Technology trends

5 technology trends that will dominate facilities management in 2022

Actionable data, improved indoor air quality, energy efficiency: these end goals are new, but increasingly driven by new and exciting installation technology. Here’s what you need to know.

Life is returning to a semi-normal state with students attending in-person classes, offices filling up and real estate demand proving not only resilient but growing. And while the pandemic has made forecasting difficult, we recognize some growing trends, many of which will become more important throughout this year and beyond.

In 2022, we expect to see increased use of facility technology in conjunction with the continued strong demand for real estate. Whether you need to spot opportunities to meet changing tenant needs or want to anticipate changes that may occur for your buildings, one thing is clear: physical environments will need to provide the in-building experience that tenants stakeholders want, including a focus on available data, sustainability initiatives and, most importantly, indoor air quality and building health.

1. Healthier and smarter buildings driven by tenants

Since the onset of COVID, an increased awareness of the impact of indoor spaces on health has entered the minds of occupants. They want to know that the air they breathe is safe and that the offices are clean. And for good reason, as the CDC says, good building ventilation is an essential virus fighter. If employees cannot be home or away, they will need the assurance of a safe outdoor environment.

In addition to the need for these healthier buildings, there is a need to make buildings more efficient while reducing costs. Along with building owners seeking smarter, more efficient buildings, tenants and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in working, studying, or spending time in spaces that make the best use of resources.

Building owners who focus on providing healthier, smarter spaces will find a greater opportunity to satisfy current tenants and recruit new occupants.

2. Sound building standards will attract tenants and increase portfolio value

While sound building standards are driven by tenants, they also attract new customers at higher premiums. In fact, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Real Estate Innovation Lab found that property owners healthy buildings can collect between 4.4 and 7.7% more per square foot in rent only close, uncertified and unregistered peers. According to the study, this premium for healthy spaces is independent of other factors such as LEED certification, building age, renovation, lease term and submarket. The results indicate that healthy buildings are seen as an asset correlated with well-being and productivity, and tenants are willing to pay a premium for such spaces.

Certification also captures the interest of employees and customers of these tenants, who can rely on these tenants to choose healthy spaces, thus driving change.

Published guidelines for sound building standards are established and well known in industry circles. These include:

Professional associations serving the industry are also on board, offering advanced certifications to their members. For example, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) offers several professional construction designations. One of them is the High Performance Building Design Professional (HBDP) Certification which validates the competence to design and integrate sustainable HVAC systems in high performance buildings. Although this is not building certification, the principle is that qualified people will guide owners and other building management personnel, making changes.

When building owners use adopted and certified standards, they increase their bottom line. But to truly use healthy building technology to its full potential, owners and managers need to be consistent with data collection and analysis.

3. Data will be king

What good is the data if you have no way to analyze it? Technology in the built environment isn’t new, but learning to analyze and use data to deliver ongoing value in the built environment requires a new level of intelligent software.

Technologies to make buildings smarter were already well advanced long before Covid-19. Through hardware and sensors that collect data, building owners have access to technology that can turn that data into meaningful results, informing operational decisions in a more dynamic built environment.

In the future, however, these technologies will become even more important, as building owners leverage this information to guide actions towards more efficient and data-driven use of energy, maintenance and other operational resources.

More than just insight into building operations behind the scenes, this data and information will also actively guide decisions to improve occupant comfort and health.

While technology can automatically adjust environments with data, analytics, and automation tools, holistic platforms rather than point solutions are needed, along with smart building professionals to configure them.

Advanced air quality and occupancy sensors will collect more data than ever before. However, to make buildings smarter, healthier and more environmentally friendly, the integration of data sources must be combined with intelligent analyzes and methods of action.

Data should flow to a platform configured by building professionals to better manage indoor environments. A smart building platform can connect thermostats, air quality sensors, occupancy sensors, and disparate mechanical equipment to take action automatically.

Building operators need to hire smart building professionals. Owners need guidance on the best solutions to properly use technology in their environment. A Master Systems Integrator (MSI) focuses on the customer’s desired outcome and targeted use cases. Then, using deep domain expertise, they advise on the technology and data needed to achieve the results (comfort, energy optimization, air quality, cost savings). Property owners and managers should be wary of advisors who take a technology-driven approach – the focus is on the stakeholder value proposition and how best to deliver it.

4. Sustainability remains a concern for building owners

With smarter buildings leveraging data and analytics for safety and efficiency, landlords and tenants will leverage these same technologies to pay less on energy while keeping an eye on sustainability.

All traditional energy sources are much more expensive than a year ago. Energy demand – transportation, shipping and manufacturing – bounced back from the pandemic crisis much faster than expected and caused prices to explode.

For most of 2020 and into 2021, people weren’t entering and using buildings the way they used to, reducing energy consumption. However, while energy consumption has decreased, only a few buildings have been able to truly optimize their costs based on reduced occupancy; they did not have the intelligent systems to modify their consumption profiles and “hibernate”.

In 2022, landlords and tenants will take advantage of technologies to minimize energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint. The objective is to allocate energy consumption proportional to the capacity used.

To better understand sustainability, there are technologies that help utility customers determine whether they are sourcing energy from renewable sources. With these technologies, landowners can only purchase power when renewables are available, helping to meet corporate sustainability goals and reduce their carbon footprint.

5. The workplace as an experience will drive building management

Finally, how people expect to interact with their outdoor spaces will dictate the amenities and capabilities owners and managers will make available in a building.

The Great Resignation showed that people prioritize their physical and mental health when choosing a job. These choices will also be aligned with the build environments they might find themselves working in.

Since the future of work will likely be hybrid, employees will come to the office with specific intentions. Since many people will continue to have the ability to work remotely, the office will instead need to provide space for specific uses – i.e. in-person client meetings or team collaborations. In this way, the office becomes a destination for meaningful and useful interactions.

More efficient, safer and healthier smart buildings are on the horizon for 2022.

Gina Elliott is Director of Services for Buildings IOT.

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