Navigant Research Blog

How an Intelligent Building Technology Strategy Can Counter Real Estate Risk

— June 7, 2018

Today, technology is the badge of vision and financial commitment that showcases the value of real estate. The impact of Internet of Things (IoT) and evolution of advisory services are directing a tipping point across the market. Building owners and managers who step aside from this wave of technology risk increased volatility in the valuation of their buildings and even their businesses. Dynamics in the commercial office sector showcase just how important a clear strategy around technology is to future-proofing well-established businesses.

Occupants Have Power, but Their Demands Are Fragmented

According to a Brookfield Property Partners chairman, “Tenants have seemed to shift from focusing on cutting costs and being cost efficient to attracting, retaining and motivating their employees. Tenants are partnering with landlords so they can solve their people goals.” For the last several years, it has been near impossible to have a discussion on technology investment and the commercial office sector without hearing about the impact of the millennial workforce. Millennials demand flexibility and collaboration, and the result is a dramatic shift to open offices, non-traditional schedules, and customization.

These expectations have upended the asset planning strategies for many building owners. Multiyear plans for capital assets and space planning are no longer sufficient to maintain best-in-class distinction. The challenge persists because although building owners have invested in the demands of millennials, new expectations are arising for the next generation. Generation Z, born after 1995, totals almost 2 billion people worldwide. Often referred to as digitally native, this future workforce is expected to shatter expectations for employers and workspaces. Real estate owners have scrambled to support the collaboration and flexibility demands of millennials, and early research suggests Generation Z may flip things once again. According to Cushman & Wakefield’s The Occupier Edge, Sixth Edition, 53% prefer in-person communications over email or instant messaging and 91% report “technological sophistication” affects employment decision-making.

Three Steps to Hedging the Risk of Rapid Workforce Evolution

  1. Cost-effective equipment to digitize the office: Sensors, gateways, and controllers are becoming affordable commodity purchases to refine the data profile of large buildings or even create a new infrastructure in smaller buildings. These digital components are the foundation to the digital transformation of a facility into an intelligent building and a critical investment to support the flexible space planning and real estate management strategies that will hedge the risk of uncertain and shifting worker expectations.
  2. Analytics to translate data into insight: Software investment is table stakes for managing the modern office space. Occupants expect tailored conditions that meet their lighting, heating, and cooling preferences and even advanced applications to support productivity. While these metrics are much harder to quantify than traditional ROI metrics around energy efficiency, the benefits are clear. These analytical tools are also critical behind the scenes for operational strategies to meet the high demands of today’s and tomorrow’s workers.
  3. Services to act on insight: A cohesive interplay between operational and informational technologies is required for successful intelligent building solution deployment. There is a human capital gap in many organizations, as their IT departments are excluded from facilities decisions or their facilities teams lack IT understanding to drive the best investment. Both these functional departments are often short-staffed and operating with tight budgets, so expanding their responsibility set can also be challenging. Furthermore, the real benefits of deploying an intelligent building solution roll up to the C-suite with insights that speak to both the top and bottom line. These dynamics open the door to greater advisory and even partnership opportunities that can support the transition and ensure the owners and management realize the full benefits of the investment.

Check out Navigant Research’s Intelligent Buildings Market Overview report for more on how technology can transform facilities into business assets that meet ever shifting occupant expectations.

 

IoT: Building Awareness – Part II

— January 4, 2018

Today’s facility managers are faced with the challenge of assessing performance while trying to sift through endless streams of data. People want better data, not just more, as constant flows of information can sometimes muddy the waters for decision makers. The integration of various subsystems in building automation further deepens this web of connectivity, which is why commercial buildings today are looking to smart building technology as a way to better facilitate and manage system operations. Knowing how a system operates is imperative to business development and economic growth. Thus, companies are starting to focus on the primary element of those systems: building occupants.

