The last few years have been tumultuous for the commercial real estate market. Fortunately, we’re now in the midst of a resurgence and experiencing a sustained return to pre-pandemic occupancy levels. This is, of course a positive shift, but it’s important to bear in mind that the expectations of those who use these buildings have changed, especially when it comes to comfort, aesthetics and convenience. This has opened the door for you to implement smart technologies which bring many benefits including improved operations, security, user experience and sustainability.
The decisions on what type of technology to use are even more important due to the nature of commercial real estate. Within one structure you can have a variety of tenants, such as office space, hospitality and residential – each with different needs. As a result, you must ensure that your buildings run efficiently while catering to these tenants and are future proofed to continue attracting new ones. Smart surveillance technology enables you to do this by integrating with different systems aimed at improving functions, comfort and access control while limiting the environmental impact of existing operations.
Open Standards Become Critical
It’s useful for us to first be clear what we mean by ‘commercial buildings’. Commercial buildings can be defined as multi-tenanted premises where commercial activities take place and include offices, retail space, warehouses and more. As these buildings are designed to house different tenants, it’s important that your plan for technology integration is prioritized at the planning stage.
While you’re constructing a new building, care must be taken when designing your ‘base build’ to meet the basic requirements for operation and security. It’s critical that this base build is done with the potential for integration at the forefront of your mind. The technology involved at this stage is intended to last for the lifetime of your building and must be able to connect with any new systems which are introduced. To address this, the best approach is to implement technology based on open standards to ensure that existing and future tenants will be able to fit out the interior with solutions which suit their needs.
In some cases, certain tenants are limited to a specific type of technology. An example of this is the requirement for NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) compliant surveillance cameras in the United States. Depending on the profile of the tenant, having banned or non-compliant technologies installed may limit your ability to lease floor space. In the worst-case scenario, these tenants will exclude your building, potentially impacting revenue. Best case, they ask that the technologies are ripped out and replaced at the landlord’s expense. Either way, this is a preventable outcome once these considerations are front of mind from the start.
For communal areas, it’s also important to think about the overall look and feel of the space. Integration shouldn’t only refer to how devices connect with each other, but how they fit seamlessly into your building’s structure so as not to detract from the aesthetic.
From Access Control & Climate Control, Technology Plays a Part
Commercial buildings which use smart technologies are essentially an ecosystem of connected systems which aim to operate for the enjoyment, security, safety and comfort of users on your premises. There are certain systems which will apply to all users, whether office workers or consumers, and their experience is critical to the success of your building.
For example, maintaining a comfortable ambient environment (including temperature and lighting) all year round requires continuous monitoring by sensors. You can adjust the settings as the seasons change. Network cameras can help you to control lighting in different areas of the building, while decreasing the overall energy expenditure. This positively contributes to the environmental impact of your building which is key to helping you achieve BREEAM global standards for sustainable built environments.
Another factor which is critical is the flow of traffic around the building and visitor management. Balancing ease of movement with security is important and surveillance technology plays an important role in managing access points – whether internal or external. Cameras equipped with software such as QR code readers, license plate recognition capabilities and people counting analytics can support building operations staff in managing foot and vehicle traffic around your premises.
Smart Buildings feed Business Intelligence
Although data is collected and insights are acted upon in near real-time, cameras collect information which helps your building managers understand how the different environments are being used. For example, for office spaces with flexible working, data can be collected to determine trends in capacity over time and update relevant settings, such as heating, accordingly. On the days when many workers are in the office, the ambient temperature controls can be lowered to account for the increased body heat. This will help to save energy and support sustainability goals.
In a similar way, monitoring the flow of visitors and vehicles provides useful insights into peak traffic times. If your building consistently receives an influx of visitors around lunchtime then managers can adjust staffing rotas or open access points to accommodate the increased volume. This will help avoid any bottlenecks which would impact the building users’ experience. Looking forward, your building managers can use this information to make intelligent decisions regarding the layout and future technology used.
With increased data collection comes rising concerns regarding cybersecurity. Malicious actors could use this information for nefarious activity and it’s critical to keep this data secure. Using software and devices with robust security defenses will help protect sensitive and valuable information from falling into the wrong hands.
Designing with the Future Tenant in Mind
The benefits of integrated technology in commercial buildings are clear and it’s important for you to think strategically about the current and future needs of tenants. The success and longevity of commercial buildings depend on a combination of technology and manual processes which will need to shift with changing circumstances or needs. The right approach to integration will ensure the current and future performance of your building as a whole, ultimately protecting your investment in the long term.
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