A recent Technavio report, released in October 2019, forecast the market for integrated building management to grow at a CAGR of more than 12% till 2023. The research identified energy efficiency and sustainability as one of the main drivers for this expansion, along with unified control of building automation. Of course, no one could have anticipated the global COVID-19 outbreak at the time.
Given the aftermath of the pandemic, virtually all sectors of the economy have been forced to reassess their business models and strategies. The CRE industry, already undergoing a vigorous digital transformation, is now considering an enhanced digital toolkit even more proactively. Building owners and managers are looking at integrated building management, as a means to empower their workforces, and make their operations more resilient to disruption.
The need to make building automation future-ready
Legacy building management systems (BMS) were a subset of building automation systems (BAS). With most vendors being automation focused, the scope of the management solutions being offered was relatively limited. However, in recent years, the rise of IoT technology led to progressive CRE businesses seeking system transparency, AI driven analytics and real-time control over their assets. Building owners and facility managers were looking for comprehensive and sophisticated digital tools, to analyse and manage their operations and maintenance needs.
Integrated building management offers centralized monitoring and control, to unify the mechanical, electrical, IT, and security systems in a connected building portfolio. With the capacity to collect and interpret real-time data seamlessly, the complexity of contemporary real estate operations can finally be simplified and optimized, at the same time. The resulting interoperability allows CRE businesses to achieve unprecedented process efficiency, while lowering operating costs and delivering exceptional occupant experiences.
Upgrading existing building stock has become inevitable
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the evolution from siloed building systems, locked into vendor specific protocols and proprietary standards, unavoidable. However, Open Protocol Connectivity (OPC) and standardized communication between all embedded devices and automation, was already the key to portfolio scale optimization, in the age of Industry 4.0. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the energy used by buildings accounted for 20% of global delivered energy consumption in 2018, with the figure set to grow at 1.3% per annum, on average, till 2050. Such statistics were driving investment in integrated building management, in response to increasingly stringent government regulations, in the pre-pandemic world.
Until recently the stumbling block to Smart Cities and Smart Communities was the massive amount of existing building stock, and the prohibitive cost of large scale physical retrofits. However, advances in IoT, cognitive technologies, edge computing and the Cloud have made integrated building management possible for all CRE businesses, regardless of the age of their assets or legacy components. With the COVID-19 pandemic introducing requirements that are tailor-made for the strengths of this tech driven integration strategy, the time for half-measures is well and truly behind the industry.
The future belongs to interoperability
In the post-COVID scenario, IoT and AI driven system integration will take an even more central role in the management of buildings. Data-driven decision making, IoT based sensor networks for predictive maintenance, and centralized command and control will ensure that leaner onsite teams and a reliance on remote monitoring can still deliver uncompromised occupant experiences.
Beyond the health crisis, extended global lockdowns have had a very significant economic impact. Commercial real estate businesses are dealing with deferred rents, loss of perceived property value and the very real possibility that office-spaces, physical retail and entertainment venues – among other assets - will not return to full capacity anytime soon. Operating building portfolios profitably, under such severe limitations, will require the industry to identify every last opportunity for optimization. CRE workforces too are operating within restrictions that they aren’t accustomed to. App based interfaces and full spectrum digitization of the industry will be critical to empowering these stakeholders. Finally, real estate businesses will need to develop the capacity and redundancies required to handle any future disruptions of this nature.
Integrating the CRE industry’s IT infrastructure, embedded devices and virtual assets – such as apps and data – empowers the sector to address the entire array of challenges and opportunities that it is currently facing. The case for real-time coordination and seamless, digitally synced operations has never been more compelling. The age of closed proprietary ‘solutions’ is over. Integrated building management and interoperability is no longer merely desirable – it is now a default precondition for the contemporary CRE business to thrive in the new normal.