commercial real estate because the pandemic has shown that the more traditional concept of ‘the office’ is becoming replaceable and rental returns are becoming uncertain. In the past, companies classified the office as a necessity. Now, the numbers are changing. Although 62% of employees still consider the office valuable, the amount of required office space is changing. Many companies plan on scaling down their square meters and working from home is now a fair alternative. To keep its competitive edge and prove excellent value to working from home, asset managers should adopt innovation, expose technological innovation and offer amazing experience to building occupants. Arguably, it can be said that a better building is the only answer, as going smart is the only holistic way to answer all the aforementioned challenges simultaneously.

What do we consider to be a smart building? It is a building that generates value across fields, across axes.

The first being the human centric axis, the second being the building centric axis. Human centric is all about the experience that users have in that building. It begins by simply giving the occupant access to the smart building, for instance, via an application or kiosk where they can book a meeting room. The application nudges towards the healthier meeting rooms with cleaner air and better comfort, based on real-time and forecasted data. It goes beyond helping an individual’s need but extends further to helping a building’s community. The wellbeing of that person is supported with smart comfort controls that increase wellbeing and productivity. Smart phone apps also provide community interaction chat features, building message boards and catering or booking services, which add to how occupants experience the building.

The building centric axis lies in creating a digital twin, having data from your building and being able to structure it to do analysis and get insights on how the building is performing and access forecast on building utilisation and performance for the hour, day or week. These custom data insights allow owners or facilities management to take action but also enable autonomous automation through smart building controls. Creating a more powerful building tailored to your tenants’ needs.

Most importantly, the sum of the building centric and human centric values ensure a building that reconciles improvement of sustainability and health, of experience and cost efficiency.

Simple improvements for a data-driven return to the office

By harnessing the power of smart technology, a data driven return to the office can be on the horizon for most building owners. Our approach to smart building transformation is to break the silos, allowing buildings to develop to the needs of tenants. It is key to collect the right metadata as well as to have many valuable data sources accessible, in one manageable and understandable platform. That’s why bGrid is building data for all. Communicating with everything in your building, our flexible approach and open API allows for the widest variety of use cases and easily integrates with 3rd party applications.

About bGrid

The bGrid smart building solution is a collection of wireless bGrid sensors that allows for the optimization of building utilization through real-time data insights, and smart controls. bGrid smart building technology senses, collects, positions, controls and learns to provide actionable data insights for building owners, operators, and occupants. bGrid data includes, amongst others: temperature, CO2 & VOC, humidity, light, sound, occupancy & movement.

About Clairify

At Clairify, we believe offices should empower you to maximize your creativity, collaboration and output every day. Clairify bridges the knowledge-technology gap to help professionals in the built environment push for the next generation of offices. We help companies like yours improve the indoor air quality and create a safe workplace for your employees and tenants. Before, during and after the pandemic.

Therefore, we provide state-of-the-art indoor air quality sensors and analytics, including a mobile app for feedback collection. The parameters we measure are the air temperature, radiant temperature, relative humidity, CO2, TVOC, PM10, PM2.5, PM1.0, aerosols, sound pressure. We merge the hard and soft data into a data stream for Building Management System automation purposes, which provides a full, interactive overview of the workplace experience. People-focused, data-driven.

Curious to know more? Stay tuned for part two of The Perfect Storm by signing up to our mailing list here. Contact our team, we’d love to chat. Check out our home pages Clairify and bGrid.

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