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People Counting for Buildings: U.S. Commercial Building Occupancy on the Rise

Posted by Paul Fulton on Jul 25, 2014 2:39:00 PM

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The Great Recession may finally be loosening its grasp on the U.S. commercial-building sector, which is enjoying increases across a number of indicators that signal a rise in growth.

Rental income (+7.2%), total operating costs (+5.3%), total operating costs plus fixed expenses (+5.6%), and utility expenses (+2.4%) all rose in 2013 compared to the previous year, according the 2014 Experience Exchange Report ® (EER®), an annual benchmarking study by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) in collaboration with research firm Kingsley Associates.

Occupancy rates and operating hours were also up in 2013, while square footage per office worker declined. “These figures are in line with the industry-wide trend toward densification of office spaces and could explain increases in building expenses as more people occupy the same space for longer periods of time,” the release by BOMA says.

With occupancy and operating expenses on the rise, now could be a smart time for building managers to look for strategies to make their buildings more intelligent – and head off a continuous rise in operating expenses. People Counting  for buildings has become an increasingly crucial ally in the effort to reduce spending, especially from energy-hungry systems like HVAC and lighting.

The expense of managing a building can be measured by the cost per worker, per square foot. Reducing that cost requires an in-depth, multi-layered building analysis that enables overall and zone-specific changes. A People Counting system begins by analyzing utilization as a whole – the key to aligning operational efficiency with actual usage.

Next, because occupant distribution is not always spread evenly throughout a building, the system examines each individual floor. Identifying floors that are not fully occupied or utilized creates a more targeted map for optimization.

Finally, each floor is assessed at specific zones – down to individual rooms. By learning occupants’ behavior patterns, the system determines how frequently – and hence, effectively – HVAC and lighting systems are used. Analytics are compiled, and opportunities to decrease energy consumption are identified and changes implemented.

Optimized energy expenditures make buildings more attractive to potential tenants and reinforces the loyalty of current ones. People counters also provide constant intelligence about a facility’s changing environment – from evolving utilization patterns to the flow of workers – to ensure improvements are sustained.

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