COVID-19 and the way forward for the building automation industry

Thinking about our new normal, and how buildings can evolve to help keep us safe and secure
Covid-19 and the BAS industry

By Pook-Ping Yao, CEO, Optigo Networks

What a time it’s been. We’re a few months into what could be a year — or more — of the new normal. I’ve enjoyed seeing more of my wife and kids, eating daily lunches together and exploring our board game collection. 

But we’re also learning to cope in a world where a simple visit to the grocery store isn’t so simple anymore. Masks and physical distancing are important protections, if (at times) unsettling reminders that we aren’t out of the woods yet.  

I keep thinking about how different our indoor spaces feel these days. I’ve long talked about how four walls and a roof can give us a sense of security. They’re a barrier to the potential threats of the outside world. 

Now, we’re being advised to socialize with “few faces, [in] big spaces.” And the great indoors feels like the real danger, with microscopic threats we can’t identify and avoid. 

This feeling might be inevitable until a vaccine is widely available, of course. A while ago, I asked my staff when they thought they’d be travelling or going out to restaurants again. They talked about different precautions, like limits on airplane seat sales to allow for physical distancing, or restaurants having outdoor patios and proper ventilation. Everyone said their return to full normalcy was contingent upon vaccinations. 

Until that day comes, though, how can we make indoors in the public space safer? 

A lot of folks are returning to work these days. Again, masks and physical distancing are sure to remain standard practice for the foreseeable future. But I’m certain that the building technology industry can also help provide protections for the people who live, work, and play in the buildings we help design, develop, and maintain.

I recently watched a fantastic interview on CNN with Honeywell CEO Darius Adamczyk. Adamczyk discussed how building technology solutions will contribute to safer spaces as folks return to commercial buildings. 

There’s monitoring indoor air quality and air flow, which of course is directly related to BAS. Intelligent technology can also check whether people are wearing their Personal Protective Equipment, or scan body temperature to ensure no one’s running a fever. The technology being created today is incredible, and it could do amazing things for securing indoor spaces against the invisible threat of COVID-19. 

I’d urge you to watch Adamczyk’s interview for his full take on BAS and the virus. It certainly got me thinking more about how our buildings will adapt to this new world, more immediately and well into the future. 

Maybe sensors will be widely installed, to further reduce the number of surfaces we physically interact with. Adamczyk mentioned UV light can be used to treat and purify air: perhaps germicidal UV light will become commonplace in our HVAC systems. Those are just a few innovations that exist today. What other new inventions will help pandemic-proof our commercial buildings? 

As we slowly expand our bubbles to include some public spaces, four walls and a roof might feel different for a while yet. It will take some time and effort to make the indoors feel “normal” again, but I know our buildings can adapt to keep us safe and secure.

Article originally published in Automated Buildings

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