The increasing focus on wellness in the workplace, combined with a drive for initiatives that boost productivity, has led to an increasing interest in the adoption of Internet of Things-powered smart building technology. And it is thanks to this technology that building occupants and facilities management alike are finding it simpler to connect with the features of their buildings, streamlining everyday tasks and making the working environment a better place to be in the process.
Now that flexible working is so widespread, it has become a necessity for businesses to make their places of work as pleasant as possible for staff when they’re onsite, so that the time they spend in the office is positive.
Workplaces that are healthy, comfortable and frustration-free, and that have a feel of home, are the ones that will attract and retain the best talent. As are the workplaces that run like clockwork, and that are sustainability-focused.
Smart buildings and the employee working environment
Staff who feel happy in their working environment are generally better motivated, making them more productive, creative and collaborative. Smart buildings make it possible for users to optimise their personal workspace, allowing the likes of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting to be set to suit individual personal preferences.
Desk space and meeting room bookings also become a breeze thanks to smart desk booking solutions, removing those frustration-inducing experiences that can so easily spoil someone’s day.
Smart buildings and facilities management
Smart buildings could be considered the facilities manager’s best friend. Because they are powered not just by Internet of Things connected devices, but also by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, smart buildings are able to automate countless FM tasks, from energy consumption management to servicing and maintenance programmes, and from indoor air quality management to room booking and workspace management.
So, what exactly IS a smart building?
Smart buildings control and regulate a variety of building management functions automatically. They do this by employing a network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as sensors, thermostats, locks and more, all of which detect everything from sound and vibration to heat, movement and light levels.
The information drawn through the IoT devices is channelled into a smart building analytics platform, where facilities management staff are able to access a detailed data view. This data can then be used to make educated decisions and take well-informed actions.
But smart buildings don’t just help FMs take action themselves. They also take action for them by automating all sorts of tasks, courtesy of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. This frees up resources, minimises the margin for human error or oversight, and saves valuable time, driving down expenditure.
In what ways can smart buildings improve the working environment and streamline facilities management?
The ideal business scenario is one in which every member of staff is motivated, content, fulfilled and enjoys coming to work. From clerical to creatives, from front of house to backroom logistics, and from trainees to senior management, everyone plays their own vital role. And there can be no gaps in morale, productivity and positivity if an organisation is to thrive and grow.
Here’s how smart buildings make great places to work for everyone.
Improve workplace experience
A positive workplace experience equates to improved performance. A study conducted by Oxford University revealed that happier employees are 13% more productive.
One of the most important drivers of workplace experience has to be a healthy working environment. Good indoor air quality and ventilation, sufficient levels of natural light, well-managed thermal consistency and low noise pollution are all features of a healthy building.
Smart buildings incorporate Internet of Things-driven technologies such as smart HVAC, which can boost workplace comfort by monitoring indoor air quality and making automated changes to keep it at healthy levels.
Smart lighting is another feature of smart buildings, using AI to calculate optimum lighting settings and alter the type and tone of lighting in line with real time conditions.
When workers can control the conditions in their own personal workspace, morale and engagement heighten considerably, and this is something that smart building technology supports.
Via a smartphone app, users are able to adjust lighting and climate controls to suit their preferences, which are then learned by AI so that fewer interventions are needed by the user in the future.
Even better, the technology makes it possible for users to submit their feedback on things like indoor air quality and noise levels, which facilities management staff can use to make wholesale changes.
Create a sense of community in the workplace
Creating a ‘connected’ feeling at work has become hugely important, especially in these times of hybrid working and where teams are scattered across multiple sites.
A sense of workplace community brings an impression of belonging, which can fuel employee commitment to tasks in hand, their wider roles, and the organisation in general.
There are a variety of ways to create a sense of community at work. Some smart building apps, for example, have built-in smart office community features such as newsfeed style local events, special offers and community chat forums.
Bring efficiency to day-to-day tasks
There is nothing worse than being stopped in your tracks when you are trying to get something done at work. Frustration sets in, productivity drops, and morale hits a low.
Whether it’s a facilities management assignment, such as making sure meeting and washrooms are cleaned and re-stocked, ensuring machines and plant are serviced on schedule, or keeping track of energy usage and emissions levels; or it’s a general workplace task such as wayfinding, booking meeting room or desk space or visitor management, there is a lot that can drain time and resources during the working day.
But with smart buildings, things like single sign on access control allow for role-based, secure sign-on to everything with a convenient one-time login, making access to everything physical and digital within a building more streamlined. And smart desk booking systems use the likes of motion detectors, smart sensors and device docking stations to feed availability into a central , which allows suitable free spaces to be identified and booked in an instant.
Help save energy
Smart buildings allow for the monitoring and management of energy usage across multiple properties. Smart technology makes it possible to set automated processes that can reduce energy wastage, to a significant degree.
IoT sensors relay live energy usage information which can be used to predict energy needs against external factors, such as climatic and seasonal fluctuations.
Automations can be set to deal with certain conditions in order to create a better working environment. These could include, for example:
- Powering down air conditioning, heating or lighting when a sensor detects a room is unoccupied
- Decreasing artificial light intensity when sensors detect a certain level of natural light is adequate, or switching off lights altogether when a space is unoccupied
- Reducing heating levels as outdoor temperatures increase
- Notifying cleaning personnel to service restrooms or meeting spaces only when they have been used, rather than on a set schedule when resources would otherwise be wasted
IoT sensors are also used in smart buildings to identify energy-draining appliances, together with inefficient processes that could cause energy wastage.
The Carbon Trust says that around 20 per cent of the annual energy costs of a business are wasted because of energy inefficient equipment. Issues with ageing, un-serviced or poorly maintained equipment often go undetected, which means that energy wastage goes on until the appliance in question finally fails.
However, in the smart building, IoT sensors placed on or around equipment will identify unusual sounds or vibrations, relaying them so that an engineer can be summoned to deal with the problem before things go too far.
How can Smart Spaces help improve the working environment and make facilities management more streamlined?
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based platform that uses IoT-connected sensors to manage and automate a variety of workplace and facilities management activities.
When linked with the building management system Smart Spaces relays rich data, providing valuable insights and making the role of facilities management so much more streamlined, as well as improving general working environment conditions and giving morale and productivity a boost in the process.
To learn more about how Smart Spaces can help you improve your working environment, reduce energy wastage and bring efficiency to your overall operations, you are welcome to request a free demo or get in touch.