Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position. Please refer to official GRESB documents for assessment related guidance.
Everyone agrees that an image is worth 1,000 words. In his book ‘Information Visualization’, Colin Ware states: “The eye and the visual cortex of the brain form a massive parallel processor that provides the highest-bandwidth channel into human cognitive centers.” With the human visual system processing more information than all other senses combined, visuals can be deciphered by the brain much quicker than written information. Hence, meaningful data visualization has a very important role to play when it comes to analyzing thousands of data points from hundreds of data sources such as meters or sensors in multiple buildings.
Proptech solutions have various degrees of providing insightful visualization options to users. For example, the Analytics modules in Fabriq OS give people the opportunity to configure their reports in a variety of chart types – including bars, lines, heatmaps and scatter plots – through a fully dynamic and highly responsive interface.
While the above-mentioned chart options work well for energy managers and sustainability professionals, we are seeing a greater demand from facility managers and/or occupiers. Particularly, when it comes to spatial analysis of consumption patterns in relation to utilization or occupancy metrics in large and complex buildings where space utilization maps can say more than 1,000 bar charts.
Trends and transformation
There is a vast spectrum of opportunities for using space utilization maps, including but not limited to energy tracking, carbon footprinting, identification of hotspots in large and complex areas (e.g. overcrowding), company benchmarking to surface insights, gamification to engage teams across large commercial sites or automatic alerting with visual evidence linked to sustainability metrics such as air quality, energy consumption, etc.
One transformative use case is that of using space utilization mapping technology with aggregate parameters instead of direct readings, say kWh/m2 normalized for temperature, or air quality correlated with occupancy and energy consumption of the HVAC system to calibrate health and well-being initiatives and make them better suited for the variety of employees’ work practices.
As emerging trends, we have identified a range of use cases for different types of stakeholder engagement:
Facility managers deploy space utilization visualization for a specific floor in a building to identify area usage over time, which enables opportunities for reducing energy consumption based on utilization;
Office managers receive notifications on their mobile that the air quality in a certain area of the building is above the recommended limits, and then brings up space utilization module to visually identify the area, the magnitude of the problem and potential issues in adjacent areas (after which they notify staff in the area and alert the building manager to increase fresh air supply);
Occupiers find productive meeting rooms or quiet break-out areas quickly via digital screens in public places (e.g. at reception or at floor level) which show areas with low staff density or good air quality.
Last, but not least and certainly most topical, Owners can access occupancy levels within their real estate portfolio to understand if they can release/increase capacity at short notice in a crisis. For example, CBRE is actively working with the NHS across the UK to satisfy their immediate need for additional premises and parking facilities amid the Covid-19 health crisis.
Closing the Loop (Or Wheel, As It Were)
Space utilization technology is here to stay because it plays such a key role in connecting the “backend” of operational building management, i.e. data collection, validation and analysis, with the “frontend” in the sense of the end users in the building. These solutions can serve as the missing link between facility managers and building operators on the one hand and occupiers on the other.
The owner – operator – occupier divide is still very real, however with the rise of un(for)seen systemic challenges i.e. pandemic outbreaks, unprecedented environmental stresses, all businesses need to re-think the way they manage their real estate assets beyond their business continuity planning exercises.
Owners, operators and occupiers alike must find that fine balance between responsible and sustainable resource utilization (energy, water, waste, CO2) supportive of people’s well-being and productivity just as much as individuals will have to become mindful of the impact their daily choices have on the environment.
And the transparency brought by the space mapping technology will certainly help achieve that fine balance.
This article was writtten by Oana Neumayer, CMO at Fabriq