5 ways technology helps to remotely manage building space
Although there’s been much emphasis on the effect of the pandemic on office buildings (ie, more remote work and lower building occupancy), the fact remains that almost all categories of buildings are affected by post-pandemic realities.
And, more disruptions are likely to come going forward. For example, in schools more students may opt for online rather than in-person classes; in retail centres, more shoppers may choose to order items online rather than going on a trip to the mall; and so on.
Building occupancy levels are being impacted in all industries. For example, previously bustling Australian shopping malls were described as ghost towns at the height of the pandemic.
With fewer people coming in, and major building systems still running, what technologies are available for facility managers to ensure that these buildings can be monitored remotely and kept running smoothly, efficiently and economically?
1. Visitor management software (VMS)
These are the days of contactless e-commerce deliveries where retailers drop packages and leave. But, when there are fewer people in a building, monitoring who goes in or out can become challenging and leave loopholes for theft and vandalism.
Traditional visitor management systems involved front desk staff, paper sign-ins, concierge and doormen. These are no longer practical in the post-COVID environment.
With a VMS, managers, tenants and other stakeholders can monitor occupancy across one or more buildings without the effects of human error. VMS allows them to tell who is on-site and monitor their movement within the facility.
Other important features of more advanced VMS brands are:
- Track and manage incoming visitor traffic with digital screening.
- Real-time occupancy monitoring to keep all building users safe.
- Contactless visitors sign in via any mobile device using QR codes.
- Send visitor invites with a few clicks.
- Authorise or deny visit requests from remote locations.
- Customise and schedule visitor reports.
- Automatic notifications.
- Timestamp visitors’ access to different areas of the facility.
2. IoT technology
Using the power of the internet of things (IoT), facility managers can set up proactive maintenance management strategies like condition-based maintenance (CBM). CBM is a strategy for monitoring the running condition of assets in real time. It helps users to make informed maintenance decisions.
CBM relies heavily on industrial sensors that track equipment conditions and detect abnormal readings in parameters like temperature, vibration, sound and other factors. Typically, when any of the monitored parameters exceeds expected levels, the system sends alerts to maintenance via a pop-up or email notification.
For example, if a pumping machine becomes exceedingly hot or begins to vibrate abnormally, it triggers a sensor that warns the maintenance team.
In the event that a problem is imminent, CBM allows its users to receive potential equipment failure warnings early enough to arrange for a team member to go and quickly resolve the problem.
A computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) is central to everything that maintenance personnel do. It enables them to collate information, communicate with other team members from anywhere and coordinate maintenance tasks seamlessly no matter the current occupancy level in a building. For instance, CBM was mentioned above.
Usually, CBM can interface with most modern CMMS brands. Thus, sensor data can go directly to the CMMS, making it easier for users to pinpoint what is happening with the machine(s).
That aside, when the building in question is being remotely monitored, a CMMS enables the FM to continue supervising key maintenance activities seamlessly. They can view work in progress, create new tasks, make adjustments and assign tasks to technicians using the Work Order module. Also, they can monitor ongoing work and receive updates on a mobile-CMMS-enabled device as the job progresses.
4. Drone technology
Presently, drone inspections are being used more frequently in almost every industry that requires visual inspections for optimal maintenance. By using a drone to collect visual data and ascertain the condition of an asset, this technology can help to minimise human exposure to potentially harmful situations.
For example, if the maintenance team detects an issue on the roof of a building, instead of having someone climb all the way up for a closer look, or erect a scaffolding, they can send a drone to take pictures and record videos.
5. Building energy management systems (BEMS)
Energy efficiency is a major concern for everyone involved in managing building spaces. As a result, there are several options to help control energy consumption like switching to clean energy wherever possible, or adopting better management techniques for the existing electrical systems. That’s where BEMS apply.
Traditionally, commercial buildings like retail complexes and recreation centres are known for excessive energy consumption. But now, with fewer people expected in these buildings, it’s prudent to manage energy consumption strategically. BEMS are computerised systems that combine hardware and software components to monitor and control major energy-reliant equipment such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting, power installations and so on.
BEMS allow real-time remote monitoring and integrated control of every connected electrical asset in the building. Some of the features they offer include:
- Monitoring hours of use.
- Setting modes of operation.
- Remotely set environmental conditions.
- Adjust set points to optimise performance and comfort.
- BEMS can trigger alarms and sometimes predict problems to prompt maintenance intervention.
- When they are installed and operated properly, BEMS are designed to optimise energy usage without interfering with the comfort of building users.
Remote building management is a reality that will likely persist until the constraints of the pandemic and its effects on building occupancy are over. Fortunately, by using the technologies mentioned above, it doesn’t have to become a chaotic situation for facility managers and their teams. Instead, they can research what will work best in their facilities and take steps for proper implementation.
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