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Will COVID-19 shift building technology ROI to focus on human capital?

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Brian Turner

With personal health clearly at the top of everyone’s mind today, the question we face in the buildings industry is will this translate into a paradigm shift for property managers and owners? 

Until now, in the United States, it has been rare to see anything but the highest-end Class-A buildings or healthcare facilities invest to create and monitor a healthy building

Even in these advanced buildings, expenses are closely managed and dollars are spent only where necessary because bottom-line ROI has always been a primary driver for investment.

To look for buildings that took health a step further and showed occupants key metrics like air quality was to search for a unicorn at a dog and pony show. Will COVID-19 shift the ROI discussion toward protecting the health of the human capital that occupies our buildings?  

As in so many industries across the world, for building management, the long tail of this pandemic will likely prove to flip the conventional ROI equation on its head. We are watching to see if these new health fears drive demand for data-driven changes within the built environment or if we as property owners, managers, tenants and building occupants will be comfortable with status quo. 

We don’t mean to suggest that issues of too-close quarters, stale recycled air or un-sanitized common areas haven’t been on the minds of property owners – they have. When you were allowed to co-mingle with the outside world you surely came in contact with your share of motion-activated sink faucets, sliding doors and light fixtures; touchless toilets and paper-towel dispensers. But those technologies rarely make it out of the bathroom in high-end shopping centers or commercial office space. In 2012 (the most recent count we could find, from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there were roughly 5.6 million buildings in the United States. That is a lot of doorknobs, light switches and HVAC filters 

The opportunity here for all of us in the buildings industry is to focus on how we can help people feel safe re-entering the world. The technology that can enable this, which we’ve been exploring in a series of blog articles on occupancy sensors, air quality monitoring and industry guidance, is coming of age and while it may not have been cost-effective to explore in the past, the rules of this game have changedThe value of human life has been on display over these past six weeks as governments try desperately to balance public health with economic activity. As public health priorities continue to outweigh capitalism, the ROI discussion for building technology must evolve too.  

There is no silver bullet that is going to make this new world any easier, or less expensive, to navigate, but the silver lining is that we’re all in the same boat and if we work together, that boat won’t be sinking forever.  

Please reach out today to discuss your thoughts, ideas and concerns. We have a lot of ideas on how we can provide the information you need to make everyone feel secure the building air is clean and the social distancing requirements are being met. Together we can help your building return to “normal” and prepare for the new reality that is beginning to take shape around the world.  Call us at (888) 684-8454, send us an email to or fill in the form found here and we can work together to create a safe environment that your occupants will feel safe returning to.

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