As businesses look for new ways to satisfy today’s environmentally-conscious consumers, commercial real estate companies can add value by reducing their energy consumption and improving sustainability. This allows businesses to benefit from the sustainability of the buildings they occupy, showcasing their commitment to the environment.

Occupancy sensors offer an effective way to reduce building energy consumption without impacting the tenant experience. These smart devices detect the presence of people in a room and then adjust building systems that consume energy accordingly.

How do occupancy sensors work?

Occupancy sensors work by using a variety of sensing technologies to detect the presence of people in a given space. These sensors can detect motion, sound, heat, or infrared radiation to determine the occupancy status of a room. Once they detect a change in occupancy, they send a signal to a controller for a building system such as lighting or HVAC.

Where should they be placed?

Proper placement of occupancy sensors is critical for the optimal detection of occupants’ movements and for achieving energy savings. Here are some key factors to consider when deciding where to install them:

  • Room size: The number of sensors required depends on the room size.
  • Ceiling height: The installation height affects the range of the sensor.
  • Obstacles: Sensors should be positioned with a clear view and no obstructions.
  • Reflective surfaces: Mirrors and shiny surfaces can reflect infrared radiation, leading to inaccurate readings.
  • Room function: Sensors should be placed in areas with high traffic and activity.

How far do they reach?

The range of an occupancy sensor’s reach varies depending on the sensor type and location. Typically, occupancy sensors can detect movement within a range of 10-50 feet. Microwave sensors expand this range to up to 100 feet away.

Sensing technology

Depending on the type of occupancy sensor, the technology used for detecting occupancy varies. Here are a few of the most common types:

  • Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensors: Ideal for static spaced, passive infrared sensors use infrared radiation from objects to detect occupancy.
  • Ultrasonic Sensors: To detect motion, ultrasonic sensors emit sound waves and measure their reflections.
  • Microwave Sensors: These sensors emit microwave radiation to detect movement through walls making them suitable for large open spaces.
  • Dual-Technology Sensors: By combining PIR and ultrasonic technologies, these sensors improve accuracy in open spaces.


By automating building systems based on occupancy status, commercial real estate buildings can improve energy efficiency, reduce costs, and improve building safety. A few of the most common applications for occupancy sensors include:

  • Lighting Control: Occupancy sensors can automatically turn lights on and off based on the presence of people in a room.
  • HVAC Control: By detecting occupancy, sensors can adjust the temperature and ventilation of a room accordingly.
  • Security: Integrating occupancy sensors with security systems allow for the detection of unauthorized access or movement in restricted areas.

Different types of occupancy sensors

Occupancy sensors come in a variety of different types. Different kinds of sensors are categorized based on the technology used to detect occupancy. The main types of occupancy sensors include passive infrared sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and dual-technology sensors.

What is the difference between an occupancy sensor and a motion sensor?

While the terms “occupancy sensor” and “motion sensor” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.

An occupancy sensor is designed to detect the presence of people in a room or space. It works by measuring changes in infrared radiation, sound, or ultrasound. Once the sensor detects a change in the occupancy status of a room, it can alter building systems accordingly.

On the other hand, a motion sensor is designed to detect any movement within its range. It uses infrared technology to sense movement and then triggers an event based on that movement such as turning on lights or activating an alarm.

What about vacancy sensors?

Vacancy sensors differ from occupancy sensors in that they require users to manually turn the lights on when entering a room. Once a room becomes vacant, they automatically turn lights off or adjust other building systems. This reduces the chances of lights turning on due to false positives of an occupancy sensor.

Smart buildings and tenant analytics

Smart buildings equipped with occupancy sensors can provide valuable insights to building owners and managers. By integrating occupancy data with building automation systems, managers can more effectively optimize energy usage, improve space utilization, and enhance tenant comfort. It gives managers the information they need to adjust building systems based on the occupancy patterns of their tenants.

ProptechOS partners offer simple integration into the ProptechOS interface, making it easy for you to connect your smart building data, occupancy sensor data, and tenant analytics. This allows you to view all systems from a central dashboard as well as create automation between building systems.

Integration of occupancy sensors with building automation systems

By integrating occupancy sensors with building automation systems, the building can adjust lighting, temperature, and ventilation based on occupancy levels. This can result in significant energy savings and increased comfort for building occupants. Occupancy data can also be used to optimize building design and layout, such as identifying high-traffic areas or underutilized spaces.

How can sensors improve your CRE building?

Occupancy sensors are a cost-effective and efficient solution for managing energy consumption in commercial real estate buildings. They detect the presence of people and adjust building systems accordingly, leading to significant energy savings. They also help improve indoor air quality, increase occupant comfort, and enhance building security.

Using them to prove ROI

With the help of occupancy scanners, commercial real estate companies can prove ROI for events and other forms of revenue generation. They can provide valuable data insights that help optimize space usage and drive revenue. For example, event planners can use occupancy data to determine the optimal seating arrangement and capacity for different types of events. Property managers can use the data to identify underutilized spaces and rent them out for additional income.

How occupancy sensors contribute to energy savings and sustainability efforts

In commercial real estate buildings, occupancy sensors play an important role in reducing energy consumption and improving the sustainability of buildings. They enhance building efficiency by ensuring building systems that use energy only activate when needed by building occupants. This reduces waste significantly without impacting the tenant experience.To make the most of your occupancy sensors, connect them to your building systems with a building operating system. ProptechOS offers seamless integration with all of its partners as well as the features you need to optimize and automate all of your building systems. Try ProptechOS for free to see how a unified building operating system can help your commercial real estate properties thrive.