Landlording 2.0: Are you getting the most out of your building’s data?

JR Wakabayashi

Written by 11 June 2019


Featured on Connected Real Estate Magazine

As the commercial real estate market faces tightening yields, the ability to maximize value from assets, equipment, tenants and occupants is becoming increasingly critical. Data-driven technologies are enabling landlords to derive maximum value from commercial real estate assets and create a completely new profitability paradigm for the commercial real estate industry.  

Now companies like Comba Telecom, Inc. a global leading wireless solutions provider, are enabling building owners and landlords to create the digital networking infrastructure required to achieve profitability goals as they adopt data-driven smart building technologies. 

Wireless mobile coverage is the most important facet to facilitating the voice and data communications infrastructure required to support enhanced occupant experience and deploy smart building applications available in the marketplace today.  Not only will occupants benefit from these deployments, first responders will receive wider coverage that will enable reliable communication in life or death emergencies and enterprises will be able to work seamlessly and effectively with wireless solutions where companies such as Comba, deliver a wide portfolio for Commercial DAS and Public Safety equipment.

According to research firm Memoori, the commercial real estate industry is expected to deploy an astounding $84 billion in IoT devices and sensors by 2022. The convergence of technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence and 5G are rapidly transforming both profitability and business models in the commercial real estate industry.  To deploy these technologies, commercial building owners will need a robust digital telecommunication backbone designed by companies like Comba.  

Smart building IoT devices are enabling building owners and landlords to reduce operating costs and generate new revenue streams in four key areas: energy savings, predictive maintenance, occupancy data and space planning and tenant satisfaction. While the first two areas are focused on reducing costs, the latter two will be the greatest drivers for revenue generations and profitability in the coming years.

 

Data-driven Energy Efficient Buildings 

Today an increasing number of building owners and landlords are using low-cost IoT devices and sensors to optimize energy efficiency inside of their office buildings. Efficient energy usage has been a critical problem for landlords and owners particularly for high loads such as the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. More than 30% of the global energy consumption resides in HVAC usage inside buildings. 

A report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that the average office building can save 18% of its whole building energy use by deploying energy efficient smart building technologies such as occupancy sensors and smart thermostats. 

“These technologies can display real-time data, diagnose faulty equipment operation, and reduce energy waste,” stated Christopher Perry who leads ACEEE’s work on smart commercial building trends and technologies.  “Although building operators have had the ability to schedule their equipment for many years, more recently equipment can be connected (wired or wirelessly) and controlled from one central point, responding to changing conditions inside and outside the building.”  

Many platforms available today are designed to optimize energy costs not only through data collected directly from the systems themselves but also information collected by sensors which monitor human activity and the environment within the space such as sunlight, heat from electronics and the number of occupants.  Continuous data feeds from sensors coupled with machine learning are enabling building systems to take action such as adjusting room conditions when occupants have left autonomously.  An underlying cellular infrastructure is critical to gaining access to real-time data required to achieve energy efficient outcomes. However, with new technology and developments for smart buildings, there are situations where some occupants may experience poor in-door coverage. Signal blocking can still occur from Low-E Glass, concrete, metal, and more which results in delayed communication for first responders and unreliable network for occupants. Building owners and landlords can find various solutions, but a recommended choice will be through Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS). With a licensed System Integrator who can install equipment from providers like Comba, a DAS only requires a single line to support the system and is connected to various antennas within the building to provide reliable service in each area and reduces the overall costs that other solutions may have. Each building or jurisdiction will have their own requirements may it be accommodating to new technology or improving their current coverage, it is ultimately up to the building owners and landlords to seek a solution that fit their budget and situation.

