Occupant Experience: The Competitive Edge for Aging Commercial Properties

Sept. 7, 2018

Building owners and facility managers know better than anyone that a property’s most important asset is people, and buildings that work smarter for their tenants and provide an ideal occupant experience offer bottom-line benefits, such as lower vacancy rates, higher energy efficiency and increased lease demand.

If you own or manage an aging Class A or B building, you know that in order to compete with today’s state-of-the-art buildings, catering to your occupants is crucial. Businesses are dealing with increasingly dire labor shortages and need every advantage they can get to attract talent.

New construction dazzles with modern design, so you must consider ways to offer greater substance with an experience that enhances comfort and efficiency. Building automation systems of today are no longer cost-prohibitive to install as a retrofit and can elevate your property’s occupant experience beyond what you may think possible.

Your occupants spend 7 to 10 hours each workday indoors, and surroundings, such as air quality, temperature and lighting, have a significant impact on their health, wellness and productivity.

High concentrations of chemicals, presence of asbestos or radon, old carpet, dirty air ducts or a poorly designed or inefficient HVAC system are common causes of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dubbed “sick building syndrome” (SBS) – when occupants experience acute health and comfort effects linked to time spent in a building.

Related: The Terrifying Resurfacing of Asbestos

But advancements in smart building technology can help eliminate the causes and mitigate the effects of SBS to improve occupant experience. Building automation technology of today can proactively manage indoor air quality (IAQ), thermal comfort and even lighting to improve the indoor environment, resulting in healthier, happier, more productive occupants while providing energy efficiency and other savings.

Breathing Cleaner Air

Unmanaged IAQ is likely to be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality.

Given that most of us spend 90 percent of our time indoors, a building’s air quality can significantly affect health, comfort and productivity, impacting occupant satisfaction and retention. Improving the IAQ of your building can increase occupant productivity and enhance cognitive functioning – a strong selling point for prospective buyers or renters.

According to the COGfx Study, improvements in employee performance could benefit your company to the tune of $6,500 in productivity per employee per year.

Common signs of poor IAQ:

  • Occupant fatigue
  • High humidity levels
  • Stagnant airflow
  • Mold growth
  • Intense odors
  • Temperature extremes within the building (e.g. hot and cold spots)

Start with these four steps to improve your IAQ:

1. Analyze the design and operation of your building's HVAC system and ventilation, especially outdoor air intakes.

2. Inspect the cleanliness of HVAC equipment and ductwork.

3. Inspect your building for mold.

4. Inspect your building for asbestos and radon, if you haven’t already; these are the two most common carcinogenic indoor air contaminants.

During the evaluation process, consider the advantages that a predictive, proactive HVAC system that uses of the IoT and cloud computing for air quality monitoring and operation can provide. A system like this allows your building to use live weather feeds to obtain outdoor enthalpy (air energy) data, instead of relying on traditional rooftop unit modules that often provide inaccurate readings.

Furthermore, wireless sensors throughout your building can monitor carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and other volatile organic compound levels along with indoor enthalpy, automatically managing levels and giving you remote visibility through cloud-based apps.

Fully understanding building enthalpy levels will enable the system to provide superior IAQ and free cooling when conditions are appropriate. Deploying these strategies not only keeps tenants comfortable and productive, but data also shows they can provide a 30 to 50 percent improvement in HVAC energy usage – a win for you and your occupants.  

Ending the Dreaded “Thermostat Wars”

Maintaining a temperature that keeps all tenants comfortable is a struggle, to say the least; but striking the right balance keeps HVAC costs down, your building’s carbon footprint in check, and your occupants healthier and more productive for optimal operations.

According to a CareerBuilder survey of more than 4,000 full-time U.S. workers, 22 percent say a workplace that is too hot makes it difficult to concentrate at work, and 11 percent say the same about chilly workplaces.

Preventing hot and cold spots from forming is easier than you might think.

Advancements in building automation systems, such as smart dampers in air ducts, enable optimal thermal comfort, individual room temperature management and reduced energy usage. Modern HVAC zone control systems provide personalized workspace conditions for different rooms suited to individual occupant preferences, and mobile apps allow occupants to control the temperature (and lighting) in their respective spaces.

Geo-sensing technology even makes it possible to anticipate the arrival and departure of occupants to automatically precondition or stop conditioning their zone, delivering comfort on the occupant’s schedule, while also saving energy.

Getting Started with a Smart Building Automation System

Aging Class A and B buildings, as well as vacant properties, present an ideal opportunity for smart technology upgrades. These enhancements will improve your property’s appeal, fill your space faster and offer long-term value that keeps your tenants happy in their leases.

Building automation systems aren’t outrageously expensive to install as a retrofit anymore. You can start with a quick assessment and a low-risk trial installation, which can be accomplished for less than a typical audit.

Whether your building has no automation or is using an aging system, it’s worth vetting how modern, born-in-the-cloud and IoT-enabled solutions can provide a new level of efficiency, affordability and sophistication.  

In the coming years, commercial properties will become the smartest, most connected buildings in the IoT ecosystem. Will your buildings offer the intelligence and performance to attract, delight and retain tenants?

More than savings in energy and maintenance costs, the value delivered by the improved experiences for occupants, owners and facility managers will provide the greatest ROI.

To learn more about how to implement smart technology into your building, download 75F’s white paper, “Smart Buildings Boost Portfolio Value”.

Deepinder Singh founded 75F in 2012 after he designed some of the world’s fastest core networks for Tier 1 service providers like AT&T, NTT and Verizon. With almost 25 years of experience in electronics and computing, he’s brought a wealth of embedded products to the market. His key goal in every endeavor is to simplify operational complexity and make products intuitive. That’s why he created 75F, an intelligent building solution that utilizes the Internet of Things and the latest in cloud computing to create systems to predict, monitor and manage the needs of commercial buildings – making buildings work for owners and occupants.

Two hand-picked articles to read next:

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Buildings, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Building Better Schools

Download this digital resource to better understand the challenges and opportunities in designing and operating educational facilities for safety, sustainability, and performance...

Tips to Keep Facility Management on Track

How do you plan to fill the knowledge gap as seasoned facility managers retire or leave for new opportunities? Learn about the latest strategies including FM tech innovations ...

The Beauty & Benefits of Biophilic Design in the Built Environment

Biophilic design is a hot trend in design, but what is it and how can building professionals incorporate these strategies for the benefits of occupants? This eHandbook offers ...

The Benefits of Migrating from Analog to DMR Two-Way Radios

Are you still using analog two-way radios? Download this white paper and discover the simple and cost-effective migration path to digital DMR radios that deliver improved audio...