Smart Building Transformation

Smart home concept on digital display

By Linda S. Alexander

A transformation is underway throughout the real estate space — smart building technologies are being implemented at a rapid pace that is affecting residential, commercial and industrial occupants. Currently in New York City, there is approximately 5 million square feet of commercial and industrial properties embracing the various technologies in both new construction and retrofits. Moreover, virtually all new residential development features technology components that make them easier to manage and with greater benefits for operating, often using artificial intelligence to monitor and gather analytics tailored to better living and working environments.

These forward-thinking solutions provide more energy-efficient environments in addition to cost savings for building owners and occupants, alike. The technology offerings not only afford more flexible living and working conditions, but also allow the ease of future enhancements to existing less efficient and dated systems.

Although smart technologies may seem years away when you’re responsible for prewar properties with clanking radiators and wiring last upgraded in the 1970s, the likelihood is mandated fuel standards are already being used, which are cleaner and better for the environment. Buildings in the city must also adhere to recycling standards, and many currently have computer-based security systems.

To accomplish smart building practices, the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability provides Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s Green Housing Initiatives offer tax abatements for green roofs and solar panels. The city’s Retrofit Accelerator program has made available free customized technical assistance and advisory services to private owners of buildings with 50,000 square feet or more to help lower energy and water costs, while increasing the values of their properties through various upgrades. Even utility companies are incentivizing owners with rebates for sustainable equipment, including bulk purchases of EnergyStar appliances, thermostats and more.

Digital ceilings in offices and new residential developments establish lifestyle patterns during occupied and unoccupied periods. Pre-heating and pre-cooling of homes and workspaces allow for a more energy efficient balance for equipment operations, as well. Space temperatures are pre-set to monitor air temperatures based on outside environments, but also on occupancy and time of day. PoE, “Power over Ethernet,” combined with various platform solutions are increasingly being used in residential, commercial, retail and industrial spaces, detailing these capabilities.

James Pirot, Managing Principal of Integrated Control Solutions (ICS), a Smart Building Consultancy firm currently working on more than 500,000 square feet of such projects in the city and across the country, pointed out, “As smart building consultants, ICS is able to assist owners, developers and tenants throughout the real estate space with current and accurate choices regarding various platforms, along with cost analysis and available rebate programs. In addition, we can identify the sustainability and wellness capabilities these platforms provide. Smart building technology is growing rapidly to meet the challenges and demands of the end-users. It will become the only acceptable means for the future, replacing development codes across the country.”

Most new developments today use smart building technologies to facilitate communication between residents and property managers, opening direct lines for everything from repair requests to implementing work orders. It makes management that much more efficient. The data provided from smart building systems may also identify problems such as leaks and blockages, enabling management to implement repairs quickly and more efficiently. And in this age of Yelp and similar social media platforms, satisfied tenants are more inclined to give better reviews, which may translate to more robust and lucrative leasing.

“Smart building technology further enables power authorities, such as Con Edison, to shed load and better manage peak grid demands. Electricity in home or office is consistent with temperatures outside,” added Mr. Priot, who has developed a PoE advisory board made up of leading architects. “We are now using integrators that enable communication between the various technologies. From a practical standpoint, it’s about demand and response. As people become more familiar with the advantages in terms of comfort and cost savings, they will demand more.”

Smart building technologies also support better security, providing a safer tenant experience. OWAL, a cloud-based A.I. security-technology company, taps into client buildings’ video monitors with algorithms able to detect anomalous behavior that may affect tenants’ quality of life. Using real time alerts, it instantly identifies problems such as smoking in common areas, littering, loitering, etc. In addition, it can detect criminal behaviors, including theft and fraud and its facial recognition program may be used to provide door access and verify staff presence.

At this juncture, PoE and IoT are more than acronyms; they are integral components of new building development and are being added to retrofits and renovations in older properties. Smart building technology is already saving owners millions of dollars in operating costs and expenses. These are transformative times as technology transforms the real estate space.