Space Utilization: How to Overcome Shifting Demands in Multifamily and Commercial Buildings
Shared spaces have always been challenging to manage. Whether multifamily residential or commercial, the most consequential decision centers around how best to control HVAC systems. Because poorly optimized HVAC systems waste energy, and in turn, money, they’re the priority when it comes time to improve building performance and sustainability.
The disadvantage with past technologies is that they operated on limited information. Either a timer that only assumed when areas were in use or sensors that didn’t quickly update. No historical solution considered influential outside factors, like weather patterns.
Even though we’ve moved past the days when operating based on a single point of data is the sole option, most buildings are still operating that way. The majority of multifamily and commercial buildings are plagued by subpar system setups that can’t stand up to current and future demands. Fully understanding the obstacles large buildings face is the first step to overcoming poor space utilization.
Multifamily Buildings Look to Meet Increased Residential Needs Without Waste
Even before the world experienced capacity restrictions, multifamily buildings faced the challenges of properly managing shared spaces in a way that serves everyone. But now that the entire population has shifted to staying close to home, the challenge has compounded.
Residents that used to go to outside gyms have started taking advantage of on-premise workout centers. And instead of having parties at restaurants, they might choose to use the multi-purpose room in the building.
Multifamily buildings have to find a solution that meets the needs of the residents while getting the most out of each space and keeping everyone safe. Because, at this point, refining HVAC usage is about more than temperature control. Air quality control is equally important to create healthy spaces.
Poor air quality exacerbates the risk of contracting COVID-19 from indoor areas. Stagnant air allows particles to linger, so the EPA recommends increasing ventilation during periods of use to mitigate some risk of spreading infection.
With no predictable schedule of when residents will be using shared spaces, HVAC systems are forced to run about 80-90% of the time to meet demand — even when using a timer. Fortunately, computer vision provides a superior solution.
Computer vision provides accurate, real-time data, so HVAC systems are only triggered when spaces are in use. For large areas with sporadic usage, data-triggered systems reduce wasted energy outputs significantly.
In fact, when Greystar tested our data-driven system in one of their common areas, they were able to reduce the run time of their HVAC system by more than 50%. The conservation of energy allows for a decrease in heating and cooling costs and a reduction in carbon emissions, which is a considerable obstacle for large buildings.
However, multifamily residential units aren’t the only buildings struggling to keep up with increasing energy costs and unclear utilization of shared spaces.
Hybrid Work Environments Put a Strain on Commercial Building Management
When professionals moved their offices into their living rooms and meetings went virtual, commercial buildings went from being the epicenter of business activity to an excess of unused space. The unpredictability brought space utilization issues that were previously pushed off as a secondary concern to the forefront.
The HVACInformed.com recent article explains; “Considering occupancy, when addressing HVAC needs, is an especially timely approach, given that building schedules are less predictable now, since the COVID-19 pandemic changed work patterns, possibly forever. ‘Hybrid’ work arrangements mean employees could be working or not, at various times of the day or night, no longer adhering to the traditional 9 am to 5 pm workday.”
Space management isn’t a problem that’s going to go away on its own. A survey of American workers found that 68% want to continue to work remotely — at least partially. Hybrid environments give employees the best of both worlds, but what does that mean for commercial buildings?
Businesses still need offices where employees can come together as work requires, but that aren’t siphoning limited resources. Fortunately, commercial buildings don’t have to become a deficit with the right systems in place.
Commercial spaces need solutions to current issues that 1) reduce wasted resources and 2) adapt to future conditions. Businesses need to feel confident that their investment in technologies will meet their current needs and that they won’t become almost immediately obsolete by slight changes.
As an industry leader, McKinstry aims to be net-carbon zero by 2040. McKinstry enlisted Nomad Go’s assistance to work toward its goal. By integrating our computer vision with the building’s HVAC system, there was a 38% reduction in energy use and emissions— moving the business closer to its carbon neutral goal. Equally important, though, is how gathering data impacts the bottom line.
A Custom System: At What Cost?
Computer vision allows the HVAC system in place to be converted into a custom solution. By pulling not only occupancy data, but data on weather, air quality, occupant feedback, and more, the system meets each building’s unique demands, even when those demands are a constantly moving target.
The system provides data through easy-to-evaluate dashboards, and decision makers can set up alerts for pivotal information like overcrowding of a shared space to improve space and resource utilization moving forward.
A custom setup has historically had a high price point, but not with the latest technology solutions that utilize smartphone computer vision and AI. Nomad Go AI leads the building sustainability revolution by utilizing AI that can operate on standard smart devices, no fancy equipment is required, which results in substantial savings, easier setup and better monitoring.
Even if you don’t have smart devices to deploy the technology, Nomad Go has partnered with Microsoft and Sony to implement the visual intelligence solution through highly effective but low cost sensors on existing equipment. Because the technology isn’t dependent on new hardware, it can continue to advance over time without additional investment. Ultimately, costs are related to square footage, not specialty equipment or system upgrades.
The pressure for more efficient building systems that reduce energy waste will continue to grow, and ideally, these systems can continue to be refined over time as data accumulates. With the power of computer vision and AI, large multifamily and commercial buildings can significantly reduce energy waste and costs – along with emissions – resulting in the ultimate all-around solution.