Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position. Please refer to official GRESB documents for assessment related guidance.
The sustainability imperative
Recent years have seen the development of a wide range of technological solutions enabling companies to enhance resilience, ensuring business and real estate continuity. But, recent challenges have brought to light the importance of companies to adopt digital solutions. Both landlords and investors alike have been looking to add digital solutions to their portfolios to enhance efficiency and remain future proof.
CBRE Research recently conducted a flash survey of over 250 occupier clients in Asia Pacific to gauge the industry change of mindset since late march to early April. One of the key findings shows that 44% of the respondents believe the outbreak will lead to a stronger preference for buildings with wellness and environmental features, pointing to a potential shift in long-term occupier strategy in the future.
A majority of respondents expect the outbreak to drive more investment in technology that supports remote working and adoption of flexible working. This means digital transformation within new and existing office buildings is becoming increasingly paramount in catering to the changing requirements from occupiers. Digital transformation integrates data with physical applications. The information provided serves as a ‘health check’ for the building and can drive decision making.
Case study: How digital transformation can move the needle
In 2019, local real estate fund manager GAW Capital engaged with Negawatt, a property/engineering tech company specializing in building digital transformation, to digitally transform one of its commercial buildings with BuildingOS (BOS) – a cloud-based smart building platform designed to eliminate some of the challenges found in buildings.
Traditionally, to digitize an existing building, landlords would face obstacles associated with disconnected systems and data hijacking from different manufacturers, complicated legacy systems, and poor data quality analysis. The process of digitizing was also seen as expensive and requiring a high level of expertise.
Now, by integrating various Internet of Things solutions and systems, the Negawatt BOS centralizes and digitizes all building-related information with artificial intelligent (AI)/big data in a way that can achieve optimized building management operation goals. Through the BOS, clients will be able to control existing equipment with automation and remote access, enhancing efficiency.
In particular, the system collects and integrates vast amounts of data through building management systems for mechanical, ventilation, and air conditioning (MVAC), as well as indoor and outdoor environmental quality data with IoT sensors. With AI modeling, the BOS can therefore predict and suggest the best configuration of MVAC system to achieve optimal energy efficiency under different temperatures and unpredictable loading requirements.
In addition to energy efficiency improvements, building digitization also provides property managers with timely notifications, allowing them to manage and control major equipment from anywhere.
Thus, decisions about optimization can be made around the clock, potentially reducing 20% of chiller energy consumption. With a centralized platform, property managers enjoy easier control of both buildings and human resources. There are also many potential benefits to using smart building systems – for example, increased energy and cost savings, tenant satisfaction level which drives occupancy rates, leasing and property values.
We expect that the growing emphasis on wellness and sustainability will continue gaining momentum in the real estate sector. We are moving further into a market where landlords need to be more competitive, and sustainability-related certifications such as LEED, Beam Plus and Well become more commonplace and valuable in terms of attracting high-quality tenants. While for tenants, a technology-enabled workplace represents a better thought-out environment that aims to provide comfort, sustainability and efficiency.
All in all, a stronger focus on high-quality properties with such attributes is expected for all parties as they make sure that their portfolios, workplace and practice align with this long-term trend.
The best ways forward
To embark on the rewarding digital transformation journey for a sustainable future, consider the following 5-step model:
Step 1: Collect – Collecting data and getting the right information.
Ask ourselves: What kind of data do we need? Why do we need this data? How do we capture this data? Do we need to calibrate this data or do data conditioning?
Step 2: Display – Make information available and accessible in a digital format.
Step 3: Analysis – What do the data tell us? Is there a trend we can see from given a set time frame?
Step 4: Predict – Based on data analysis, can we anticipate and make better decision to accommodate what is to come?
Step 5: Control – Once the full picture is achieved, create new value-added services.
Ask ourselves: can we increase our customer satisfaction or user experience based on data we have with improved system for execution?