The role of property owners or facility management in the task of building cleaning and maintenance has been in a constant state of fluctuation for the last year-and-a-half. Not only did they have to reinvent their role in what they do in a day, but they’ve had to rethink old safety and maintenance methods. Property owners and facility managers have had no choice but to dive wholeheartedly into new protocols that embrace the current crisis today and into the future.
The pandemic has unveiled cracks in the system. The old way of doing things has broken down under the pressure of an invisible threat that commands attention and pushes aside any attempts to provide “business as usual.” The world has irreversibly and maybe even forever changed for property owners and facility management, in that traditional cleaning of buildings has metamorphosed into cleaning for the health and safety of occupants more frequently than ever before.
A new agenda for change has emerged wherein cleaning and disinfecting with a focus on infection control is the new way of doing things. Building ownership and facility management has had to assess risk like never before and change their procedures and processes for cleaning and disinfecting, as well as their occupational health and safety requirements for business/building continuity. Their budgets have also been analyzed and changed to further accommodate workspace and workplace safety, and the necessary transition from outdated operation models to allow for the hiring of more cleaning, maintenance, and security staff.
Cleaning crews have been thrust into the mindset of stringent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch services, tighter restroom care, and new standards of hygiene. Maintenance personnel are observing best practices for HVAC and forced-air systems, while security teams are on heightened alert for large gatherings, lack of physical distancing and possible aggression.
Getting back on track with surveillance
Elevated cleaning, disinfecting, maintenance, and security standards can be further optimized with technology. More than 50 per cent of companies plan to increase investment in building technology to protect the health and safety of occupants. There are various phases of business reopening going on across the country. The government is trying to get people back to work and the economy back on track.
So how can facilities do that and take advantage of the technology that’s out there today?
There are four different technology sets that could be helpful for facility management in today’s building sanitation and safety efforts. They comprise of getting creative and using existing solutions that we have available to us today, as well as technologies that are developing as we speak for tomorrow’s challenges.
1- Occupancy estimator
Occupancy management is very prevalent in retail, healthcare, and banking building settings. We have multiple solutions today that allow for occupancy management and then the generation of data for the end customer.
Occupancy management makes it easier to follow physical distancing restrictions by not allowing too many people in one place at the same time. It also helps with cleaning and determining which locations need to be cleaned and when via people-counting – understanding the number of people entering or exiting a facility or a room. Look at washrooms and how often they need to be cleaned. Facilities can mount cameras with people-counters nearby to trigger messages to cleaning staff. Data on usage and sanitation from the cameras can then be collected, analyzed, and tied into an appropriate cleaning schedule.
With an occupancy estimator, facility management and owners can keep track of how many people and staff are in spaces, determine high-traffic times, and get real-time alerts when cleaning is required. Consider something like an occupancy estimator: a tool for occupancy management analytics. It’s a three-part solution that entails a camera as a sensor, the occupancy estimator analytic, and a trigger: for example, how many people have entered and exited the washroom, and what trigger could be set up to counteract that action.
2- Low-touch access control with face detection
Door stations or systems for touchless access control, along with face detection, make it easier to comply with increased hygiene requirements. In this case, there’s no need to touch a call button or use a potentially unsanitized guest fob. Network door stations notify the building when someone is at a door. They combine video surveillance, two-way communication, and contactless remote entry based on a QR code, wave sensors (where you wave your hand to get buzzed in), or facial recognition, which also minimizes high-touch door handles.
3- Audio alerts and live public announcements
Facility owners and managers can improve communications with occupants and cleaning staff with the use of IP speakers. Combined with existing surveillance cameras, these provide a comprehensive and easy-fit solution for communicating health, safety, and cleaning protocols via a complete public address system that quickly, clearly, and automatically can be utilized based on a building’s specific requirements.
Other than live and pre-recorded announcements/alerts, audio solutions can help:
- Keep occupants informed with public announcements of when to stay out of a specific room until it’s been cleaned and sanitized, or alert them to how many people are allowed in a room. A speaker near a washroom can play a message saying “please do not enter the washroom as it’s being disinfected; please wait until further notice. You may use the washroom at XX entrance instead.” This then gives cleaners the time to properly clean the washroom without anyone entering it.
- Keep cleaning staff in various locations within the building informed with announcements of when a room needs to be cleaned and sanitized with real-time and scheduled pre-recorded messaging alerts, and help customize different cleaning schedules depending on the room.
- Improve occupant and employee confidence and safety with the use of IP audio. When occupants hear messaging around cleaning and disinfecting measures, they’ll feel more comfortable working in the building knowing that someone is setting off the audio announcement. Meanwhile, building owners, facility management, and cleaning staff will feel like they are on top on things.
4- Remote communication
It’s easier than ever before for facility owners and managers to access their buildings and avoid unnecessary visits to them with remote services. They can look into their cleaning and disinfecting efforts and communicate with staff in any of their facilities, using remote connection, planning, and device management. Most facilities already have a surveillance system of some kind, and owners and managers can ask integrators or manufacturers for case management examples of how they can use what they currently have and optimize it for the new normal.
Aside from improving the system they have, they can consider linking every building system to gather collective information/monitor their sanitation efforts all from one main control board system. They can design a surveillance system, connect to remote cameras, upgrade firmware or renew certificates, and manage all devices from any location.
Scalability is key to long-term benefits
Gavin Daly is the Architect and Engineering Manager (A&E) at Axis Communications, Inc.,