The U.S. commercial real estate market’s recovery slowed in first quarter 2012. Most notable was the office market, which absorbed fewer than 1 million square feet, a far cry from the 8.6 million square feet averaged over the six previous quarters, according to investment management firm Jones Lang LaSalle.
With lower occupancy can come higher scrutiny of operating costs and, therefore, building managers need to focus on efficiency to retain current tenants and also to attract new ones.
Optimized costs for management and individual tenants can create a competitive sales and service edge that appeals to those looking to spend less.
An integrated people counting solution deployed throughout a building can increase its intelligence by improving utilization; helping systems and the environment constantly evolve to fluctuating occupancies; and lowering overhead costs through reduced energy usage and carbon footprints.
Workplace consulting groups, as well as facilities management and building services companies, assert that any people-counting technology used in buildings must be accurate, reliable, non-intrusive and capable of rapid deployment. A thermal imaging-based technology is well-suited to meet these standards plus has the added benefits of low power requirements and avoiding privacy issues that arise with video-based technologies.
Measure and Assess Utilization
The cost of managing a building can be measured by the cost per worker, per square foot. Reducing that cost, however, requires a more in-depth building analysis. Integrating a thermal imaging-based people counting system can evaluate an office building’s utilization, for example, with a layered approach. Rather than apply sweeping changes to an entire building, the system intricately studies specific areas.
The analysis begins with the building as a whole, and the calculation of its utilization being the key to aligning operational efficiency with its actual usage.
Next, each floor is examined individually. The distribution of tenants is not always equal throughout a building – particularly those affected by the commercial real estate slump – so identifying floors not fully occupied creates a more specific map for optimization.
Finally, each floor can be assessed down to zone and even meeting room level. While learning the behavior and patterns of the building’s occupants, the system determines how frequently – and hence, effectively – certain areas and facilities are used. Once analytics are compiled, it’s time to implement changes.
‘Sweating the Asset’
Strategic occupant distribution and, consequently, high degrees of utilization are key drivers to improving a building’s operational success.
A thermal imaging-based people counting solution can deliver a combined understanding of overall capacity, down to specific zones and workspace levels – providing a complete picture of utilization. This vital information uncovers opportunities for departmental and tenant consolidations, relocations or the freeing up of idle space for other purposes, such as additional revenue generation.
Continued analysis enables management to redesign and “evolve” the building – and the newly designed building make-up can be redeployed to fit the current workforce.
Now that tenant arrangement is improved, management can address energy usage throughout the entire building.
Two Shades of Green
The second half of operational success is energy management. Everyone wants to be “green” – and save money – but effectively achieving that distinction can be difficult. It takes valuable resources to manually monitor a building’s energy usage.
A thermal imaging-based people counting system, however, repurposes utilization analytics to streamline energy usage. Data gathered can be integrated into the overall building management or facilities management system to initiate potential changes in energy consumption.
More importantly, the non-intrusive, thermal imaging-based counters monitor the flow of workers through occupied areas to customize energy usage to suit their behavior.
But there’s another kind of “green” that concerns all building managers and their tenants – money. Energy dollars saved with the help of a thermal-imaging based people counting system can make a building more attractive to potential tenants and can reinforce the loyalty of current occupants – which is critical support for customer acquisitions and retention in today’s competitive commercial real estate environment.
The Stage is Set
When the initial overhaul is in place, a building’s evolution has only just begun.
Sustaining optimized utilization requires constant analysis and ongoing evolution. Thermal people-counting systems learn new behaviors and continue pointing out improvement opportunities to drive achievement of your key milestones and metrics.
The condition of the commercial real estate market has not made anything easy – and building and facilities managers are looking for innovation to help overcome it. Thermal technology can be part of that innovation to make buildings smarter and save money.
David Hume is Business Development Director, Irisys.