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Managing real estate in times of crisis: How to adjust unoccupied buildings remotely

COVID-19 real estate global crisis

In part 2 of this blog series discussing smart building tech’s role in times of crisis, we explained why remote building analysis, reporting and control are absolutely crucial during a global emergency.

Approximately a third of the world’s population is currently under lockdown, and businesses are being forced to reconsider the resilience of their processes. Every day we hear that property owners and managers worldwide are doing the same as cancelled leases and a faltering market demand continue to put pressure on the global real estate industry. With so many CRE professionals being made to work from home or not at all, the value of a robust digital facilities management strategy has never been more clear. 

We rounded up Switch Engineers’ thoughts on how to oversee buildings remotely without having to step foot into your building. Below are 10 practical and agile steps to adapt your building operations for sites that have reduced or no occupancy with the Switch Platform:

  1. Clearly identify the changes needed to building operations, such as designating areas that are closed vs. operating, or areas that contain sensitive materials that need to be maintained at specific temperatures. Ideally this list is shared with everyone on your team. Within the Switch Platform you can create and share a Workspace or upload operational details to the Document Library to communicate with your team.
  2. Verify that outdoor air dampers are closed or operating as needed.  
  3. Make sure your HVAC systems and lighting are turned off or set back to the largest degree that is appropriate. 
  4. To maintain the integrity of your equipment, exercise your equipment every week. Just like emergency generators are routinely ran in non-emergencies to verify they will operate when needed, consider operations at various intervals for building equipment (for example modulate dampers and valves weekly, or run fans and pumps bi-weekly). 
  5. Adjust central air and hydronic plants to cycle on with at least 5 zones out of setpoint. Many buildings have a high-need zone, in which the air handling units and respective hydronic systems will quickly cycle on to meet this one need. Even with reduced setpoints, this high-need zone will likely trigger operation. Yet when unoccupied, these needs are less critical, so increasing the number of zones that need heating and / or cooling before system operation should reduce cycling and energy consumption.  
  6. With reduced setpoints and milder temperature season approaching, many climate zones economizers can save even more energy. Verify your airside and waterside economizer controls are working properly. 
  7. Verify the changes needed have been made. Within the Switch Platform, Site Analysis can be used to view current and past operations. 
  8. Use Alerts to notify your team if operational changes may have drifted.  
  9. Consider controlling your buildings remotely with the Switch Platform, if the needed changes haven’t been made.
  10. Consider what repairs or maintenance can safely be attended to while the buildings are empty and less likely to interrupt business. Track any repairs or maintenance, whether it can take place now or months from now in the Switch Events tool. Be sure to tag all relevant parties, to keep your team aligned. 

Please reach out if we can help in anyway — we’re here to ensure you can remotely monitor, manage and optimize your buildings. Stay tuned for more resources on how to maintain occupied real estate during times of crisis. 

Talk to an expert about how our industry-leading smart building platform helps building owners and operators save energy, create digital FM jobs and reduce operating costs.

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