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The adoption of smart building technologies is rapidly accelerating as owners and managers realize the benefits of innovation. According to a recent report by Fortune Business, the global smart building market is projected to reach $408.21 billion by 2030. In North America alone, over $2.4 billion was invested in smart building technology in 2019.
As costs continue to decrease and capabilities improve, implementing smart technologies is becoming an obvious choice to reduce energy usage, enhance occupant comfort, and provide data-driven insights into building operations. This article will explore tips for leveraging smart building solutions in your real estate portfolio.
1. Conduct a Needs Assessment
Before selecting any smart building systems, conducting a needs assessment for each property is important. This will identify your key priorities, such as reducing energy costs, improving air quality, or automating maintenance workflows.
A needs assessment will also reveal what systems the building already has in place and how new technologies can integrate with or enhance those existing capabilities.
Be sure to consider the age and type of construction of each building, as a newer property may require fewer retrofits than an older building. Additionally, consider requirements for emissions reporting for real estate leases to ensure compliance and sustainability.
Developing a request for proposal based on the needs assessment can help vendors provide tailored smart building solutions.
2. Focus on Cybersecurity
With the Internet of Things connecting more building systems, cybersecurity must be a top priority. Work closely with vendors to ensure all smart devices and platforms have proper cybersecurity provisions built in.
Moreover, network segmentation, multi-factor authentication, and data encryption must be considered top priorities.
Develop strong cybersecurity policies and procedures, provide staff training, and conduct regular audits. A cyber breach that compromises building data and controls could have major financial, legal, and safety ramifications.
It’s also critical to ensure a disaster recovery plan is in place to get systems back online quickly in case of an attack or outage. Taking prudent cybersecurity measures will help safeguard information and operations.
3. Leverage Data Analytics
Sophisticated analytics platforms are needed to derive meaningful insights from the wealth of data provided by smart building technologies. Look for analytics solutions that integrate easily with smart devices and provide customized dashboards and reporting.
The system should automatically benchmark performance against past periods and establish key performance indicators. Advanced analytics capabilities like fault detection, predictive maintenance, and energy optimization depend on high-quality, consistent data.
Prioritize analytics platforms that clean, standardize, and contextualize data from disparate systems so you can focus on high-value analysis. Properly leveraging analytics is key to maximizing return on investment in smart buildings.
4. Optimize for Occupant Experience
While environmental and efficiency goals are important, smart technologies must also enhance comfort, convenience, and productivity for occupants.
Sensors and IoT platforms that unobtrusively collect data on environmental conditions, space utilization, and foot traffic can provide a highly personalized occupant experience.
For example, conference rooms can automatically configure preferred settings when booked, and wayfinding apps can provide optimal routing based on real-time crowd density.
Digital twin technology creates spatial network maps that track exact occupant locations to enable improved space planning and emergency response.
Today’s tenants and employees expect a highly responsive, tech-enabled built environment. Smart buildings that optimize the human experience will have a competitive advantage.
5. Support with Staff Training
Any new technology is only as good as the staff who implement and maintain it. Comprehensive training is essential to use smart building technologies and provide maximum value properly.
Training should cover core platform functionality and address data security, privacy, analytics, troubleshooting, and occupant support.
Develop quick reference guides, online resources, and periodic retraining programs. Some smart building providers also offer product certifications to validate the staff’s proficiency.
Change management strategies help overcome resistance to new ways of working. Proper investment in training enables staff to become adept at using the technology to its full potential. Ongoing support empowers them to be responsive, flexible problem solvers.
6. Track Emissions from Leased Assets
With leased properties contributing the majority of emissions for many real estate portfolios, submetering and emissions tracking capabilities are essential. Follow GHG Protocol guidance to categorize Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions based on operational control.
Smart submeters can gather granular, real-time energy and water data from leased spaces to calculate Scope 3 emissions. IoT sensors also track relevant variables for computing emissions factors. Cloud analytics automatically aggregate usage data and emissions reporting across an entire portfolio.
7. Evaluate Return on Investment
Before implementing smart building technologies, develop projected ROI models for each use case to quantify the potential benefits and payback period.
Actual utility savings from smart building retrofits typically range from 10-40%, delivering payback within 2-10 years. Soft benefits related to the attraction/retention of tenants and employees also boost asset value.
Weigh these returns against upfront costs, ongoing fees, downtime, and disruptions during installation.
Reevaluate ROI annually using actual performance data. The most successful smart building projects balance financial returns, tenant/employee impacts, and strategic value. As technology costs decrease over time, ROI will become increasingly compelling.
8. Embrace a Continuous Improvement Mindset
The work doesn’t stop once smart building technologies are implemented. To sustain returns, owners must-
- Embrace continuous improvement through ongoing commissioning and tuning.
- Provide regular performance reporting to stakeholders, and discuss opportunities for improvement.
- Conduct periodic technology reviews to evaluate emerging solutions that may augment existing systems.
- Work with vendors to implement firmware upgrades and enhance cybersecurity.
- Use tenant/occupant surveys and interviews to solicit feedback on how the technology is performing.
- Develop procedures to resolve issues and outages quickly.
- Document lessons learned after each project phase to inform future deployments.
Smart systems provide invaluable data – properly leveraging it unlocks continuous optimization and maximum benefits from your investment.
Smart building technologies provide many ways to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and create an engaging occupant experience. But to maximize benefits, property owners must take a strategic approach to implementation.
Conducting needs assessments, running pilot tests, focusing on cybersecurity, leveraging data analytics, and planning for interoperability provides a solid foundation. Tracking emissions from leased assets also enables benchmarking and progress toward decarbonization goals.
Proper staff training and embracing continuous improvement ensures smart systems continue optimizing over time.
With the right preparation and execution, smart building solutions can transform a real estate portfolio into an intelligent, sustainable, resilient environment that creates long-term value.