Managing real estate in times of crisis: 3 reasons smart building tech is essential

By Switch Automation • April 21, 2020

In part 1 of this blog series discussing smart building tech’s role in times of crisis, ‘Why are all the lights on at 5am?,’ we explained why property operators might allow their facilities to run normally in the midst of an already costly global lockdown.

Here at Switch, we’ve been revising our day-to-day processes to be more resilient in the face of global and local crises. Every day we hear that property owners and managers worldwide are doing the same as cancelled leases and a faltering market demand continue to put pressure on the global real estate industry.

How smart buildings react with agility during a lockdown

With so many CRE professionals being made to work from home or not at all, the value of a robust digital facilities management strategy has never been more clear – smart building tech has offered remote analysis, reporting and control for several years now. Here are the top 3 reasons that smart building tech is absolutely crucial when disaster strikes:

1. Immediate reduction in energy consumption and operating costs

Having full visibility of your portfolio enables you to benchmark performance and identify opportunities for performance optimization. Does your occupancy data indicate that your buildings are completely empty during a lockdown? With connected systems, you can instantly adjust HVAC, lighting and other systems’ set-points to accommodate new operating procedures and reduce your OPEX costs. Do you have 40 uninhabited sites across North America? No problem. Use remote control to make real-time changes across numerous properties at once.

If you know that demand for your buildings diminishes during a crisis, there’s no reason your organization should have to bear the same operating expenses as if it were ‘business as usual.’ Responding to a lockdown with smart building tech can be immediate, cutting your organization’s overhead, reducing demand on already overwhelmed technicians and helping lessen the financial impact of an international crisis.

2. Safety for both onsite and remote staff

Facilities remote control functionality is possible through a ‘single pane of glass’ interface, and your team can do this via a mobile device or an internet browser. This means that your FMs can remain productive and safe while working from home, monitoring, analyzing, controlling and reporting on your portfolio’s performance even when the rest of society has come to a halt.

Smart building tech also integrates with your security systems and offers site usage functionality to monitor who’s coming and going. This helps ensure the safety of these environments for the essential workers who have to go into work, even when your security staff has to stay at home.

3. Protecting your brand

Failing to react during a crisis and leaving your facilities running while they remain empty can be really detrimental to your brand. While heating and cooling are essentially invisible, leaving the lights on while buildings sit unoccupied sends a message of carelessness and demonstrates an obvious lack of operational agility. This is particularly true as millions face hardship and unemployment. Adjusting your facilities publicly demonstrates to surrounding communities and even your own employees that your brand is conscientious, efficient and sustainability oriented.

Safeguarding your portfolio for the next global crisis

Every year seems to bring a new global crisis, highlighting the importance of having a truly resilient risk management strategy in place. Moreover, smart building tech gives a clear advantage to the property owners and managers that have prepared for the worst.

It’s now crucial that real estate organizations prepare for the next global crisis to absorb diminished property value and cancelled leases. At the same time, the companies poised to take advantage of the eventual market upturn are the ones that will truly flourish.

Some real estate companies are actually using the current economic pause to upscale their tech and create a core team of smart building professionals. Timing is everything – because smart building technology creates new value and efficiency that compounds over time, the big industry winners and losers are being established right now. There are some extremely talented and technology-oriented professionals in the market at the moment and digitization is only going to accelerate for the most competitive CRE organizations.

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