 

Predicting equipment failures 

While there is no way of eliminating maintenance requirements in commercial office buildings predictive maintenance or the use of data analytics and machine learning are helping to better solve outage problems and prevent wasted resources and time.  Real-time data collected through IoT devices is being used to predict when large pieces of machinery or equipment will break down through proactive intervention.  Previously landlords and owners had little to no knowledge about why and when a maintenance issue or breakdown could occur in large assets such as elevator, rooftop chillers, large HVAC units or even public safety equipment. Companies are often developing new innovations to assist with the maintenance for buildings as well. For DAS installed buildings, Comba’s CriticalPoint™ Antenna Monitoring System helps monitor individual in-building antennas and passive links; users will be notified through dry contact alarms and can immediately detect where the problem area is. Now with the use of data analytics, latest innovations and machine learning, owners are better able to maintain equipment and predict costly failures that can result in significant dissatisfaction for tenants and occupants.

 

Occupancy data enabling a new value proposition for CRE 

While energy savings and predictive maintenance are important costs-saving drivers, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deriving value from smart building data. Perhaps the most transformative data-driven technology in the sector today is the use of IoT sensors to determine space and occupant density. 

Occupancy data collected through sensors and devices is being used by commercial real estate landlords and tenants to predict demand for space requirements, reduce occupant costs per square foot and their carbon footprints.

Enterprise tenants are making full use of these technologies to determine how much space is needed to meet employee requirements.  However, the value derived occupancy data is far greater than just calculating how much square footage is required for commercial tenants.  

“Data from smart buildings was all about energy management, there’s only so much you can invest in those technologies to achieve higher returns. The new drivers for the adoption of smart building technology are employee experience and workplace productivity,”  said Darlene Pope global head of Smart Buildings and Digital Workplace at WeWork. 

The days of offering commercial real estate tenants four walls, water, light, and electricity are now over.  The massive disruption of the CRE industry by the emergence of coworking business models has elevated expectations from tenants. As more enterprises strive to attract and recruit the best talent in the industry - a superior workplace experience is imperative. 

“It’s no longer about facilities management, it’s about creating a digital workplace,” said Pope who added and access to insights from data will play a key role in the provision of commercial real estate services in the future. 

According to Pope, occupancy data has far greater use to the industry than just providing space planning.  

“Occupancy data is important for multiple uses and people only seem to be looking at it for space management. Occupancy data can be sent to elevators systems to learn traffic patterns and signal when and how often dispatch an elevator. Those are the types of things that are enabled by the technology which are invisible to the end user but add tremendous value,” Pope said. 

“From a WeWork perspective, we need to scale and maintain a quality of experience. We are operating at a massive scale with more than 450 global locations.  Our corporate clients are looking for global consistency. We couldn’t accomplish the massive amount of scale and consistency without data,”  Pope added.

As workplace productivity and employee satisfaction become critical to enterprise tenants,  buildings owners can now work in partnership with tenants to deliver data-driven insights and maintain a competitive edge. 

Designed to provide occupants with access control, security, audio-visual equipment and access amenities and way-finding, smart building apps are the most likely  piece to technology  to be adopted by corporate real estate directors  according to a new survey by JLL.   As smart building apps serve as the gateway to experiencing the office buildings of the future a reliable cellular infrastructure will be required to create a frictionless user experience and drive tenant satisfaction.  

A robust cellular wireless networking infrastructure will be critical to harness the operational efficiencies and revenue generation models created through data-driven smart building technologies in the marketplace today, according to Comba.  With their own research and development team, Comba has spent the past few years keeping a close eye on 5G and developing new technologies such as CBRS - a new technology for private LTE networks.  In response to the growing trends, Comba launched a 3.5GHz CBRS CPE, an integrated fixed wireless broadband access equipment that allows property managers an opportunity to deploy their own private LTE networks. While Comba’s ComFlex™ DAS offers commercial support with its compact multi-band, multi-operator system that can be deployed both indoors and outdoors. Landlords and property owners alike can see major improvements in their coverage with the help of dedicated solutions provider like Comba.  

 

Whether it’s deploying IoT systems to drive energy savings, lighting or a  tech-savvy workplace/smart building apps office buildings of the future will need a digital connectivity backbone.