With governments beginning to relax restrictions in the UK and Ireland, many commercial buildings remain unoccupied or at significantly reduced capacity. Simon Ward, director of sales for UK & Ireland, Distech Controls, discusses how a safe return to these spaces can be carried out, delivering building performance, contented clients, and happy tenants.

Buildings may currently be unoccupied for a variety of reasons. People may not feel that the environment is safe, it could be a government or corporate decision to remove all employees from the site where possible, or there could be outdated technologies limiting a safe return.

There are number of aspects where smart building technology can certainly help enable safe working environments.

Air quality

The question I get asked most often is about air quality; how can we be sure that the air is safe in the workplace?

Typically, buildings they may have an outdated infrastructure needing to be brought up to current standards with additional filtration or more advanced ventilation systems. However, in many occupied spaces there is often no indication of whether CO2 levels are within safe parameters, humidity levels are correct, and so on. Accurate air quality monitoring and assessment is a key benefit of the modern building control system and this technology will play a huge part in giving confidence to employees and employers that workplaces are as safe as they can be.

Also, many people want to know that regulations are in place. We must think about social distancing regulations and how workplaces can comply with those requirements.

Technology can be added to existing systems to help us with these aspects. One example is touchless technology. If you want to change the temperature of an environment, previously you would typically adjust this with a wall device. Technology allows us to connect to the system via Bluetooth connection using an interface on a phone. This can also adjust blinds and so on.

With regards to social distancing regulations, it may be the case that a certain route should be used within a building. Wayfinding technology will allow us to help with those requirements. Occupancy data gathered and assessed by the building control system can help further, making sure that we have the right amount of people in a meeting room, and identifying congestion in a particular area. By doing so, this provides extra peace of mind.

The pace of change

One of the challenges we face in the industry is that smart building solutions are not short-term projects, they are developed over periods greater than 12 months, and are sometimes several years in the process.

At the same time, technology is moving so quickly that from the day that a specification is created to the timeframe when a building is delivered, the technology has moved on considerably. Of course, clients want to have the latest and greatest technology in their new buildings. But, there needs to be some form of flexibility in that design process, as specifications may change within the construction period. Everyone needs to be aware of that – the design that is signed off at the start may not be what is handed over. Also, people’s views differ on what a smart building is, so it’s important to have those conversations with the client early on to ask: what is it that they require from a building – without changing current business practices – to operate in the most efficient manner? How can technology add to what they want from their building to deliver that experience?

The killer app

Distech Controls has an out-of-the-box solution that can be provided to any environment – healthcare, commercial office space, mixed use development – to help bring the community together. Some very useful elements include messaging media for communities to keep up to date, as well as the ability to report any maintenance issues quickly and easily on the property.

Other aspects of functionality can be added and customised, and it can be installed as a software development kit. We no longer have to go to app developers to have those tools created, it is becoming more mainstream.

Distech Controls TV is hosting an online discussion about Healthy and trustworthy Buildings, at 3pm on Tuesday 11th May. Simon Ward will join fellow panellists Bryan Saxby, OAIRO global service: CEO, Laura Carminati, Distech Controls: Product manager and host Brad Stock, president of LingoFacto.

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