Building management built on data: a new era of tenancy

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Lorraine Lee explores a new era of data-driven tenancy and the benefits it will provide to building managers and users alike.

Now more than ever, tenants want to be connected to the buildings they inhabit. With the world beyond the walls in continuous flux, it’s no wonder that place creation is becoming a higher priority for occupants. In the past few years, community spaces, co-working options and high-comfort amenities have become the norm, and sustainability is climbing to the top of the tenant agenda too. But whose responsibility is it to create this new normal for tenants and how do we measure success?

As building managers, I believe that our bottom line is now best measured by impact. We are no longer simply concerned with occupancy numbers and aesthetics, but rather how our building contributes to its context and how our tenants feel within it. Therefore, it is our job to maintain this positive connection between tenants and their building. Thankfully, with new technologies and a renewed focus on healthy commercial environments at our disposal, this is increasingly achievable – especially with data at the core.

Data-driven tenancy

Just as the modern tenant is evolving, building management needs to evolve. And so, as the amount of data available to us proliferates, we must continue to ask question, “does the building have a positive impact on tenants?”

The level of data a modern building can generate is extraordinary. Everything from how occupants use each room and where areas of congestion exist to how heating and cooling is being used or the volume of waste being produced can be made available to us at a moment’s notice. This data can be fed into an analytics platform that ties all the building’s technology interfaces – air conditioning maintenance and building management systems, for example – together to create a strong tech backbone for operations. By taking the focus away from ad hoc solutions and reactive maintenance, data is helping usher in a new approach to management and preventative maintenance. Furthermore, the development of smart buildings apps can also help to assess the performance of buildings by gathering granular data based on tenant activity.

These smart building apps are, in essence, becoming a new interface between tenants and their spaces. From booking meeting rooms to controlling the temperature and logging maintenance requests, occupants can take control of their environment from the mobile screen in their hands. The insights we learn from this screen-based activity can teach us a lot about what our tenants need and help unlock a new, smarter way to manage buildings.

What exactly does a smart building look like?

The recently opened GPO Exchange in Adelaide (pictured above) is a prime example of how building data is being used for better place creation. Some of its data-driven technologies include number plate recognition to automate seamless entry into the building’s parking, and Charli, the workplace experience app that enables occupants to make the most of the building’s amenities, from mobile phone enabled HID access to ordering coffee or booking a smart locker.

The GPO Exchange lobby alone is enough to wow tenants from a design perspective, while also remaining incredibly functional. To enhance that sense of connection with their space, there are also ‘third spaces’ to allow flexibility in the working environment and premium end-trip facilities to encourage walking or biking to work as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Over in Melbourne, the tech-enabled Wesley Place precinct will serve as a further example of smart infrastructure when its three office towers open from mid-2020 to 2022. The vibrant workspaces boast sustainability-driven technologies such as a lighting sensor system that tracks what office areas are being used the most, enabling greater control of energy use and smart bins with integrated compact mechanisms and alerts to help building managers control waste.

In the premium-grade tower at Wesley Place’s 130 Lonsdale St, destination-controlled elevators will even utilise IoT sensors to monitor lift usage trends and prioritise certain routes to ease vertical congestion. Smartphones will replace access cards, allowing frictionless movement throughout the building. And tenants can log service and maintenance requests through the Charli app.

Ultimately, this layer of information drives operational efficiencies, reduces costs and improves the life cycle of a building while also positively impacting tenant comfort. So what’s holding us back from rolling it out across the industry?

The bottom line of building management

There’s a simple truth at the core of it all: if your tenants are better connected to their spaces, you can better understand their needs. From connectivity and amenity to flexibility and sustainability, a focus on data will help improve productivity, reduce costs and create real places that tenants can connect to. Yet we, as building managers, are not making the most of it.

This is partly because we’re only now harnessing ways to gather and analyse this data. We’re still incorporating that layer of technology into new buildings that allow us to generate and capture as much data as possible. As for existing buildings, upgrading older structures to meet the demands of the future workforce needs to be a key focus.

At Charter Hall, we have specialist data analysts to help drive this culture of data generation in our buildings, using the information at our fingertips to solve inefficiencies across our tenant portfolio. Technologically savvy building such as GPO Exchange and Wesley Place will generate a wealth of data not yet seen in the market and provide us with best practice examples of how data can create this positive tenant experience long into the future. From there, we can roll out a data-driven approach across the industry.

As we enter another milestone decade in building management, I look forward to seeing what it brings in terms of new and innovative ways to manage buildings and collaborate with tenants.

Lorraine Lee is head of operations at Charter Hall.

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