While no two smart buildings are ever designed to be completely alike, there are some definite trends emerging that show a well-defined smart building technology framework based on four distinct pillars.
Unlike previous years where smart building technology was almost solely focused on cost savings, the theme for 2022 is a mixture of traditional cost reduction components combined with tech that is meant to entice new tenants to rent -- or convince existing tenants to stay put.
Let’s look at each smart building pillar and discuss reasons why commercial building owners are growing increasingly interested in implementing them.
1. Occupant experience
It’s no secret that multi-tenant commercial building occupancy has dwindled over the past 18 months. This is mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic that included dramatic changes to work-from-home (WFH) corporate policies.
Commercial property owners and management teams are looking to smart building technologies as a significant differentiator and occupant perk when comparing working from home to in-office work. The obvious concern is that without these types of technology-based workplace enhancements, tenants will choose to close or consolidate office space, expanding their WFH policies even further. In turn, commercial building owners would be forced to lower rent rates in an attempt to draw tenants back into the office.
An expansion of technologies inside buildings that enhance occupant experiences, while also reducing public health/safety concerns, could attract workers into returning to the office without significant lease discounts.
One example of occupant experience technology might be a building-specific app that allow occupants to reserve meeting/workspaces/shared equipment, with the creation of building trouble and work request tickets and real-time information and notifications regarding in-building public safety and health.
2. Next-gen building management automation tools
One smart buildings trend that started in the early 2010’s and continues to this day is a desire to convert manual building management processes to automated processes that require no human intervention.
Not only that, next-generation building management systems now have the ability to collect and analyze building technology statistics with the purpose of baselining automated process efficiency over time. This gives commercial property managers unique insights into specific areas of a building or building system that can be used to further optimize management processes.
Beginning in 2022, building owners will want to thoroughly examine their existing building management systems and compare them to modern platforms that rely heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The built-in AI within these modern platforms has been shown to expertly identify efficiency trends and will recommend system/process changes that can lead to significant cost and/or time savings.
3. IT/OT integrations
While traditional information technology (IT) and building operational technologies (OT) have co-existed within smart buildings for years, a shared network infrastructure remains rare in 2021. This will change in 2022 for a couple of reasons.
For one, OT equipment manufacturers are beginning to abandon proprietary network protocols, which often required the use of a separate network for interconnection purposes. Second, the ability to segment and better secure IT equipment from OT is becoming less confusing and less costly to achieve.
Consolidating IT and OT systems onto a shared network infrastructure can cost costs while also opening doors to further integrations, with the ability to create a fully-unified and end-to-end aware IT/OT smart building system.
4. Hybrid workspaces
The last and perhaps newest smart buildings pillar in 2022 will be the need to employ technologies that cater to tenants that wish to operate using a hybrid workforce model.
Tenants and their employees are seeking office space that helps the occupant intelligently choose when and where it’s ideal to come into the office to work. This includes remote access to information regarding real-time occupancy numbers, air quality readings, workspace/parking availability information and other aspects of the building and facilities that would help an occupant determine whether it’s better to work from the office as opposed to home.