Why workplace designers use occupancy sensors

Author Yodit Stanton

Published on September 2018

Reading time: 4 minutes
Workspace designers and facility teams are turning to occupancy sensors to gather utilisation data over manual surveys to better understand how office spaces are being used. 

Growing demand for data driven workspace design

The growing need for data driven workspace design has led many workplace consultants turning to IoT technology to address the needs of owners, facilities managers and building tenants.
Smart building technology such as desk and meeting room sensors, capture real time occupancy data that provide designers with a detailed understanding of how people are using space vs. gut feel on building performance.
With real time data, they can make smarter decisions about real estate, cut costs, plan capacity and get a complete picture of occupancy.

A game changer for the industry

As today's workforce is rapidly changing with people being more connected than ever before, most companies are adapting work practices to agile working but the challenge still remains 'how much space do I need and how do I reduce cost wastage?'. The use of occupancy sensors to track utilisation rates are giving workplace designers the flexibility to:
  • Win more deals both for new development or refit of iconic buildings
  • Help lower resource cost needed to track occupancy over manual surveys
  • Give real time occupancy information to facility managers and tenants
  • Combine private data with public data for a complete picture of usage
  • Understand the impacts of environmental factors to wellness

Sensors are replacing manual work

The deployment and maintenance of smart IoT sensors have become a cheaper alternative to manual occupancy questionnaires and surveys.
Sensors provide higher sampling rates of anywhere between once every few seconds to once every 30 mins.
Data can be correlated with information from Building Management Systems (BMS) to provide richer context and considerably more insight than manual surveys. Common interfaces include BACnet, KNX and other major systems.
Data collated from sensors can be combined with private building data as well as public data like outdoor pollution.

How does it work?

At OpenSensors we’ve built hardware, installation and network provider partnerships to help architectural firms implement smart IoT devices efficiently.
Our experience shows most successful IoT projects follow a 4 step phased implementation approach:
  • Design phase - The first step is to explore what type of sensors are needed, what is available in the market and who will be installing and maintaining them.
  • Proof of concept - To have enough real data to verify queries and that the analytics are feasible, a lab evaluation should include connecting up to 5-8 sensors all the way through a gateway to data collection in the cloud. 
  • Pilot - A pilot phase should include up to 40 sensors depending on the density of the sensors, to ensure the sensors work at scale and that the gateway configuration has been made easy for the deployment specialists. 
  • Deployment - By this point, you will be able to scale up to the number of sensors and the bandwidth required for full deployment.

Practical examples

Heat maps and sensors can help define predictable patterns of usage including peak demand for:
  • Desks – capture real time information of desks that are in use and those that are available.
  • Conference and meeting rooms – have oversight of whether you have the appropriate amount of meeting rooms and whether they are of the right size.
  • Break rooms – understand where tenants/employees tend to go and hang out as well as whether they over or under utilised to help plan future redesigns. 
  • Corridors and hallways (footfall monitors) – monitors paths through the offices or building to track trends as to why some are more used than others.

Enabling smart buildings

Tracking occupancy utilisation is a new way that aid in pitching for new work in a world where people are aware of sensors and how they can drive revenue. Businesses who have technology capabilities have adopted data driven design methods which is replacing gut feel.

Emerging areas of practice

Using data enables more accurate planning and by making it available to occupants, you enable them to both change their behaviour and allow them real time insights and finer customisation.

Want to find out more on how to increase workspace utilisation?

Learn more about how to get a complete picture of workspace occupancy in this short webcast on 5 ways to increase desk utilisation or contact us to speak to our team.

Get in touch

Topics: Facilities & Workplace trends, Measuring space occupancy, Workplace technology

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