CRE sustainability goals: How investment in technology can help

Richard Morris, technologywithin

By Richard Morris, Director at technologywithin – Cutting-edge technology is no longer simply a nice-to-have for commercial real estate (CRE) offerings. Outlining his Ten Point Plan to deal with climate change, the Prime Minister recently highlighted the role of tech in achieving the UK’s new energy ambitions, and CRE landlords should think seriously about investing in this tech to provide a platform for post-pandemic prosperity.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology can help our workspaces upgrade their energy efficiency, which will benefit landlords by cutting costs. Moreover, reliable cloud storage solutions can help mobilise offices in the online space, making the most of the environmental advantages of remote working. By investing in these technologies, CRE landlords will improve their chances of increasing yields as tenants become more environmentally conscious and future-proof their portfolio for decades to come.

Saving money and the environment

Internet of Things technology can provide urgently needed support for CRE property owners looking to optimise energy usage in their portfolio. According to the UK’s Green Building Council, our built environment is responsible for 40 per cent of the country’s carbon footprint, and this figure rises to 78 per cent in cities such as London.

Cutting carbon emissions in office buildings should therefore be a priority for landlords looking not only to minimise their environmental impact, but also to future-proof their building as part of a more sustainable agenda. Leveraging innovative IoT tech will help CRE properties become more energy efficient. Moreover, by giving landlords and tenants a better understanding of their energy usage – and wastage – insights provided by IoT can inform changes to office management which cut costs, as well as emissions, for all parties.

Motion sensors, for example, can track the occupancy of spaces within buildings in real time, while smart facilities management systems can translate this data into actionable insights for landlords and tenants, or even automatically adjust the output of heating, lighting and air conditioning as per these insights. This can play an important part both in minimising emissions and improving the responsiveness and comfort of buildings for tenants.

Indeed, opportunities to optimise heating output should be welcomed by CRE landlords, given that heating accounts for 10 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint. Smart systems can adjust output according to occupancy data or weather reports from outside the office, ensuring an optimal environment for tenants’ comfort as well as sustainability. Air conditioning and heating can both be streamlined in this way, enhancing sustainability credentials in all seasons.

In addition, intelligent lighting controls can maximise energy efficiency with functions such as automated dimming and daylight harvesting, while ‘task tuning’ can limit light output in a space as per user preference. Preferences can be programmed manually or learned by AI-driven technology based on previous patterns.

Property owners who invest in Internet of Things technology will therefore see returns in the form of reduced energy costs and can expect improved yields in the long term as tenants increasingly place a premium on the sustainability credentials of their workspaces. For landlords, then, embracing energy-saving IoT tech should bring multifaceted benefits.

Physically remote, virtually connected

By building hybrid working into our regular routines following the coronavirus pandemic, we can significantly reduce the carbon emissions associated with commuting. However, well-equipped buildings with robust technology infrastructure will play a crucial part in powering this process.

Cutting down on travel should prove popular with workers, for whom the lack of commuting has been widely regarded as the best part of working from home during the pandemic. There are also environmental benefits associated with this change, as commuting makes up a quarter of UK transport emissions, while the average commuter emissions level fell by 20% at the peak of the national lockdown. A long-term shift towards remote working would therefore tick multiple boxes for workers, businesses, and the environment.

However, CRE landlords – and tenants tied to long leases – need not worry about this change signalling the end of the office. In fact, offices will continue to play a central role as data ‘hubs’ with the responsibility of facilitating business as usual among a much-dispersed workforce. While IT-enabled offices are now a minimum requirement for businesses working from the office, technological capacity is arguably even more important in the era of working from home, where in-person IT support is much less likely to be available to individuals.

Cloud computing, where remote workers can access company resources online, requires data centres with sufficient power to support the activity of multiple dispersed workers. These capabilities will therefore rank highly on the vast majority of tenants’ must-have lists even after the coronavirus pandemic, with 72% of people expecting digitally disconnected spaces to become obsolete in the near future.

So, while technological teething problems are understandable in these unprecedented times, the long-term adoption of remote working will require a solution that runs more smoothly. Migrating online will enable offices to survive with far less commuting, and cloud storage technology holds the key to unlocking the environmental benefits of this change.

Post-pandemic positivity

As targets for net-zero emissions get ever closer, CRE landlords should embrace technology to make their offerings more sustainable – and more appealing to tenants who are increasingly environmentally conscious. By leveraging Internet of Things and cloud storage tech, landlords can provide offices equipped for the pandemic and beyond, optimising energy usage and facilitating other lifestyle changes that benefit the environment. These investments will yield substantial returns for landlords, as well as a more sustainable relationship between our buildings and our planet.

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