Stand Out from the Pack

As “IoT: Building Awareness – Part I” explained, the Internet of Things (IoT) has had a significant impact on intelligent building designs. The increased sophistication of smart technology has created a more competitive business market, making it difficult for companies to outperform their competitors. As intelligent building systems become better at adopting the latest technologies and connectivity strategies, the challenge for businesses becomes knowing how to leverage their competitive advantage. Focusing on occupant satisfaction may give companies the leg up they need in a market where customer loyalty and employee retention is becoming a major challenge. This may also be beneficial from a branding perspective, as the growth in IoT services has made it difficult for companies to differentiate themselves in a world of streamlined automation. Focusing on occupant satisfaction takes a more holistic approach to facility management by helping businesses and employees—and the buildings they occupy—become more efficient through enhanced decision-making capabilities.

Management 101

You can’t improve a system without knowing how it operates. News of partnerships like the one between Lucid and Cushman & Wakefield are becoming more mainstream as businesses look to advanced software solutions and intelligent integration for understanding performance operations. Advanced sensors and data analytics that track tenant behavior provide valuable information into system operations and allow facility managers to make better decisions on how to upgrade their offerings. This is important from an efficiency standpoint because it helps managers understand where areas may be underperforming, why, and how to address those issues. For example, building owners can cut down on utility costs if they know which rooms will require less heating or cooling based on the number and location of occupants.

It’s a Win-Win

Businesses and employees also stand to benefit from this comprehensive approach, as various studies stress the relationship between comfort level and worker efficiency. Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Department of Economics reveal causal relations between employee well-being and company performance. This study, along with several others, shows that employees are happier and more engaged in areas where they feel comfortable and can be more productive. Facilitating occupant satisfaction can also strengthen employee retention as happier employees are more likely to succeed in their careers. These findings are important for business owners justifying investments toward creating amicable office environments through smart building technology.

 

Reimagining Energy Efficiency as a Pillar in the Climate Action Strategy

— December 5, 2017

A recent Wall Street Journal blog post by Sam Ori from the University of Chicago, “Why Government Energy-Efficiency Programs Sound Great–But Often Don’t Work” starkly criticizes energy efficiency programs and ideas on how to revisit residential program design. The author’s conclusion is sound, but there is more to be said on how energy efficiency can become a sturdier pillar in the strategy to combat climate change. Ori points out, “there is an opportunity for policymakers to rethink the ways they choose, design, implement, and evaluate energy-efficiency programs.” Based on ongoing Navigant Research analysis, policymakers play a role, but the challenge requires a balanced two-pronged approach.

Utilities Are Only Part of the Equation

The reality is that a transformation of the energy industry is underway. A more dynamic, digital infrastructure of renewable, distributed, and non-traditional resources is being applied in the commercial buildings context. Navigant Research characterizes this new energy ecosystem as the Energy Cloud. In the buildings sector, rapid adoption of behind-the-meter energy management technologies, alongside onsite power generation and storage and ongoing investments in information technologies on the utility side of the meter, are redefining the relationship between electricity supply and demand.

This means federal and state policy and electric utilities will no longer be the gatekeepers of energy supply or the rule makers for how to orchestrate shifts in energy demand. Energy efficiency improvements are crucial for building optimization, which is made possible by intelligent technologies—notably the uptake of Internet of Things infrastructure and analytics. Navigant Research’s recent Building-to-Grid Integration report outlines how the intelligent building represents a conceptual paradigm shift for businesses through the integration of facilities management and IT. The intelligent building unifies strategy, investment, and decision-making. The door is open to market influencers, utilities, and many others that can introduce creative ways to utilize existing technology infrastructure, deploy new solutions, and analyze increasing data streams to optimize facility operations that meet broad business demands with energy efficiency savings as a byproduct.

Do Not Undervalue Energy Efficiency for Commercial and Industrial Customers

The Wall Street Journal blog outlined some significant challenges to realizing greater carbon emissions savings from energy efficiency in the residential sector, but missed one important part of the climate change big picture: tackling commercial and industrial (C&I) building energy use. C&I facilities are important because they not only consume more energy, but are also more energy-intensive per SF of floor space compared to residential customers.

