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The Competitive Advantage of Healthy Buildings

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Commercial real estate has been severely impacted by the pandemic, with occupancy rates falling to zero for extended periods and new measures being imposed to combat virus transmission. But even after restrictions end and workers can return to the office, public health will remain a central concern. As a result, a recent article suggests that

our commercial buildings will be in the spotlight as potential hotbeds for infection where any outbreak could lead to building closures that will disrupt enterprise tenants.

It will be increasingly important for building owners and facilities management services to understand biometrics and take advantage of the insights provided by IoT. Sensor-enhanced infrastructure can already monitor and track various parameters of occupant health and wellbeing: ventilation rates, people counting, temperature, humidity and so on. In combination these measurements can help to reduce the spread of the virus indoors by ensuring that rooms stay well-ventilated, thoroughly cleaned, and free of crowds.

The widespread adoption of IoT is seen by many as the obvious next step in minimizing the impact of viral outbreaks on business and the economy. As Brian Turner, CEO of Buildings IoT puts it:

Everything from high-traffic surfaces to enclosed spaces, from air quality to ventilation requires brand new thinking. Building owners, operators and occupants now expect more of the built environment.[1]

Employees will feel safer going back to work if they know that facilities managers have installed a smart cleaning regime to monitor the traffic of people, determine highest risk surfaces, and track when each area was last cleaned. This, in combination with air quality measurements, ensures a significantly lower risk of viral transmission.

Labour costs can reach as much as 70 per cent of total business costs, so naturally executives are concerned about attracting, engaging and retaining top talent. As a recent study “Buildings are Getting Smarter, are they also getting Healthier?” points out, employee wellbeing is also directly related to job performance. Air quality and other factors influence creativity, productivity, and concentration. In the United States, the Gallup-Sharecare WellBeing Index suggests that the total annual costs related to lost productivity “exceeded $80 billion for the 77 per cent of workers who fit the definition of having a chronic health condition.”[2] As a result, according to Forbes, the economy is impacted by somewhere in the region of $155 billion per annum, and a similar proportion is lost in the UK.

Another concern of building owners and operators is worker attraction and retention. Employees want to know that operators are looking out for their best interests and will be drawn to workplaces that are recognised and accredited by organisations like WELL Building and the UKGBC. As certification and accreditation schemes become more widely understood, there will be strong occupant demand for healthy, digitally-enhanced infrastructure, and smart offices will continue to attract investors as well as workers.

 

[1] https://aithority.com/technology/life-sciences/buildings-iot-and-builtspace-partner-to-deliver-healthy-buildings-amidst-public-health-crisis/

[2] https://www.assets.signify.com/is/content/Signify/Assets/interact/global/20210226-scw-smart-healthy-buildings.pdf

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