Future-Proofing the Physical Workspace: Part Two of Frost & Sullivan’s Healthy Buildings Research

Jun 3, 2021


In its recent webinar “Keeping Occupants Safe: The Framework for Healthy Buildings,” DLL had the opportunity to feature the research and findings from leading consulting firm Frost & Sullivan about the future of healthy buildings and the physical workplace in a post-pandemic society. Part one of this two-part blog series discussed the economic impact and predicted recovery from COVID-19, safe-start plans, and existing and future business models as the pandemic persists.

Part two continues this conversation by examining the new priorities for building operators to consider in the future and examples of successful response strategies so far.

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New Priorities and Considerations 

In the “new normal” future of healthy buildings emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, several design considerations will take priority. New facility layouts will dictate technology and service prioritization. Health and wellness and safety guidelines will even take precedence over other considerations, such as energy efficiency, so that occupants feel safe returning to the physical workspace. In addition, decentralization and lower density workspaces will characterize spatial planning, making technology requirements more customized. Selective occupancy, adaptable furniture, non-porous, modular, and anti-microbial finishes will be highly preferred as building planners learn from the onset of challenges the pandemic introduced since it began in early 2020.

“New Normal” Technologies

Along with these new priorities, the scope for value creation for building owners and customers shifted dramatically since the pandemic began. Frost & Sullivan predicts the adoption of several technologies and applications to accelerate by 2025. In terms of lighting, advances such as AI-based lighting, voice-enabled lighting control and human-centric lighting are expected to become normal. As for automation and energy optimization, building energy performance optimization (BEPO), cloud-based remote services and predictive maintenance will increase in prevalence among other digital energy trends.

With indoor air quality (IAQ) emerging as a key consideration in heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, technologies such as IAQ-based ventilation, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are likely to become mainstream. For post-COVID applications specifically, occupancy detection (OD)-based social distancing, indoor positioning (IP)-based contact tracing and AI-based facial recognition and mask detection will become much more common. In addition, contact minimizing technologies, such as foot operated elevators, touch-free bathroom fixtures and touch-free toilet seat cover cleaning will become more mainstream. Furthermore, thermal imaging, pathogen scanners and nanotechnology (NT)-based self-cleaning surfaces will be further integrated in efforts to combat the spread of future viruses that arise.

Examples of Best Practices

To future proof facility needs, response strategies will combine best-of-breed new property technology, like health and well-being innovations, design-based approaches, spatial intelligence, remote service-based innovations and washroom technologies. All of these are meant to prioritize the well-being of occupants above all-else.

One example of an emerging use case for workplace optimization leverages AI technology to assess occupancy using internet of things (IoT)-enabled sensors in order to accommodate 30% more people over prescribed social distancing. It also leverages occupancy insights to develop post-lockdown mitigation strategies.

In another example, air quality sensors were installed in office buildings to monitor particulate matter that affect employee productivity. The data informed recommendations for increased airflow in areas where particulate matter spikes were found.

While companies around the world look to the future of their physical workspaces, prioritizing the wellbeing of occupants, first and foremost, will become the norm. Though the COVID-19 pandemic brought an onset of challenges for companies and their workforces alike, it sparked innovative developments that favorably impact building health standards and company response strategies for years to come.

To obtain a detailed copy of Frost & Sullivan’s healthy buildings research, click on the button below.

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