Property technology is making buildings smarter, and a recent RYCOM Corporation presentation offered insights into how owners and operators can best exploit the growing trend.
“Smart innovation can transform engagement with a tenant, impact capital, operational costs and savings and the ability for staff to leverage tools and access to data,” said RYCOM vice-president and general manager Jennifer Sicillia at an Oct. 9 event co-hosted by REALPAC and MetaProp NYC at Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Lennox Hall.
RYCOM launched in 1997 and has developed innovative and integrated technology solutions for governments as well as the real estate, financial, media and retail sectors.
Today’s buildings can utilize technology for such things as: tracking energy and utility use; controlling lighting; customizing individual heating and cooling systems; monitoring movement with sensors; enabling quicker response times and isolating issues which can impact the life cycle of building systems; and facial recognition for security purposes.
These functions can provide greater efficiency, safety and comfort while delivering cost savings aligned with the goals of property owners, managers and tenants.
Smart building challenges and strategies
“Although it has brought many benefits, it has also created challenges,” Sicillia said of the introduction of new technologies to the real estate industry.
“In some cases, clients feel overwhelmed by all of the tech options available, as new companies are emerging on a daily basis. Others have deployed tech and had to expedite their smart buildings strategies sooner than they had anticipated.”
Creating a smart strategy isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario, as each property is different. Factors to consider, according to Sicillia, include: type of portfolio; short- and long-term needs; length of leases; location; tenant profile; competitive landscape; access to capital; the labour force and skill set within an organization; age of buildings; and the type of measurement and recording being sought.
“Smart is an ecosystem of partners and no one company will be successful going at it alone,” said Sicillia. “Therefore, organizations must consider who else should be part of the conversation.”
Sicillia emphasized the importance of looking at what data is available internally before looking externally for solutions, as well as involving in-house information technology teams in creating and executing smart building and cyber-security strategies. Managers also must establish consistent policies and guidelines.
Find the right technology partners and people
“The tendering process typically does not accurately reflect a client’s smart strategy,” said Sicillia. “This is not the lowest price environment wins.
“Understand the cost of ownership versus the cost of acquisition. Invest in open systems versus proprietary systems and have the ability to own and access your data.”
Sicillia said it’s crucial for building owners and operators to partner with outside companies which share their vision and have an established track record of achieving what they want accomplished.
“Many clients want to move forward without actually understanding what exists within their portfolio. Everyone says they do smart. However, you need to evaluate their capabilities, skill set and what happens if they disappear tomorrow.
“Site teams might also depend on existing vendor relationships to provide guidance even though the partner’s not the most experienced in this space.”
While more automation seems inevitable in operating buildings, Sicillia said technology won’t totally replace humans because people will still need to create, engage with and manage systems.