Navigant Research Blog

Cities and Businesses Care about Smart Buildings: Part 1

Christina Sookyung Jung — November 9, 2017

In September, Amazon announced plans to open a second headquarters in North America called HQ2. The company expects to invest more than $5 billion to build the facility and create as many as 50,000 high paying jobs. In its request for proposal, Amazon listed preferences to help find the perfect location for its new campus. It is looking for a city of more than 1 million people with an international airport, mass transit, quality higher education, an educated workforce, and a solid business climate. 238 proposals have been submitted by cities and regional governments. While Amazon will look at the most obvious incentives from governments such as donated land, tax breaks and subsidies, it will also need to consider which cities will attract best talent.

Attracting Top Talent from a Business Perspective

By supporting more agile ways of working and enhancing the work environment, smart buildings can play a key role in attracting and retaining employees amid increasing competition for top talent in business sectors. Smart buildings use internet-enabled technology to gather data and bring operating systems and services under central control in order to create a better workplace.

Smart buildings can not only reduce operational and energy costs, but can also create an enhanced in-building experience to help increase productivity and promote corporate brand values. They achieve this by analyzing data on occupancy, movement, and resources in real time and by adapting systems to optimize the performance of both the building and the people within it. This way, smart buildings provide opportunities to address the challenges of productivity and comfort that are at the heart of contemporary debates about workplace environment. Cities trying to entice Amazon to their streets should take a closer look at smart buildings—which can help Amazon recruit top talent.

Relevant technologies are already available, including building energy management systems, location-aware sensors and services, and mobile phone applications. In fact, Navigant Research is bullish on continued adoption of these technologies. In a recent report, IoT for Intelligent Buildings, Navigant Research projects the market to grow from $6.3 billion in 2017 to $22.2 billion in 2026 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.0%. The office segment is expected to grow at a 15.7% CAGR.

Attracting Businesses from a City’s Perspective

The evolution of smart buildings parallels the digital transformation in cities. Cities can now collect large volumes of high quality data from public infrastructure, such as government buildings and street light poles, that can transform a number of city service areas. For example, digital technologies are becoming an important element in traffic and transit management, public safety, social care, street lighting, and waste services. From sensors collecting data to developers building thousands of smart city apps, the Internet of Things movement is helping cities become truly smart.

Digital transformation of city services is certainly attractive to businesses, but cities can go the extra mile to enhance its competitive advantage. For cities to lure Amazon, the business environment that complements and drives investment in smart buildings should be enhanced. Smart technologies will further innovation, inclusion, and investment within a city. My next blog will explain what cities can do to spur investment in the smart buildings sector.

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