Furthermore, C&I customers can be effective partners in tackling energy efficiency improvements because the scale of their effectiveness (and business perspectives) can help accelerate change. First, the energy savings potential of a single large building, single customer with multiple buildings, or a campus simply delivers a greater volume reduction in energy use and therefore carbon savings. In order to meet the magnitude of savings to combat climate change in a significant way (as outlined in the Wall Street Journal blog), business customers need to participate. Second, business customers understand the risks that climate change presents to their bottom lines and the mounting environmental, social, and economic challenges tied to unfettered energy consumption. This sector deserves credit for showing leadership through sustainability initiatives. Read more about how C&I customers invest in sustainability and combat climate change in Navigant Research’s report Intelligent Building Technologies for Sustainability.

As Ori summed up, “Energy efficiency offers significant potential as part of a portfolio of climate policies. But that potential will only be realized if we crack the code to get programs structured to deliver results. If we don’t, dealing with climate change will be much more expensive than we realize.” Want to hear more about Navigant Research’s perspective on the importance of energy efficiency? Register for our upcoming webinar, Monetizing Energy Efficiency, with Tom Machinchick.

 

Can Technology Solve the Dysfunction of Sustainability?

— November 30, 2017

Sustainability is a term that, by itself, can be meaningless. The downfall of “green” into “greenwashing” is a cautionary tale for sustainability champions. In a recent Triple Pundit article, “The 8 Dysfunctions of Sustainability,” a Penn State University professor articulated the problem: “[My critique] is meant to both reclaim the original fullness of ‘sustainable development’ but even more to point to the baggage we must leave behind. In a word, sustainability has to grow up.” Professor Erik Foley’s criticism is sound and defensible. The question then becomes: How can we course correct and make sustainability a relevant and impactful metric?

It is important to define a scope of action to make the concept of sustainability concrete. Let’s look at the commercial buildings sector as an ecosystem of business, economics, and people that can provide structure to the analysis of sustainability. Technology can be deployed to alter how we operate and assess the value of buildings against the environmental, social, and governance lenses of sustainability. To be specific, data, analytics, and automation can represent three pillars of a mature solution for the buildings sector that ensure continuous and ongoing improvements in the buildings sector from a sustainability perspective. Let’s examine two dysfunctions from Professor Foley’s article to highlight how technology can be the pathway forward.

#2: We measure what we can manage even if it doesn’t matter.

The bottom line here is action. We have tracked the evolution of the intelligent buildings market for years at Navigant, and it is evident the technology can make significant impacts on sustainability metrics. We have tracked the transformation from traditional building automation solutions that improved scheduling and reduced hot and cold calls in the biggest buildings to software as a service (SaaS) applications that provide enterprisewide insight on building operations—the key shift is action. Effective intelligent building solutions provide an end-to-end solution for gathering, communicating, and analyzing data that is translated into meaningful information with integrated automation and controls that enable continuous improvement in operations. What that means that customers can utilize technology to reduce costs, improve experience, and lower environmental impact through a systems-based strategy.

#4: Efficiency ≠ sustainability.

Foley’s fourth dysfunction sets up a further explanation of the sustainability improvement opportunities tied to the systems-based approach to building operations made possible by intelligent building solutions as described above. The smarts of the data-driven approach to intelligent buildings are rooted in the idea of holistic insight and operational improvement. This approach is a perfect counter to dysfunction #4. Take, for example, our historic approach to energy efficiency and demand management—these two objectives were seen as isolated strategies for energy management that delivered different and possibly competing benefits. The real-time insight and continuous operational changes made possible by integrated automation and controls with analytics enable reduced costs, lower environmental impacts, and increased comfort. One side does not have to take precedent over another but can be prioritized at different times to meet a larger goal. From a sustainability perspective, an intelligent building solution can support overall energy use reduction, but also optimize equipment operations so energy is used at peak time if there is onsite solar, for example, or reduce energy during peak if reliant only on grid power.

Today, there is a real opportunity to re-envision sustainability to deliver operational changes that provide sustained social, environmental, and governance improvements. Interested in more of Navigant Research’s point of view on sustainability? Check out our recent report, Intelligent Building Technologies for Sustainability.

 

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