We’re coming to the end of another year full of surprises. While the challenges and turmoil are far from behind us, the events of 2021 could foreshadow what the next year will bring. We’ve decided to round up some of the themes that will be leading the way as we enter a new year and discuss how they’ll impact the built world.
As buildings become smarter, more connected, and with increased accessibility to data, what’s happening within the walls is more understood than ever before. This includes operational systems like HVAC, lighting, and more as well as other data like occupancy. Integrating systems used for booking rooms or reserving desks gives accurate insight into what will happen next, too. Understanding what is currently happening and what is scheduled or reserved allows buildings to be prepared to create the ideal environment for occupants. This is in regards to temperature and other comfort factors, but can also be in regards to health and safety measures such as sanitizing processes or avoiding Legionnaires. By knowing the current status, the changes necessary to make the future environment as desirable and safe as possible can be done automatically through IFTTT processes.
Another reason automation is a trend to watch for is in relation to remote work. While building teams will always need to have an onsite presence, there is a lot that can be done through software and, due to the cloud, the physical location of the operational team member is of less importance. Allowing buildings to run repeatable and ongoing tasks without the interference of people, gives buildings smart autonomy and frees operational members up to do other tasks.
Climate and the evolving regulatory environment
The inclusion of the built environment day at COP26 this year was proof that buildings are on the radar for their part in harming the climate. By now we know buildings are responsible for around 40% of carbon emissions but what are buildings supposed to do to change that? Who is responsible for making those changes? Ongoing discussions, pointing of fingers, and shifting of responsibilities are creating new deadlines and targets to be met.
There are two main ways this can show up in 2022. One is through legislation like Local Law 97 in New York, which requires nearly 60,000 of the city’s buildings to reduce their carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. This is going to become more commonplace. Another is through green certification programs like LEED, WELL, Energy Star, RESET, Bream, and more that reward buildings by becoming better users of energy. But these don’t all work the same as explained in a recent Propmodo report: “There is a wide range of certification types out there, including sustainability, wellness, and technology, and even within the field of sustainability certifications alone the options present take a variety of approaches to verifying efficiency and green qualities.”
Socially-conscious, sustainable responsibilities
Another motivating factor is the public’s perception of buildings. Tenants are voting with their dollars for what they believe in and if a building appears to be unmoved by climate challenges and unresponsive to calls to become more efficient and healthier, they’re likely to see more vacancies than their competitors. Especially for office buildings, being able to differentiate from other tenant options for occupation is of significant value.
This all boils down to ESG, or environmental, social, and governance, which was one of the biggest buzzwords of 2021. It can be used as an evaluation of a firm’s collective conscientiousness for social and environmental factors or as a blanket term for explaining where an individual’s priorities lie. ESG initiatives can determine if a person works for a company or if a company decides to be a tenant of or partner with a real estate group. While ESG was often a catch-all phrase, we expect it to tighten up in 2022.
The “new normal” started to phase out this year as it became more obvious that we are never truly going back to the way things were. Work has changed as people have found new ways to be productive while enjoying a different kind of lifestyle. Expectations of health and safety have shifted from naivety to vaccinations, masks, and hand sanitizer. Concerns exist today that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Buildings have new responsibilities to protect their tenants. Occupants and visitors expect to go through tighter access control measures, but without touching anything, before being allowed entrance and proof of vaccination seems like less of an intrusion with every day. Data is a must to ensure these places are safe and enjoyable, or people won’t come back.
However, it’s not just about collecting information but providing an experience that people want to return to. Much like how retail shops provide a different experience for a similar end result of buying goods, buildings are not just places to meet an end but to have an experience. Technology that makes entry into and movement through a space seamless and predictable is no longer a nice to have, but a must for buildings that want to be appealing and occupied. Systems that connect everything will be necessary so that operators are not burdened with an impossible task on top of their already busy schedules.
We’re not talking about yoga here, although yoga practices are now more often a part of office buildings trying to offer a holistic and healthy experience. Instead, we’re talking about a lack of rigidity in processes. It’s important to do what’s best for now, but it may be even more valuable to keep things flexible enough so that they can change if they need to be. New operational practices may need to pivot on short notice again. Previously permanently onsite teams may want to work remotely sometimes during the week. Occupants may have new demands as they get used to the new lifestyle and discover ramifications of it.
The best way to be flexible is to create a digital backbone of a building that plays nice and integrates with other solutions. Just because a solution isn’t necessary today doesn’t mean it won’t be in a few months and wouldn’t it make sense to have it easily integrate with the existing digital infrastructure? We don’t know if there is anything out there that’s truly futureproof, but we have a strong bet on this theory; after all, that’s why we operate with an open API and strongly value our partnerships.
Of course, 2022 cannot be predicted but these trends have been a long time coming and we don’t see them going by the wayside. If you’re looking forward and curious about how to stay ahead of the game, think about how these trends can be a part of your strategy going forward. Want some help? Reach out to the Envio team, do some research via our insights blog, and let’s talk about what’s next.
Thank you for being a part of our 2021. We look forward to next year and helping buildings become better for the planet, our businesses, and ourselves. Cheers to a happy, healthy new year!