It’s no secret that the right environment is critical to employee health, morale and productivity. But the way in which companies achieve the perfect balance is set to change dramatically over the next few years, thanks largely to the rise of ‘smart buildings’.
Building management systems have been a key element of mechanical engineering projects for many years. They allow landlords and building managers to adjust heating and air conditioning to meet changes in requirements and the environment. But connected technology represents a significant step forward.
A smart building automatically controls and adjusts heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and even security systems. The software behind these controls uses sensors to collect data and adapt to the needs of a particular building, whether it’s an office block, a hospital, a home or a sports stadium.
What to Expect
The market is already worth £3.7 billion and manual operation is relatively rare. But Navigant Research expects the global intelligent buildings market to reach £6.9 billion by 2020 as systems become more and more complex.
As part of the Internet of Things, technology will learn from and adapt to the needs and moods of people in these buildings, and will self-diagnose problems. Some systems already incorporate ‘predictive maintenance’ – alerting users to potential heating system failure before it happens – with techniques including the use of acoustic sensors to listen for problematic changes in machines.
A Happy Workforce
The energy and cost-saving benefits of a sophisticated, reactive system are obvious, but the further effect of an improvement in employee comfort and satisfaction should not be underestimated. Last month, a survey by Peldon Rose found the mood of over half of UK office workers is negatively affected in winter months, and 30% said it has a direct effect on their productivity.
Nearly all the respondents (94%) said they value good heating and air conditioning in the office, so mechanical services can’t be ignored if a business hopes to maintain a happy workforce.
As for the effect on productivity, The Stoddart Review suggested improvements in workplace environment could add around £70 billion to the UK economy.
Making the Transition
Existing systems can be upgraded to incorporate smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controls, by adding sensors and changing some – though not necessarily all – of the equipment. However, a lack of awareness of the technology and its potential seems to be holding people back.
A survey of facilities managers, local authorities and other building clients found the majority have no plans to install connected technology, despite acknowledging the role it is likely to eventually play.
Steve Martin of the Electrical Contractors’ Association, one of the organisations behind the study, said: “Clients rightly recognise that a smart technology revolution in buildings is on the horizon, but are generally unprepared and lack the knowledge at present to make this a success.”
If you’re prepared to embrace sophisticated energy controls that can save money and improve staff productivity, 361 Degrees can advise on the best way to upgrade your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Contact us to learn more.