When the Prime Minister unveiled his Ten Point Plan to help the UK achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, many people may have missed the reference to cutting-edge technology included under Point 10. However, for local authorities with commercial real estate (CRE) portfolios, embracing new technologies will be vital for remaining competitive in a market where sustainability concerns are becoming increasingly important.
Given how much our working lives contribute to our national carbon footprint, environmental improvements in CRE offerings cannot come too soon. By equipping properties with Internet of Things (IoT) technology, future-proof communication platforms, and flexible data storage solutions, CRE landlords can adapt successfully, not only to the new normal post-COVID, but also to the heightened environmental concerns of tenants and regulators.
Saving money and the environment
Supported by Internet of Things technology, CRE landlords can monitor the energy efficiency of their properties and identify opportunities to improve their yields as well as their sustainability credentials – a benefit even more critical for stretched landlords in the wake of COVID-19. These benefits can then be passed on to tenants, helping offerings stand out in an increasingly crowded market.
Leveraging IoT tech offers significant potential to help curb the environmental impact of our buildings, which accounts for 40% of UK carbon emissions – rising to 78% in cities such as London. We urgently need to make our built environment more energy efficient, and savings made by reducing wastage should incentivise landlords to invest in green schemes.
So how can IoT solutions help? Firstly, motion sensors can track room occupancy in real time, while smart facilities management platforms can convert occupancy data into actionable insights for landlords and tenants.
Alternatively, AI-driven systems can automatically adjust heating output, for example, based on learned occupancy patterns, or additional stimuli such as local weather reports. With heating responsible for 10% of the UK’s entire carbon footprint, these innovations can radically improve our sustainability credentials.
Physically distant, virtually connected
Many office-based workers have become far better acquainted with video-conferencing this year, with all the teething problems this entails. Finding the right long-term solution to support sustained use of this technology, both in the office and remotely, should be a high priority for CRE landlords, with sustainability targets ensuring virtual collaboration is here to stay.
COVID-19 and the climate crisis have combined to make companies reconsider the necessity of long commutes and major business trips. Reducing travel need not mean diminishing activity, however, as long as workspaces are equipped with sufficiently sophisticated software to overcome the geographical distances between colleagues and clients.
But connectivity is obviously critical to supporting this. Furthermore, fast, reliable connectivity has tangible benefits for business, increasing workers’ productivity by up to 16% – equivalent to 41 extra working days per year. All those extra minutes waiting for slow connection, therefore, can really add up to makes businesses less efficient.
Moreover, firms must consider virtual networking events and business pitches rapidly becoming the norm. Harnessing tech capable of facilitating effective online communications will be a key crutch for businesses recovering from this year’s uncertainty. Furthermore, and it could well be the difference between surviving and thriving in the long term.
Catalysed by the pandemic, the shift towards more flexible patterns of work has necessitated more malleable means of data storage. Solutions which provide employees with access to company resources from wherever they choose to work have moved rapidly from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘essential’.
Flexible working models, with their lessened emphasis on commuting, provide a welcome lifeline for the environment. Commuting is normally responsible for a quarter of UK transport emissions, whereas this year’s lockdowns reduced the average commuter emissions level by up to 20%. And while this change benefits the environment, it does not spell doom for CRE properties. Landlords simply need to equip their spaces for these new ways of working.
Cloud computing will empower offices to act as the data centres or ‘hubs’ required to support the activity of a widely dispersed workforce. Enabling workers to access company data from regional flexspace or even their own homes may sound counterintuitive for central office space, but cloud computing has become a crucial determinant of properties’ appeal to tenants.
Growing concern for sustainability has also increased demand for cloud computing, which facilitates a more environmentally friendly working life. This helps explain why investment in cloud infrastructure now amounts to a third of global IT spending. It also represents a stark warning to CRE landlords – those who fail to adapt risk being left behind.
Investing in the future
Local authorities, like all CRE landlords, should assess their offerings to identify where they can improve their sustainability credentials. By investing in cloud data storage, reliable connectivity, and the Internet of Things, landlords can future-proof their properties by aligning them with the expectations of increasingly environmentally conscious tenants. This will provide a vital point of differentiation in 2021 and beyond.
By Richard Morris, Director at technologywithin