Northern Ireland business SmartWorkPlus is on a drive to revolutionise how we use our office spaces more efficiently, and help save facilities management firms and others, money. Founder Aidan Donnelly, says it could save firms hundreds and thousands of pounds a year as well as millions for the public taxpayer
SmartWorkPlus was set up in 2016 by Aidan Donnelly and with investment support from former SDC Trailers’ boss John Donnelly who is now chair at the business.
Its aim is to help businesses use their bricks and mortar spaces more efficiently and prevent haemorrhaging money to unnecessary energy, cleaning, and security costs.
“We offer sensors that detect when someone is in a room. Those sensors don’t say who, or give personal details, but they offer up data on how that space is being used,” Aidan says.
He says that before the pandemic an average of 60% of office space was being used across NI. That figure has dropped to 50% today. And it costs, Aidan says.
“In London, the cost per person to run the building is around £8,000-£10,000 a year. In Northern Ireland, our public sector spends £3,000 to £4,000 per person, each year, running a building. So if you think you’re not fully utilising space, there are massive savings to be made.
“The projected savings for a public sector body is 10-15% on cleaning costs alone. In fact, one site we know spends £1.5m a year on cleaning. There is a potential to save at least £150,000 annually there. Then there are savings to be made on real estate, heat and light and that’s before you look at managing security.”
Aidan and his team of five who run SmartWorkPlus have strong facilities management backgrounds. Aidan’s background is in the communications sector.
In the initial phase of the business, SmartWorkPlus is homing in on cutting firms’ cleaning costs, heating and energy bills.
“We’ve a really strong background in facilities management and we know that when those companies look at working with a business, they create contracts that assume a certain level of occupancy in a building.
“But, quite often, there are spaces that are rarely used. Zoom and Teams have allowed more staff to work from home. We’ve seen one space with 40 desks use less than 20% of what they have.
“Another private sector business we work with is using 80% of their space so it does depend on the nature of the organisation.
“We can analyse how spaces are being used and produce a dashboard of data for the client which they can then present to management companies.”
Sensors feed data back to SmartWorkPlus about when a room or space is occupied and “by feeding space utilisation data back to facilities management companies, we can give them dynamic cleaning schedules that allow them to only clean where needed and omit areas that haven’t been used”. “Overall savings on cleaning costs is in the 10-20% range”.
Other benefits of installing WorkPlus sensors include the detection of temperature and light levels in a room.
“So essentially, we can tell if the heating and lighting is on. When you compare that with room usage data, it’s easy to identify parts of a building where energy is being wasted on areas that aren’t being used,” Aidan says.
“Not only can we give customers an accurate picture of how their building is used over time, but we can also tell them how much space they realistically need. If they have a 10,000 sq m building that’s only 50% utilised, we can provide them with occupancy data that would allow them to downsize at the end of their lease and go for something more efficient.
“Perhaps not a 5,000 sq m building but realistically they could shave at least 20% of their footprint. That’s a major saving in rental and energy costs and drastically reduces the carbon footprint of the company. Occupancy data can actually be used to make office space more intelligent by giving real time data on meeting room and desk availability, so it makes reducing office footprint very practical.”
With COP26 still fresh and more green policy changes imminent, Aidan says SmartWork Plus’ service is an easy and cheap method that allows any business to play a role in becoming more sustainable.
“Most offices generate around 0.1 tonnes of carbon per sq m. Offices are carbon hungry but SmartWorkPlus reduces your carbon expenditure and saves money at the same time.
“There are different types of businesses in this space: people who start out with aim of being net zero and their whole ethos is about being climate friendly, and those who are focused on the bottom line with one ear on climate change, but they don’t have the money to make those changes.
“If you’re established, you must step up to the plate and make changes, but if you are cost-focused, you can run your business sensibly and we can help with that. We offer a payment model that gives quick returns that can be used to pay for the service and still make savings.”
Aidan is now focused on attracting large private contracts as well as growing his staff count and eventually entering the public sector.
He says he began the business with the expectation the technology would be market ready for the service he is offering, but now he is designing his own bespoke hardware.
“We will sell that globally because there is a market for it and while there is a market here, without a doubt, we do think there is a strong global market for what we do too.”