Fueled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, touchless technology has gone from a nice-to-have in facilities to a must-have. Consumer demand is booming, according to Bradley Corporation—the company’s 2022 Healthy Handwashing Survey revealed that 84% of American adults responding to the survey believe that it’s important for public restrooms to be equipped with touchless fixtures, while 63% say they’re more likely to return to a business that has touchless fixtures in its restrooms.
Restrooms aren’t the only space that benefits from touchless technology. Manufacturers in many fields are getting into the touchless arena, introducing touch-free options for everything from elevators to access control. Fulton East—an innovative 12-story, 90,000-square-foot office and retail building in Chicago’s Fulton Market District—makes extensive use of touchless technologies.
“Touchless is going to be the way of the future,” said Bob Wislow, chairman and CEO of Parkside Realty, Inc. and developer of Fulton East. “We will never develop another building without thinking of every touchless aspect of the building that we can do.”
Why Do People Respond to Touchless Tech?
Building occupants like touchless tech for two key reasons: infection control and convenience, said Jon Dommisse, vice president, marketing and corporate communications, for Bradley Corporation. Users don’t have to touch germy surfaces if they can easily activate soap and water with a simple hand motion while they’re washing their hands.
“The demand for touch-free restrooms has largely held steady from both consumer and facilities standpoints because there is still an elevated concern about hygiene and cleanliness,” Dommisse said. “Bradley’s research in 2022 showed that almost 80% of Americans continue to be in an elevated state of germ consciousness, triggered by coronavirus.”
Certain types of facilities cause more concern about germ contact than others, Dommisse added; survey respondents are most concerned about germs in retail settings (50%), medical facilities (39%), restaurants (34%) and gas stations (28%).
But all building types can benefit from installing touchless technology—not only for fighting current and future infectious diseases, but also for the convenience aspect. Fulton East’s touchless offerings include the Toe-To-Go (T2G), the world’s first hands-free elevator system. Created by MAD Elevator, Toe-To-Go is a foot-activated elevator call button that makes summoning elevators even easier than before, especially for people whose hands are full.
“You’re on the phone, you’re carrying your briefcase in your hand, you’ve got a shopping bag or you’re bringing your lunch into the office, and you just step on the [Toe-To-Go],” Wislow said. “Why didn’t we do that 20 years ago?”
How Fulton East Went Touchless
Toe-To-Go is just one of Fulton East’s many touchless technologies. The development team intensely researched leading-edge products that would enhance the health, safety and wellness of its tenants’ employees. Key touchless deployments include:
- A touch-free security system by Kisi
- Butterfly’s touch-free after-hours system for security, building access, intercom and elevator use
- Private garage parking with touch-free and secure access to tenant floors
- Touch-free and solar powered faucets, soap dispensers and flush valves in the restroom
The pandemic hit as work on the building was drawing to a close, forcing the development team to pivot. That led to the installation of the Toe-To-Go, as well as Kisi’s mobile security app for the entrance and an RFID window sticker that grants access to the parking facility.
Where to Start
Renovating different wings or floors? Dommisse recommends starting your touchless tech journey in the busiest areas so that the greatest number of people will benefit.
You can also start with one type of technology, such as washroom fixtures or elevators, and then expand from there. Wislow suggested starting with elevators because all tenants share them, then retrofitting washrooms next because they’re also frequently used. From there, you can branch out to entrances, common area doors, nighttime access and parking facilities, Wislow said.
“Providing touch-free hand sanitizers near doorways and entrances can be an economical way to introduce hands-free products to occupants and get them used to the concept,” Dommisse added.
Fulton East’s touchless systems are all connected to electricity, so the facilities team never has to change out batteries. If you decide to go this route, make sure the spaces where you’re deploying touchless devices are wired for more electrical connections and have enough outlets, Dommisse said. If you’re employing IoT devices, make sure there’s a strong enough Wi-Fi signal for them.
A well-planned deployment can both benefit your occupants’ health and cut down on maintenance for your facilities team. How can your building benefit from touchless technology?