Achieve Optimal IAQ With Human-Centric Analytics

Smart building systems are revolutionizing the way we design, manage, and experience space. By grounding these systems in data focused on human needs and behavior, facilities managers can achieve spatial optimization that benefits both occupants and the bottom line.

By Erin McDannald


Smart building systems lean on IoT networks, artificial intelligence (AI), equipment sensors, and heat mapping to optimize spatial utilization and energy efficiency. Occupant-level data and controls can extend performance benefits to the occupants — the humans — themselves. The next generation of building management software gives facilities managers the ability to optimize their space and the wellness and engagement of the people within it simultaneously.

Shifting a space’s digital ecosystem to prioritize human-centric analytics and correlate occupancy data with climate controls can enable markedly better outcomes for businesses, schools, manufacturing facilities, and beyond. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is one of the most important and impactful ways that facilities managers can support positive change for both a business and its human force.

Human-centric analyticsHVAC Optimization

Heating and cooling can account for as much as half of an office space or manufacturing facility’s energy use, depending on the age of the building and the surrounding climate. As a result, HVAC optimization is often the place facilities managers look when aiming to reduce the cost of power consumption. Smart thermostat controls can help facilities managers remotely monitor and adjust indoor temperatures to reduce unnecessary energy consumption in real time. When tied to a broader energy management system, these controls can help optimize the production, consumption, and storage of energy to support sustainability and efficiency while reducing costs.Human-centric analytics

This process, while certainly a step in the right direction, only represents the baseline of potential. More than just a number on the thermostat, air inside a conference room or classroom not only has implications for comfort but also for occupant health and mental acuity. Particularly in the wake of the pandemic, the expectations and standards for IAQ have risen substantially.

Filtering or managing total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) and CO2 levels circulating within a space is one of the most effective ways to promote and maintain air quality — and it’s critical to ensuring a healthy and productive working or learning environment. Standard HVAC systems, however, don’t measure or mitigate either pollutant. TVOCs must stay below 500 parts per billion (PPB) and CO2 levels under 800 parts per million (PPM) to reduce the potential for fatigue, headaches, and discomfort.

For example, suppose it’s a temperate Spring day in a factory setting. The smart thermostat reading tells the system that the indoor temperature is comfortable and switches off the introduction of outside air. A good song comes on the radio, workers start singing and laughing, exhaling CO2. As circulating levels increase, so too does the potential for mistakes both minor and tragic. Depending on the goods being manufactured, there may already be existing pollutants in the air, further increasing the threat to worker safety.

Clean air promotes healthy brain activity, which can enhance team collaboration and productivity, or student test scores. Clean air also helps to reduce infectious disease transmission, resulting in fewer employee and student sick days. All these things contribute to greater market competitiveness — people perform better, because the space supports them better. By only looking at energy-focused building controls, facilities managers overlook a key opportunity to more intelligently optimize consumption in a way that meaningfully benefits occupants and ultimately the business or institution at large.

Human-Centric Technology

Human-centric analyticsOperating with human-centric technology and practices allows a space’s stakeholders to holistically understand their business and environmental functions from the inside out, supporting informed decisions from one corner of the organization to the next.

Going beyond leadership and stakeholders, human-centric building systems also reach the end-user through personalized controls and workplace interaction features from desk booking to security. With a strong network of smart building technology in place, facilities managers are empowered to run the building and business based on its specific analytics, patterns, or even optimization plans. An environment built to measure itself down to the human level removes guesswork and can protect from the costs of excess resource usage: use occupant behavior patterns to understand which rooms need more HVAC turnover, when and where lighting can be dimmed or shut off, etc.

Monitoring and maintaining IAQ is just one of the many ways that the next generation of building management software looks beyond standard controls to create fine-tuned workspaces, factories, and schools. The benefits of human-centric analytics can be applied to light, sound, spatial utilization, and so much more. Tapping into these synergies between people, technology, and data can unlock the potential for unprecedented real estate ROI and economic value, which has never been more important than in today’s increasingly hybrid world.

Erin McDannaldErin McDannald is the CEO and co-owner of Lighting Environments and its sister companies, Elevated, and Environments. Elevated, a proprietary building management application, grants users unmatched access and awareness of their built environments. Elevated’s all-in-one interface supports interactive, engaging spaces and supports real estate ROI.

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