Big data has been dominating the corporate world for the last decade and recently, the commercial real estate sector has been experiencing a trend towards “smart buildings”. These buildings use data as a foundation to increase connectivity and enhance functional aspects in a dynamic way. The objective is to increase employee productivity by creating optimal conditions, such as enhanced illumination, thermal settings, sanitation, and improved air quality. These buildings are no longer limited to the Silicon Valley, with the Canadian Government being the latest to take on this trend.
BIM and BEM
The first phase in designing a smart building is going through the building information modelling (BIM) and building energy modelling (BEM) processes. These modelling softwares create 3D plans that are credited with increasing efficiency due to their enhanced ability to view designs. Architects benefit from the software as it provides a concrete visualization that is helpful when consulting with clients. It also helps structural engineers forecast problems and streamline efficiencies.
Smart buildings benefit by converting data into information that is used to improve the building’s environment. Examples of this include systems that monitor lighting and temperature according to peak periods. In doing this, the temperature is reduced when there are the most people present in a building or towards the end of the day when people become tired. This is already used in many public buildings, such as libraries, to reduce feelings of fatigue. A more sophisticated system will use weather forecast data to adjust inside temperature conditions.
By using data to more accurately predict patterns in energy consumption and temperature change, an integrated information technology system can reduce costs. Because energy is being monitored at all times, it is easier to detect issues with building equipment. Most excessive energy use is due to broken equipment, such as an HVAC system or even home appliances. The current work environment has seen a dramatic change, with more flexibility for where employees can work. This flexibility leads to fewer employees physically present at the same time, which results in empty desks and boardrooms. An integrated information technology system is able to recognize this and reduce the energy allotted to these areas during these times.
The Importance of a Work Environment
The physical workspace encompasses a variety of aspects, including aesthetics, temperature, and smell. A study conducted by Forbes shows that there is a strong correlation between employee well-being and productivity. In creating a pleasant workspace, employees are inspired and engaged to produce their best work, which in turn provides beneficial performance for the company. By having a building that is kept at an ideal temperature and that regulates lighting and ventilation, employees can improve their focus on the task at hand. This is, in fact, a strategic investment for corporations, as happy employees have been proven to boost financial results.
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