In the world of commercial real estate, the pulse of a building is determined by the dynamic interactions of its occupants. From tenants to workers, customers, and property managers, each individual brings unique needs and impacts to the building’s environment and operation. Understanding these needs, predicting them, and responding to them in real time can help create a better environment for all occupants.

Who are the occupants of a building?

In commercial real estate, building occupants are more than just those who work or reside within a property. They encompass a wide range of individuals, including tenants, workers, customers, and property managers — each with unique needs and impacts on the building’s environment and operation.

For example, tenants need comfortable spaces that promote productivity, while customers look for an inviting atmosphere. On the other hand, property managers strive to balance all needs while maintaining operational efficiency.

Role and impact of your occupants

Occupants play a pivotal role in building operations. Their activities and usage patterns directly affect the building’s performance and efficiency. For instance, high foot traffic during peak hours can increase wear and tear on facilities, requiring more frequent maintenance. Additionally, occupants’ energy use habits can influence the building’s overall energy consumption. For office buildings, occupant behavior represents an opportunity to conserve as much as 41% of a building’s energy use.

Why understanding occupant behavior is essential

Understanding occupant behavior is crucial for effective building management. Occupant behavior encompasses how individuals utilize the space and interact with building systems. This knowledge can inform building and space management decisions, such as when to schedule maintenance or how to improve energy efficiency. Managers can enhance building performance and occupant satisfaction by aligning operations with occupant behavior.

Occupant comfort and well-being

Ensuring the comfort and well-being of occupants is a critical aspect of commercial building management. A well-maintained, comfortable environment is more likely to retain existing tenants and attract new ones, increasing the profitability and value of the property.

How to create a healthy indoor environment

A healthy indoor environment is a critical aspect of occupant well-being. The factors that contribute to a healthy indoor environment include:

  • Indoor air quality: Poor air quality can lead to health issues such as allergies, asthma, and respiratory conditions. Maintaining high indoor air quality includes ensuring proper ventilation, regular HVAC system maintenance, and using low-VOC materials.
  • Natural light: Exposure to natural light improves mood, alertness, and sleep quality. Building designs should maximize natural light while providing options for controlling excessive light and glare.
  • Noise control: Excessive noise can cause stress, disrupt concentration, and decrease productivity. Incorporating acoustic design principles and using noise-reducing materials can help manage noise levels.
  • Temperature and humidity control: Maintaining comfortable temperature and humidity levels helps prevent health issues such as dry skin and respiratory problems. Efficient HVAC systems can help maintain these conditions while conserving energy.
  • Ergonomic design: Providing ergonomic workspaces can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and increase comfort. This includes adjustable chairs and desks, proper monitor height, and keyboard placement.
  • Access to amenities: Amenities such as fitness centers, cafeterias, and outdoor spaces can improve occupant well-being and satisfaction.

Impact on costs, energy consumption, and sustainability

Comfortable, healthy occupants are more productive and less likely to take sick days, leading to higher profit margins for businesses operating within the building. Advertising this can help you attract higher-paying tenants and support your current tenants in running successful companies.

Many strategies to improve occupant comfort and well-being reduce a building’s energy consumption. For example, smart lighting systems can improve occupant comfort by illuminating spaces appropriately based on current natural light. This also reduces the energy consumed by artificial lighting.

One aspect of sustainability revolves around keeping humans healthy. Maintaining an indoor environment for your occupants that promotes their health and well-being can contribute to building a more sustainable future. It can also earn your building credit toward sustainability certifications such as LEED and WELL. These certifications further increase your building’s marketability and value.

Strategies for enhancing tenant experience

Providing a high-quality tenant experience can help reduce the turnover rate at your commercial buildings, improving their profitability. Here are a few strategies you can use to enhance the experience of your tenants:

  • Responsive management: Be responsive to tenant needs and requests. Quick and effective responses to maintenance issues can greatly enhance tenant satisfaction.
  • Community building: Foster a sense of community among tenants. This could be through regular social events, shared spaces encouraging interaction, or digital platforms facilitating tenant communication.
  • Regular communication: Maintain regular, transparent communication with your tenants. Whether it’s about upcoming building works, changes in management, or updates on amenity availability, keeping tenants informed helps build trust and satisfaction.
  • Maintain a clean environment: Regular cleaning services are essential for maintaining a healthy, comfortable environment. A clean building can enhance tenant satisfaction and contribute to overall tenant well-being.

The interaction between building occupants and building systems

Building systems such as HVAC, lighting, and security systems significantly influence the comfort and satisfaction of building occupants. Efficient HVAC systems ensure optimal temperatures, while good lighting improves visibility and safety. By fine-tuning these systems based on occupant preferences and usage patterns, building managers can substantially enhance the tenant experience.

Leveraging technology to understand occupants

With the help of modern technology, building owners can gather data to gain insights into occupant behavior, preferences, and needs. This enables data-based decision-making, allowing you to create better experiences for your occupants. A few key technologies include:

  • Occupancy sensors: Using occupancy sensors, facility managers can track how spaces in the building are used, helping to optimize cleaning schedules, energy usage, and space utilization.
  • Building management systems (BMS): A BMS organizes data on temperature and light levels. With this data collected, facility managers can make informed decisions to improve environmental conditions and energy efficiency.
  • Mobile apps: Apps can provide a direct communication channel between building managers and occupants, offering insights into occupant needs and preferences.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices: IoT devices collect extensive data about the building and its occupants, guiding strategies to improve the occupant experience.
  • Data analytics: Advanced analytics can interpret collected data and uncover patterns and trends to help make predictive decisions and proactively tackle issues.

How real-time data improves building management

Real-time data is transforming the way buildings are managed. Its immediate and precise nature allows managers to adapt to rapid changes and anticipate potential issues. Whether adjusting to shifts in temperature as the sun moves or catching a sudden drop in a room’s comfort level, real-time data ensures these changes don’t go unnoticed.

Managers receive instant alerts, enabling timely adjustments to maintain optimal conditions. Simultaneously, continually monitoring building systems with real-time data allows potential problems to be identified and addressed preemptively, minimizing downtime, saving resources, and enhancing the occupant experience.

To fully use your building’s real-time data, all systems need a unified platform to connect data sources. This enables a holistic view of a building’s current state, allowing facility managers complete insight into building systems and how they interact.

You can connect your building’s real-time data sources with ProptechOS as your building’s operating system. It unifies Proptech solutions and integrates data sources with the RealEstateCore schemas to centralize all data and building technology on the ProptechOS platform. Try ProptechOS for free today to see how unifying your building’s real-time data can help you create a better experience for your occupants.

Dr. Erik Wallin

Chief Ecosystem Officer, and founder of ProptechOS and RealEstateCore is recognized as a leader in Building Operating Systems (BOS) and making the buildings of the world smarter. He holds an MSc and a Ph.D. in Media and Computer Science from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

Read his full bio and information here.