What does the industry want from a smart building solution? An interview with Razina Ahmad, Irisys’ BDM
There's no doubt that the future of building management is smart. As technology advances, it becomes easier and easier to implement cutting-edge solutions into our buildings. But what does this mean for users? What are their needs? How do they want to interact with these new systems? On the other end of these questions are operations and facilities managers, who will be the ones responsible for implementing and overseeing the management of these technologies within the built environment.
In a recent conversation with Irisys' North American Business Development Manager, Razina Ahmad, we discussed the challenges that lay ahead in the smart building sector, as well as the exciting opportunities and technologies that will make buildings safer, more functional, and cost-efficient. Razina's impressive professional background makes her the ideal person to talk to about all things building management systems (BMS), future trends, and the role of Irisys in the developing smart building environment.
The need for cost-saving solutions
“Now you have buildings where there’s a vast amount of unoccupied space, and there’s a lot of costs associated with that. Because many of us are working from home, businesses have reduced the number of occupants on-site. But HVAC and lighting are still being used to the maximum. We’re finding that clients are reaching out, looking for ways to bring operational maintenance costs down,” Razina says.
This means it's now essential to understand the movement of people within a building on a granular level. Where sensors and people counting technology may have previously been viewed as a luxury, it's now become a business-critical investment to help improve the indoor quality of particular spaces, as well as to facilitate the integration of other smart IoT devices and technologies.
Creating people-first spaces
In the past, the focus was always to ensure that buildings were fully occupied and to extract maximum revenue and utility from a commercial property. Now, Razina sees a strong shift towards creating more people-centric spaces.
“It’s also important to note that, mentally, people don’t feel very confident to return to the workplace just yet, so productivity is affected, and of course, space management.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged the BMS sector to look for solutions that help with occupancy management, cost reduction, and productivity enablement. By automating certain aspects of how the indoor environment is controlled in regards to air quality, heating, lighting, and capacity management, occupants will feel more reassured when spending prolonged periods indoors.
Building and retrofitting with purpose
Smart buildings don't necessarily have to be new, either. There will be a significant move towards optimizing existing infrastructure – for practical, environmental, and cost-saving purposes. Management teams will be looking at how to retrofit buildings in their real estate portfolio with the aim of making them more useful to the new and evolving requirements of occupants. The first step to a successful retro-fit is understanding movement throughout the premises –– and that’s where people counting sensors come in.
Is the industry ready to embrace the smart building model?
In her role, Razina engages with a large number of facilities managers and professionals who have a stake in the operation of their commercial property. Naturally, she encounters a number of misconceptions about what it actually means to have a smart building.
“Typically, the concern is always around how the different technologies will work together and whether they'll integrate with the existing BMS system,” Razina points out.
She goes on to highlight the issue of trust around cloud-based technologies and a lack of understanding about the benefits of people counting data and what analytics can do for the management of commercial, residential, and public spaces – regardless of size.
It's also often the case that individuals responsible for the various technical aspects of a building's operations work in silos, and this can form a barrier to the adoption of new technologies that could enhance the building's efficiency and the quality of the experience it provides to occupants.
Lastly, Razina notes that organizations often overlook the importance of accuracy in data –– when it comes to people counting, rounding off isn't good enough, so it's crucial to select purpose-built technology that can deliver precise data.
It’s through her work in having discussions with facilities teams and educating them about the power of accurate people counting solutions that a change in perception is starting to happen. As leaders become more concerned with how their offices, educational institutions, hospitals and residential estates accommodate the needs of humans in a post-pandemic world, the role of smart building technology is becoming vital.
True Occupancy in the Smart Building industry
It's Razina's firm belief that had Irisys’ True Occupancy solution been more widely implemented across the globe prior to the breakout of COVID-19, governments, businesses, and public institutions would have been better equipped to mitigate the spread of the virus. The solution lies in accurately aggregating and understanding the data around footfall, dwell times, and occupancy –– and this is where Irisys sensors outperform existing technologies on the market.
As more commercial and public sector organizations now look to safeguarding against similar threats to public health in the future, True Occupancy is firmly on the radar of many facilities managers wanting to create a smarter, healthier, more comfortable environment for occupants, customers, and employees.
Irisys sensors can easily integrate with other smart technologies tied into a building's BMS to help make more accurate predictions around, for example, the frequency of maintenance, cleaning, the availability of meeting rooms and collaborative spaces, and occupancy levels within washrooms or places where proximity between people is an issue. Ultimately, this results in a more economical use of resources around heating, lighting, and staffing requirements.
Razina’s vision for Irisys is one where strong partnerships with system integrators are formed to help educate and empower the individuals and businesses responsible for implementing smart building technologies. For her, the short-term goal is to bring people back to normalcy and then take a longer-term view as to how buildings can be future-proofed and, above all, serve the needs of end-users. It is Irisys’s goal to be at the forefront of innovation, thought leadership, and delivery of quality solutions that enable a better-built environment for all.
Are you looking to find out more about how a True Occupancy solution can help you create a smart building? Request a demo today.
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