“Buy land, they aren’t making any more of it” is a very famous expression, and there is some truth to it. While it may have some ups and downs in the short term, most agree that real estate tends to do well if you are patient enough. However, a change in how we work, thanks to COVID, may challenge this theory.
Pre-COVID, tens of millions of North Americans either got in their car (or on public transit) to make their way to the office. The thinking was that Workers could never do most office jobs remotely.
While there was likely some drop in productivity, COVID showed that this is not the case, as millions could do their job from the comfort of their own home. This brings up the obvious question, is office life as we know it dead?
The quick answer is no; office life is not dead, but it is going to change. The vast majority of businesses will not go back to the routine of everyone being in the office each day. Some will go to a flex schedule (where employees can pick their days in the office), while some will go to a rotation (everyone is in 2-3 days a week on a set schedule), and others will pretty much abandon the office altogether.
Depending on how you look at it, there is much less future demand for office space in many markets. This is a frightening proposition to most real estate owners. To find ways to entice companies to keep their space, landlords will have to become creative. One of the obvious ways this can be done is through the use of IoT solutions.
Here are a few ways that IoT solutions can help landlords stay competitive in this new world:
One of the highest costs to operate a building is the day-to-day running costs, including building maintenance, HVAC costs and minor repairs. As I have stated for years, IoT is about information, and the right information can help reduce these costs, often dramatically.
Why heat/cool a building when no one is there to enjoy it? Occupancy alerts tell you when areas are occupied and when they are not.
It goes beyond that, though. Smart elevators/escalators/lighting systems alert to possible issues early so that you can both maintain service levels and often reduce the size/complexity of a potential repair.
Imagine you are the last one on your floor and it is late at night. While the building owner may not want to light an area where no one is, you may be more worried about your security going to your car.
Why not take care of both using IoT?
Occupancy sensors can tell that you are the last one in the building. When you use your access card to call for an elevator, this alerts that lighting and cooling system to go into standby mode, reducing electricity costs. It also alerts the parking garage to help keep you safe. It can ensure that the smart cameras follow you to your car, and it can turn up the lights in the garage to brighten your walk. After you are gone, it can return everything to normal.
Few things cause fights in an office, like the temperature and the amount of light. Some like it cool and dark, others like it are bright and warm. Why not have both? The combination of smart IoT HVAC systems, smart blinds/windows, and individual area controls allows everyone to get the setup they like, increasing productivity.
Even better, when you swipe into the building, the system can set up your particular area exactly how you like it before you arrive at your desk.
Flexible billing options
This is an idea that was basically “borrowed” from the car insurance industry.
Knowing that not all of us drive the same (or the same amount), companies have started to use IoT technology to allow you to pay as you go, based on your driving habits and mileage.
The same could be used for flexible office spaces.
Imagine one large open area of office space. You would be able to choose your number of cubicles/workspaces for the day and have them set up to your preference of temperature, light, etc.
It would even go so far as to remember your favourite setup. You get right to work and just leave when you are done. IoT sensors can calculate the amount of electricity you used, how long you used each space, and how many parking spaces you used.
This allows a company to only pay for what they use, and it will enable the landlord to have a unique space that appeals to many companies. It could even go one step further and apply this to labs, data centers and more.
The bottom line
COVID has just given commercial landlords a colossal headache to deal with. While no single solution will solve all of the issues, IoT allows the forward-thinking ones to be creative to maintain their occupancy rates and income and stand out from the competition.