Gibraltar is currently experiencing a construction boom with several large residential developments being built, particularly for the middle to top end of the market, including projects such as MidTown, the new phases of King’s Wharf (Quay 29 & 31), Ocean Village Spa Plaza, West One, the forthcoming EuroCity development and more.
To say that developers are getting creative with the design would be an understatement. In the quest to create the coolest or most unique buildings, we’ve seen a host of ostentatious building amenities such as rooftop pool lounges, spas, glass atriums, vertical gardens and other resort-like features being created. But the savviest building owners are making strategic investments in upgrades that more broadly and consistently benefit both the owner and the tenant.
Leaders throughout the commercial and residential real estate world are tuning in ever more closely to smart building trends. The term “smart building” is loosely tossed around a lot, but it generally refers to network-enabled building management systems that help automate building operations. These technologies, once considered revolutionary, are steadily becoming the norm in today’s premier office and apartment buildings.
The benefits of smart buildings are many: From smart energy consumption and cost-savings to smart fire extinguishers, smart locks and smart lighting – smart building technology is making a difference.
According to the Continental Automated Buildings Association’s (CABA), cost, far and above all other factors, is the biggest barrier to adoption by owners, operators and developers, followed by occupant privacy concerns. The main challenge is the upfront investment that’s required to incorporate these types of technologies into buildings. Depending on the size of the buildings or the number of units that they contain, the upfront investment could be too much or just not worth the pain. To overcome the cost issue, many developers (internationally) are starting to offer technology in a percentage of their units and charging higher rates for these upgraded units. This upgrade concept has been used for many years in the residential sector with things like upgraded countertops or closets, but using tech as an upgrade is a more recent development, driven by younger owners’ and tenants’ affinity for connectivity as well as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets.
Another major concern that building owners and managers must contend with is the issue of data privacy. Intelligent lighting, smart thermostats, smart locks etc all gather intelligence that is measuring what the people are doing in their homes. But where is that data going, who is it used by and do the residents want that data to be ported out? According to the CABA report, if suppliers can prove that tenants’ personal devices and data are safe from external attacks, users would be more willing to share that data with suppliers in exchange for more personalised, higher value services. Indeed, there are embedded security chips that can be implanted inside a fire extinguisher or light bulbs that can add some really strong security features that make it and its communication with the cloud very secure. When it comes to security, building owners need to ask their vendors whether the data from these connected devices is encrypted because, ultimately, it’s all about the data.
Benefits for a building owner
Once instrumented and activated, a smart building can operate self-sufficiently without the need for a large staff to manage operations. A small set of expert trouble-shooters and auditors can replace the army of managers and low-skilled support staff that typically operate conventional facilities. These experts can ensure that the smart building operates effectively and efficiently and help to manage extraordinary needs that might arise. Moreover, pride in the environment is the strongest predictor of lease renewal. Commercial and residential tenants that are measurably happier with their living/working environment drive the risk associated with empty spaces by as much as 75% according to studies.
Benefits for a service provider
A smart building demonstrates the actual needs for services based on historical prediction and on real-time awareness to eliminate guesswork from service provision. Smart buildings are empowered to negotiate for the best service and the best price which opens up opportunities to displace incumbent providers and expand those service vendors with efficient operations.
Benefits for a tenant
A smart building is an active partner in optimising your daily interactions, whether they involve working, shopping or living within its walls. The smart building uses real-time knowledge to tune the environment and manage costs which will maximise your experience. It allows you to plan for your needs and optimise your expenses.
At Benefit Business Solutions we have been working with a number of smart building technology providers looking to enter the local market and beyond. We can certainly say that smart buildings go far beyond saving energy and contributing to sustainability goals. They extend capital equipment life and also impact the security and safety of all resources – both human and capital. They enable innovation by creating a platform for accessible information. They turn buildings into data power houses that can command over service providers. They are a key component of a future where information technology and human ingenuity combine to produce the robust, low-carbon economy envisioned for the future.