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Real Estate: Building a Digital Bridge to the New Normal Post Covid-19

Technology, a key to enduring the coronavirus pandemic and emerging stronger

According to a leading market research report on ‘Building Management System’, the facility management sector is expected to hit a staggering USD 19.25 billion by 2023. The key driving factor for this unprecedented growth will be the significant cost benefits to the industrial, commercial, and residential users, and increasing demand for energy-efficient and eco-friendly buildings. While on the surface, this seems like a promising figure, real estate players and offices are still managing the aftermath of the current pandemic. 

Given COVID-19 cases are on the upswing in areas across the country, it remains to be seen whether the workplace will ever look and function like the pre-pandemic times. As various cities are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures, it is critical for offices to implement strategies and safety precautions for employees returning to work. While countries in the West and the Middle East are already on track in adapting the workplace for resumption, India still lags when it comes to adopting building management steps for safe operations. Below are some of the critical post-pandemic needs that a smart building management system addresses. 

Tracking the movement of employees within the office space

Knowing where people are inside the building is a very critical data point for decision-makers. For example, to reduce the number of people passing each other, they can opt to reroute traffic and move people to lesser-used areas. For offices that have multiple primary corridors, the management can opt for floor foot print stickers defining the route to be unidirectional, so as to reduce the number of people coming in contact. Management might even decide to program the elevators to move a single direction or adjust the cleaning schedule to ensure that high-traffic areas are disinfected more frequently throughout the day. All these measures greatly benefit from the granular and system-wide transparency that an efficient digital tool network can enable. 

Social Distancing in the office

It may be a real struggle for employees to be able to come back to their pre-pandemic office layouts, especially in an open workspace environment or cubicles placed at proximity. In such cases, digital tools will do much to empower building management teams, and provide means to monitor and enforce social distancing in real-time. IoT and sensor-based smart building management technologies will make it possible to measure occupancy regularly, as well as identifying spaces that require more careful management, due to their relative footfall.

Sanitization measures

Current evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on open surfaces. Improving air quality and monitoring it has long been one of the core focus areas to keep the infection at bay. Sanitation and hands-free technology will therefore, play a key role in reopening workplace strategies. Studies have proven that the concentration of air pollutants can be up to five times higher indoors. Instead of manually measuring air quality and changing air filters throughout the building, building managers can now rely on smart building management technology to facilitate remote automation and real-time, data-driven, targeted maintenance. These capabilities are particularly crucial as social distancing mandates requires smaller onsite teams, for service providers within buildings.

Cloud, connectivity and remote management of automated systems 

With current limitations posed on the size of workforces that can be feasibly deployed by FM teams, it is crucial to operate and manage embedded building management remotely. Connected buildings link building automation suites to centralized platforms, which are then accessible to remote personnel through Cloud. Even the allocation and inventory of shared resources and services benefit from such connectivity. For example, advanced sensors can efficiently track soap and paper products in restrooms, simplifying the need to refill when required. Instead of deploying staff out to the floors, FM teams can now achieve high-quality outcomes, using a much leaner workforce than previously.

Vast majority of our activities and interactions occur within our building spaces and this new digitized smart building management model will emerge as the standard approach for commercial real estate operations. In recent years, however, many players in the commercial real estate industry have been proactively adopting unified and centralized smart building management solutions, which leverage AI and IoT technologies to reshape conventional building operations and maintenance. With the post-Covid-19‘ new normal’ requiring facilities management to deliver unprecedented quality, and consistency than ever before, there is a compelling need for the widespread adoption of smart building technologies.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house