Healthy People, Healthy Places, Healthy Planet: The Resilient Campus Is Here to Stay

Today’s campuses are leveraging technology to protect the health of their building occupants, while improving energy efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing operations.

Healthy People, Healthy Places, Healthy Planet: The Resilient Campus Is Here to Stay

Photo via Adobe, by Man As Thep

As we prepare for a post-pandemic world, campus decision-makers should focus on improving occupant experience and health, operational efficiency and sustainability. These objectives are even more critical after being delayed due to pandemic-related struggles and should be prioritized for campuses to keep occupants safe and comfortable, stay resilient and prepare for future unknowns.

To determine healthcare and education leaders’ priorities when investing in building technologies, Johnson Controls conducted its Healthy Buildings Pulse Survey of more than 800 building decision-makers. The results of this study illustrate momentum for healthy buildings trends and technologies, with three priorities emerging in the pursuit of campus safety: healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.

1. Campuses Improving Staff, Patients and Student Health and Safety with Connected Technologies

Healthcare and higher education leaders are putting occupant health and safety first by making investments in smart, connected technologies. Of those surveyed, 67% of healthcare executives and 68% of K-12 leaders have already implemented healthy buildings initiatives in their own facilities. It’s clear that campus leaders must make the investment in healthy buildings solutions, or they risk being left behind.

Artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled health screening solutions like elevated skin temperature scanning, social distancing monitoring and face mask detection can be implemented to provide an extra level of protection and peace of mind to occupants. Clean air solutions, including ultraviolet (UV) lighting disinfection technology and advanced HVAC filtration, can be integrated to limit the spread of disease while creating a comfortable environment for occupants with respiratory concerns. In addition, touchless access control delivers a hands-free experience throughout a campus, allowing occupants to minimize the potential for touch contamination. When integrated, these systems provide a holistic solution that has become the gold standard of healthy campuses.

In healthcare and education, these infrastructure updates drive critical outcomes. In a hospital setting, doctors, nurses and staff are protected from the risk of infection, allowing them to remain focused on providing exemplary patient care even during a crisis.

Within a school, studies have shown that a healthy learning environment can be the key to student success. Students are empowered to reach their highest academic potential when both they and their teachers are confident that they are working in a healthy space.

2. Campuses Want Adaptable Facilities for Future-Readiness While Enhancing Operations, Cost and Energy Efficiency

Campus leaders need to be able to easily create, maintain and monitor their healthy building environments to create long-term resiliency. One of the most impactful ways to do so, while simultaneously creating cost and operational efficiency, is through adaptable infrastructure.

Adaptable and flexible infrastructure enables campus leaders to quickly change operating settings and repurpose spaces to remain prepared for emergencies. Through integrated technology solutions like pre-configured building control sequences, enhanced detection of unhealthy conditions and turnkey facility improvement programs, campus leaders have the tools to protect occupants in any scenario.

For instance, consider a hospital campus responding to a pandemic. With pre-configured building control sequences and filtration systems already in place, hospitals can quickly manage a sudden influx of patients and repurpose spaces by creating negative pressure isolation rooms, floors or even entire buildings. In this scenario, connected systems give hospitals the ability to quickly adapt campus spaces, which could save lives.

A common challenge faced by healthcare and school campuses is the difficulty of maintaining smaller satellite facilities that cannot have a constant facility manager presence. Through cloud-based monitoring, facility managers can monitor every building on their campus from a single central location, no matter how far some may be. This allows them to maintain overall health, ensure optimal asset performance and create cost and energy efficiencies.

Our survey confirms the demand for adaptable facilities: of those surveyed, 80% of facility executives stated that increasing flexibility to quickly respond to emergencies is a top driver for investment in technologies like flexible facility monitoring and clean air strategies. Of the K-12 respondents, 53% plan to increase investments in smart building technologies and energy efficiency in the next year, signaling the industry’s commitment to creating healthy places that last.

3. Campuses Are Committed to Reaching Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Goals to Increase Environmental Stewardship

One of the pandemic’s lasting impacts will be how it permanently altered the way the healthcare and education industries consider their environmental impact. As campus leaders began investing in healthier buildings, they also began committing to a healthier planet, and for good reason. Studies show that buildings are responsible for about 40% of the planet’s total energy consumption and 38% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Organizations are recognizing that just as they have a responsibility to protect their occupants through the latest in clean air and security solutions, they have a responsibility to protect the environment as well.

Both healthcare and education campuses can achieve their sustainability goals through the implementation of efficiency-focused solutions. From installing pre-configured energy-efficient building control sequences to installing occupancy sensors that can automatically shut down buildings systems in unused rooms to reduce energy waste, campuses can optimize their efficiency, remain compliant with constantly changing regulations and make good on net zero emissions goals.

For example, a university can leverage its campus-wide building management system (BMS) to identify energy inefficiencies, whether due to an old air handling unit (AHU) or leaky plumbing. The result is a campus can reduce its energy and water waste, achieve carbon neutrality and increase its value to environmentally-minded prospective students.

Achieving Healthier, More Resilient Campuses Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Beginning the journey to a well-rounded healthy campus can be daunting, but with the right approach, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Healthcare and education have historically faced financing challenges, but there are funding strategies that leaders can pursue to make improvements without rewriting their budgets. These include innovative procurement methods like performance contracting or private-public partnerships (P3) to turn operational savings into infrastructure improvements. Campus leaders can work with a trusted strategic partner to learn how to access and leverage these funds appropriately. With the right financing strategy, any campus can make the updates its facilities require to deliver healthy building environments and protect occupants.

Campus leaders are recognizing the critical need for healthy building environments, and they are meeting the need through smart investments. By implementing the latest in healthy building technologies, educational and healthcare institutions around the country are creating safe, sustainable, flexible spaces that meet the growing need for healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.

Tony McGraw serves as vice president and general manager of security solutions at Johnson Controls. He brings more than two decades of leadership in security and operations to his current role in helping realize safer and healthier buildings to improve customer and occupant experience. 

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