Smart building automation software and systems are projected to reach a $20.5 billion by 2027 in North America alone, while AI-enabled IoT (AIoT) systems are introducing operational efficiency and automated activity in ways that were considered as “space-age” only a couple of years ago.
The potential cost gain for owners and operators via these smart technologies, present very tangible ROI.
And for the consumers of these spaces (the tenants and staff), the possibility that ‘smart’ can meaningfully improve their daily office-lives is exciting.
There is an emergence of predictive maintenance within buildings, whereby AI informed analytics offer property and facility managers the ability to resolve problems before the problems become visible.
As robotics advances its functionality, we will see this predictive maintenance move towards automated maintenance. In this case robotic devices will do the repairing, empowering human engagement to focus more on the customer, and less on the loos, laptop cables and lights.
Smart is indeed about cost efficiency, but it also provides the platform for sustainable practices. We are seeing wind-turbines, solar systems, and rain-water capture, to harness the power of nature and deliver clean recyclable energy.
Growing green gardens are being installed on roofs, while end-of-pipe water and waste systems are plumbed underneath (the latter projected to be worth an $850M market by 2027). What we are witnessing is the convergence of functionality and ESG, which for owners offers both a boost and a relief, as ESG’s greatest challenge has been to move beyond compliance box-ticking and into the return-on-investment arena.
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced public health compliance like never before. Surface cleaning and air quality have become non-negotiable for tenants, with HVAC systems, that were once reserved for air quality control in hospitals are now featuring in offices across the US, driving the HVAC US market to a valuation of $43 billion in 2022.
Beyond the immediacy of sanitisation health-measures, there is the vastly potent mental health aspects of smart buildings. In its simplest form: clean, well-run, light filled spaces, with an abundance of plants, reduce the stress of building occupants. But with days-off work estimated to cost the US economy over $600 billion per year, the financial imperatives to delivering spaces that enhance the human experience are vast.
The seven components that form the WELL building standard are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Mind related considerations for commercial buildings have appeared for the first time over the last decade. Up until then it has been employers, rather than landlords, who have predominantly worked on mind initiatives.
However, landlords are now onto it, and biophilic design is a key enabler within smart. Designs and constructions that incorporate natural materials, like bamboo, cork and wood are in increasing abundance, just like circadian lighting, sounds, and nature settings.
Smart and its technologically advanced systems and tools, brings far greater visibility into the way occupants engage in the spaces. Sensors tell us what time during the day, and which days of the week, there is a peak or trough of attendance. They tell us the types of amenities that people frequently visit and the rhythm of the alternation of collaboration and quiet spaces they use. This is all vital information for planners and designers. There’s no point in having an expensive bar installed for Friday drinks, when people would rather go home, hit the gym, or leave the office to meet with friends in a proper establishment. Smart building sensors and metrics take the guessing work out of fit outs.
We no longer rely on set-and-forget formulas because the workforce of companies is always changing. And additionally, what worked for yesterday’s team may not for the new team.
This is fundamentally the point of smart, as landlords and employers are repeatedly declaring the need for the workforce to engage. Smart buildings not only introduce the financial benefits of automation, the ESG benefits of energy and waste efficiency, the health benefits of CleanTech and natural designs, but above all, it provides spaces that measurably deliver what the users require.
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