The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through the world of commercial real estate, turning traditional operations upside down and creating a challenging new environment for building owners.
Since the virus first hit, owners have been thrown into the deep end, grappling with an abrupt shift as occupants work from home and more recently, the challenge of dealing with a staggered return to the office. For many owners, it has felt like one step forward, two steps back, where companies are at different stages in the ‘return to the workplace’ journey. On the other side of the fence, occupants, who are rightly concerned for the health and safety of their staff, are reluctant to return back to the office full-time, without some form of assurance from the building owner.
Rebuilding confidence in the office space
Under normal circumstances, many building occupants are blissfully unaware of their surroundings, but now building operations are at the forefront of their minds. Occupants want to know that the right measures have been put in place for their protection. As soon as they arrive at their place of work, they’re immediately confronted by COVID-19 signage, sanitising stations, and a carefully spaced line waiting for lift access.
In response to COVID-19, commercial landlords have raced to deploy new technology solutions to provide better assurance for their occupants. For example, in some office buildings, owners are installing thermal cameras to measure body temperatures as employees enter the building each day. Some buildings have pivoted their customer experience apps to perform contact tracing and analyse the efficacy of social distancing measures. If someone in the building tests positive for coronavirus, the building operators are able to determine where they have travelled inside the building and who they spent the most time in contact with. These can be automatically lodged with relevant HR departments so they can start to action a “ring fence” and keep their workers safe.
Building operators have also considered how to reduce the impacts of working in close quarters, such as increasing air flow to the building. The more crowded and enclosed the space is, the higher the airflow levels will have to be in order to diffuse the virus and decrease the likelihood of spreading COVID-19, if a transmission occurs in the building. Monitoring the levels of fresh air, as opposed to recirculated air, can make a significant difference in the infection rate.
Point solutions are failing to connect to the bigger picture
Unfortunately, many owners are now realising they have tied themselves in knots through this process, as these “point solutions” have resulted in disparate and siloed data sets that aren’t considering the long-term needs of the building. What is missing from these solutions is a structured and secure way to integrate best-in-class technology throughout their building. All these different data sets are completely siloed, and when a red flag is raised by one platform, the others may not see it, let alone act on it.
A camera might be able to identify a high temperature, but if it can’t interact with other platforms in the building to isolate that person and notify the right teams in the building then it is providing very little benefit to the landlord. If a person enters the building with abnormally high temperature, the building operations system should be notified, and then the person can be identified for further testing, as well as undergo contact tracing to know where they have been in the building and whether there are potential building hotspots.
At Willow, we are all too familiar with the challenges for customers who have multiple, fragmented systems in place but lack a unified view of their world.
What owners need, even more so during COVID-19, is a single platform for smart building technology. A unified and integrated approach, where data can be viewed and interpreted in context is the key to kick-starting operations in a more future-ready manner. This way, they can have complete 360-degree visibility of their building on a single screen. This is where Willow’s Digital Twin comes into its own.
While Willow may not be a silver bullet for COVID-19, it will provide a deeper level of insight into your building through a Digital Twin. It enables a single touchpoint for building owners to integrate new and existing technology quickly and effectively. By enabling owners to make proactive, data-driven decisions in real time, Willow can be a fundamental piece of the puzzle.
Building owners are in a unique position. Never before have building occupants relied so heavily on the sound operation of their building for their own personal health and safety. Now is the time for owners to invest in the underlying data infrastructure to make their buildings more responsive and transparent. It is the perfect opportunity to set a world-class standard at the forefront of building operations that will give owners and occupants confidence as they to chart a path through challenging times.