Covid-19 is forcing real estate developers and facility managers to rethink many aspects of the buildings they build and oversee — and investing in smart building systems and software is one of them. A KRC research report says up to 70% of United States facility managers are now more willing to invest in smart building solutions.
A smart building is defined by the Intelligent Building Institute as “one that provides a productive and cost-effective environment through optimization of its four basic elements — structure, systems, services and management.”
In other words, smart buildings allow for the automatic centralized control of a building’s systems, including HVAC, electrical, lighting, shading, security systems and more. For example, the integration of an internet of things (IoT) platform into an HVAC system can help manage and monitor air filtration.
The Smart Buildings Market report by Component (via MarketsandMarkets) predicts that the smart buildings market will be worth $108.9 billion by 2025, up from $66.3 billion in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5% during the forecast period. The report points out “the major drivers for the Smart building include rising adoption of IoT-enabled building management system, raising awareness of space utilization, increased industry standards and regulations.”
There are some truly amazing examples of smart buildings around the world with visionary and jaw-dropping features. But even some of the more mainstream buildings — like the kind that you and I might live and work in — are slowly getting up to speed. One such example that we’re beginning to see pop up in more homes is interconnected smart appliances.
IoT Home Appliances Are All The Rage
The adoption of IoT devices such as smart thermostats, doorbells, locks, appliances, toilets and multi-room speakers, to name a few (all connected and voice-activated), in individual apartments and homes is becoming more commonplace. We all know someone with a voice assistant device, a Ring doorbell or a Nest thermostat (and maybe our really fancy friends have a smart refrigerator or toilet). Occupants are either buying these devices themselves or looking for spaces where they come pre-installed. In fact, real estate developers are starting to offer smart appliances in their units to showcase them as cutting-edge and more energy-efficient to buyers and renters alike.
The global smart appliances market is expected to grow from $33.8 billion in 2021 to $76.4 billion by 2026 at a CAGR of 17.7% during the forecast period, according to MarketsandMarkets. According to the report, in 2020, North America accounted for the second-largest share of the smart appliance market, and a similar trend is likely to be observed during the forecast period.
Smart Buildings And Homes Need Quality, On-Demand Servicing
Anyone who has ever owned a smart device knows they can easily go offline or on the fritz. Whether that’s at a large scale, as with an intelligent HVAC system in a smart building, or one’s own smart thermostat on a hot summer day, these systems and devices need specialized maintenance and repairs. However, the right contractors aren’t always easy to find. Not every electrician is a Nest expert, for example, so you don’t always know what you’re going to get.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, said Benjamin Franklin. It’s critical to keep your smart building’s sensors, which control the building’s myriad functions — such as air filtration systems that help curb the spread of Covid — properly and regularly maintained by qualified electricians or IT technicians.
Traditionally, mechanical equipment has been maintained on a quarterly, semi-annual or yearly schedule. Now, smart mechanical equipment is moving to a similar approach as all our high-tech cars. Cars have to go into the shop when they burn their oil and other fluids and hit a certain mileage. Now that vibration sensors are part of mechanical equipment, we can easily know how long the machine has run for and set up services based on those hours.
Better yet, when an unexpected problem arises, smart devices should be able to diagnose that there is an issue and push out service requests to get them fixed without human intervention. This isn’t a given, however, property managers need to make sure these capabilities are baked into their smart buildings and systems.
This scenario is a long way from how the repair and maintenance contractors have traditionally been deployed — through personal Rolodexes (phone, call centers or even fax) and managed through Excel spreadsheets. These outdated, manual processes are incredibly inefficient and unworthy of a smart building or IoT device whose raison d’être is to keep pace in a fast-moving, 24/7 digital world.
Today, digital communication, transparency and quality control are sadly lacking in building and facilities management — yet these are all traits that anyone consuming smart devices would automatically expect. Repair and maintenance contractors for smart buildings and smart homes can now be monitored using automated technology for service requests, service tracking, service proposals and service payments built around large networks of contractors.
The future truly is now, and especially post-Covid, real estate management will never be the same. It’s time that property managers and real estate developers took a closer look at the technologies that can help them keep their smart buildings and amenities repaired and maintained more efficiently — making them look smarter, too.