One of the largest meetups of commercial real estate professionals concluded last week in New York City. Propmodo kicked it off with “Technology and Collaboration in the Built Environment” at the beautiful 4 Times Square building followed by a packed CRE-focused agenda hosted by MIPIM PropTech and MetaPropNYC.
With over 2,000 attendees from around the world, the conversations held on stage and amidst cocktail tables did not disappoint. However, the discussions were almost without an important perspective – those who know buildings best.
The only formal panel that discussed building operations was aptly titled “Your Building is Talking, Are you Listening?” which is a motto very close to our hearts (and our corporate branding). The panel’s combined responses defined a smart building as one that has an internet of systems, not only IoT, that improves asset value through software enabled participation of the people that operate assets and, thus, creates a data interchange that becomes tangible intelligence. The panel agreed that AI allows us to ask questions and get an answer but technology is not the solution itself, it just gets us to where we want to go.
While I wanted to applaud many parts of the panel due to its heavy concentration on data-fed building operations and facility management, there is still so much more that needs to be said about building health and what it means and can mean to CRE. The global real estate market is expected to generate a revenue of $4,3 trillion by 2025 making it very attractive to technology companies. However, we’re missing an important part of building valuations as we move towards making them smarter and worth more.
As we discussed in the last InSite Coast to Coast episode, no one understands buildings more than the people that keep them operational and comfortable. These real life heroes often take a backseat to new, shiny technology, but the decision shouldn’t be picking one or the other; the true value of tech is when it’s the communication gateway between what a building is saying and the people who are listening.
Building valuation needs to go beyond the usual checkboxes like location, leases and the tile in the lobby, and consider a building’s health. “Health” is the building’s ability to efficiently provide a comfortable, safe and productive environment day in and day out. That can only be accurately determined by looking at broad sets of building data — maintenance and operational records for upkeep and performance information, IoT and sensor data that fill in gaps left by meters and building systems, and, most importantly, human-generated information like complaints, comments and work order requests that provide the people-level feedback as to whether the building is performing well or poorly.
Fortunately, popular IoT and Internet of Systems solutions show us the data we need to see to understand operating systems and their relationships with other building systems. When buildings have a living, always-updated record of what happened, what is happening, and what will happen that impacts asset health and longevity, the CRE market can properly decide the value of a building. Sadly, the industry is largely missing this important ingredient.
These CRE conferences need to include more experts who know buildings better than anything or anyone else. Not only will this add a new and very necessary perspective to discussions, it will shed light on the fact that optimal building technology platforms won’t replace the humanity of buildings but strengthen it.