Technologies for a healthier workplace
Proptech innovations lead the way to a safer, more efficient commercial real estate future
Technology could lead the way to an improved, safer and healthier work and hospitality environment in a post-COVID world.
These property technologies, or proptech, have been extremely relevant during the pandemic and include remote transaction technologies, robotics, IoT devices, occupancy sensors, smart buildings, spatial monitoring, and energy management information systems. Proptech decreases touchpoints, increases efficiency, lowers cost and the risk of virus transmission and attracts talent and tenants.
Remote Transaction Technologies
The ability to transact during the pandemic has relied heavily on information digitalization and remote technologies that enable virtual building tours and remote transaction closings. While some institutional buyers and investors still require in-person site visits, recent advancements in technology like JLL’s NXT platform allow prospective investors to tour a building virtually. Over time, these technologies compress transaction times and increase who can evaluate opportunities. Additionally, virtual leasing platforms like Matterport allow tenants to view space alternatives more efficiently before narrowing down options. Lastly, digital signature applications enable streamlined transaction closings and lease executions.
Cleaning and sanitization are extremely important now in all buildings, shifting from a baseline expectation to true selling point to tenants and guests. Additionally, the public expects minimal human interaction, creating an opportunity to deploy cleaning robots. For example, Maidbot, an Austin-based robotics company, has seen a spike in demand to support re-openings. The company deploys self-driving vacuum robots in offices and hotels, which reduce human contact and total cleaning time and collect operational and environmental data. Maidbot is also working on robots to tackle hard surfaces cleaning and sanitization above the floor level.
IoT Devices and Sensors
Smart sensors and internet of things (IoT) devices, wireless edge devices that capture vast amounts of data for further processing, provide valuable information to monitor building performance, flag issues and promote quick response times. According to market research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global market for IoT-enabled remote asset management solutions is predicted to grow 97 percent to $32.6 billion by 2025. These devices show asset managers insight into performance and provide property teams tools to be more effective in optimizing tenant experience.
Keeping occupants safe has never been more critical, and lobby health checks, increased sanitization, optimal space layouts and measures to improve indoor air quality are key. While resulting in higher costs, these items are now considered the minimum for retaining and attracting tenants.
Smart Buildings and Spatial Monitoring
Smart building technologies like keyless entry, contactless or remote hospitality check-ins and automated elevators reduce human touchpoints where germs can be transmitted. While improving safety, these technologies promote improved user experience and property team productivity.
Technology platforms such as CARTO, Density, SpaceIQ and VergeSense gather occupancy and spatial utilization data. With this data, management teams can optimize traffic flows and reduce density in congested areas. They also assist with space reconfigurations to improve employee safety while minimizing productivity impacts. Additionally, operators can adjust air circulation flows and rates based on occupancy and layouts to promote safer work environments while simultaneously reducing costs.
Energy Management Information Systems
Electricity, heating and cooling costs comprise a significant amount of a building’s overall expenses. However, the ability to improve tenant wellness and safety while simultaneously cutting costs is paramount. Energy efficiency is a legal requirement in some states – not just a way to lower costs. New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. have all passed green building initiatives and require building owners to cut emissions.
Bractlet, an Austin-based smart building software company, has developed sophisticated analysis tools to help asset managers and property teams monitor building performance and evaluate and implement building optimizations and upgrades to improve tenant wellness and safety, all while minimizing capital and operating costs. Bractlet’s technology creates a “digital energy twin” for each building that can model the impact of a project on building performance and calculate the associated investment returns.This digital energy twin incorporates high fidelity building design and occupancy information and then is calibrated with real time building control, equipment-level energy consumption and weather data to be highly predictive. Bractlet’s software platform also makes ESG reporting easy and provides tools to quickly identify and address building performance issues.