How the built environment can support hybrid working

24th January 2024

In just a few short years, we have seen an epic migration of workers from purpose built, multi-tenancy commercial buildings, to spare rooms and home offices.

‘Hybrid working’ – a flexible working model combining remote and workplace-based employment that has risen in popularity since 2020 – has become increasing ingrained in our culture. Commenting on research that suggested that less than 30% of companies expect their workforce to be fully in-person over the next five years, British Chamber of Commerce deputy director, Jane Gratton, said that “hybrid working is now part of the fabric of the modern workplace”.

Businesses must prioritise flexible working, according to business management consultant, Gartner, which placed hybrid working in its top nine workplace predictions that should be addresses by businesses in 2024, alongside other key concerns including artificial intelligence and climate change.

As organisations adapt their employment models to enhance productivity, compete for new talent and improve retention, the built environment must also evolve.

Flexible work, flexible buildings

When buildings are at peak capacity, water systems are in constant use and harmful bacteria has little chance to take-hold. With fewer people and reduced usage, water systems can become a breeding ground for pathogens if maintenance regimes are not upheld, adjusted and in some cases increased to meet the change of usage.

Manual flushing, even if carried out on a regular basis, does not replicate normal usage in a large commercial building. Water will stagnate and debris will build up in the system. Deposits such as sludge, rust or biofilm provide essential nutrients required for microbial growth, while also creating pockets for legionella and other bacteria to collect and breed.

Additionally, corrosion causes huge problems in closed circuit water systems leading to inefficiencies and high costs, increased maintenance and expensive repairs, and even system breakdown.

How can FMs adapt to hybrid working?

Prevention is always better – and more cost effective – than cure. Reduction in occupancy does not go hand in hand with less frequent maintenance requirements, quite the opposite. Special care must be taken during periods of change with increased monitoring to ensure building are safe and efficient, and that interventions are having the desire effect.

Here are 5 things Facilities Managers can do to prepare commercial buildings for changes in occupancy and use:

  1. Take a data-driven approach – Traditional methods of sampling have been replaced by remote monitoring technology, which continuously monitors key parameters in closed circuit water systems, taking readings every 15 minutes, 24/7. We use market leader, Hevasure, which keeps corrosion at bay by checking water condition for changes that could lead to system fouling and degradation, enabling instantaneous interventions and targeted water treatment. Our flexible package, BG50i – intelligent water monitoring and treatment, is designed to help FMs comply with BSRIA BG 50/2013 – Water Treatment for Closed Heating & Cooling Systems.
  2. Be responsive rather than reactive – One of the key benefits of remote monitoring is that FMs have instant access to the Hevasure dashboard, which sets out colour coded readings of key parameters. Email notifications alert responsible parties to adverse events and graphs showing cumulative data provide valuable insight into long-term patterns. This deep insight enables FMs to be responsive and fully in control, rather than on the back foot, making ill-informed interventions too late and hoping for results.
  3. Invest in energy efficiency – HVAC systems put huge pressure on energy resources and budgets, consuming 40% of energy usage in commercial buildings. Optimising energy efficiency is therefore a priority. Regular maintenance regimes, real-time monitoring and corrosion prevention contribute to HVAC systems that meet demand and minimise energy requirements – preventative investments that pay off in the long-run. The ability to rectify issues in days, rather than weeks or months, can save FMs £80,000 – £120,000 over 10 years in prevented remediation works.
  4. Prioritise safety – There is an increased risk of Legionella in buildings that are operating at low capacity. Any change in occupancy or usage should trigger a review of the Legionella Risk Assessment to ensure continued compliance with ACoP L8. Secondary disinfection provides enhanced and long-lasting protection, and on-going mitigation against legionella growth.
  5. Go paperless – With Hevasure, all events are captured in charts on the dashboard. All data is instantly accessible and stored digitally in one place, it can be downloaded and saved if required. Embracing new technology helps the environment and your business – improving resources and transparency, streamlining the handover process and saving money.

Contact us to how we can help keep your building running smoothly, whether under-occupied or changing usage.