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What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on the development and use of intelligent buildings?

Data Centre Coronovirus Covid 19

Last week I conducted an audit of the headquarters building of a large county council. The purpose was to identify the location of a new computer room which would also house the building control systems. I might as well have done the audit on a Christmas morning as the place was so deserted. A few months ago they were strapped for space but for now I could have located the new computer room in the members’ debating chamber for all anybody would have noticed.

The question arises: how do we get everybody back? I predict that one third of office workers will never come back but what can smart building services do to persuade the other two thirds that want/have to come back to the office?

One of the answers is intelligent control of building ventilation. The UK has some of the most poorly ventilated buildings in the world and it’s clear to me that most building users have a hazy understanding anyway of the difference between air conditioning and ventilation. 

Before the Covid-19 epidemic there were many papers published on the effects of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds, VOC, build-up on the mental performance of workers and students. With coronavirus we now have extensive studies on the methods of transmission by droplets, 5-10 microns, and by the much less understood aerosols – i.e. anything smaller. The science now seems to suggest that the vast majority of infections arise indoors in poorly ventilated spaces or air conditioned spaces where the A/C just circulates the same air.

Building air-quality control, with air exchange rates exceeding ten litres per second per occupant and filtration to the EN ISO 16890 standard is the only way forward to make buildings attractive, habitable and commercially viable again. A few modern buildings do this already but this is an ideal opportunity to up the ‘intelligence’ of the existing building stock with comprehensive structured cabling and building management systems.