Retrofitting… we are all working in a time where our expectations around what technology can do to make our lives easier, our interactions richer and our roles more productive are exceptionally high. As a result, demands on technological innovation – both within workplaces and by those who manage the buildings that house them – are soaring.
Smart building management systems are one of the key technologies that are successfully addressing these demands, transforming the workplace experience and the way commercial properties are managed, and tackling critical environmental and energy consumption issues in the process.
Integrating this technology at construction or refurbishment stage is fairly straightforward. However, according to the Property Data Report, new commercial workspace accounts for around just 0.7% of the total stock of commercial property, which suggests that the proportion of new build commercial properties is relatively small.
So, with such a high percentage of UK commercial buildings sitting outside of the new build category, the subject of smart building management retrofitting begins to warrant serious consideration.
What are smart building management systems and why are they beneficial?
The smart building market across Europe is projected to experience significant growth, from $4.4 billion in 2022, to $5.27 billion by the end of 2023, and $18.59 billion by 2030. It is clear to see then that the future of the office is smart.
Smart building management systems combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with Internet of Things (IoT) connected technology. Through learned user input and via devices such as sensors, meters, monitors and thermostats, smart systems use sophisticated analytics software to churn the data they collect. In doing so, they create automated responses that can transform the way a building operates and consumes resources.
A smart BMS has the power to significantly improve working environments, reduce energy wastage, cut expenses, streamline facilities management tasks, and considerably simplify the role of the property manager. All courtesy of proactive engineering and automated fault handling, which can be applied across multiple properties.
The case for smart building management retrofitting
The benefits of retrofitting existing buildings with smart building management systems extend to landlords, property managers, commercial tenants and their facilities managers and occupants. There are also significant environmental benefits when it comes to transforming an existing BMS into a smart BMS.
Smart BMS benefits for occupants
Quite possibly the greatest benefit to building occupants of retrofitting a smart BMS into an existing building has to be workplace well-being and comfort.
Workplace well-being is important for many reasons, not least when it comes to winning the war for talent. Productivity, efficiency and creativity can all be impacted by a less than healthy workspace, where poor indoor air quality can trigger all sorts of symptoms, from allergies and respiratory problems to nausea, headaches and dry eyes.
Smart building management systems use connected air quality sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and airborne toxins in real time, linking the data produced to air-exchange system controls. These controls then make changes to ensure the working environment is at its optimum level for comfort and safety.
The technology has the ability to control conditions right down to specifically defined spaces, as well as make automated adjustments in line with occupancy and changing climatic conditions outside.
But the advantages of smart building management systems don’t end there. A retrofitted smart BMS will also deliver…
HVAC controls – smart heating, ventilation and air conditioning use machine learning to automatically adjust to suit changing environmental conditions as well as occupancy levels, so energy waste is significantly reduced. Even better, individual users get to control their own working environment via a smart workplace app for the ultimate in personal workspace comfort.
Lighting – quality of lighting is considered one of the major contributing factors to workplace comfort. Smart lighting automatically adjusts in response to changing natural light. Again, users get to control their own personal workspace lighting via an app, with the tech remembering personal preferences against a variety of conditions.
Visitor management – in the smart building, visitor passes and wayfinding instructions are issued direct to users’ handsets. Car parking spaces are automatically allocated when visitor invites are sent, and meeting rooms booked and stocked in advance, all making for a frustration-free visitor experience, and relieving the burden on administrative staff.
Meeting room and desk booking – motion sensors and device docking stations relay desk or room availability into a central dashboard, allowing free seats or rooms to be booked in real time via a user app. Workers can choose seating based on colleagues, role or project, or select zones that suit their preferences.
Employee engagement – depending on the specific smart BMS technology retrofitted, building occupants can enjoy that all-important workplace community feel courtesy of smart office community features. Newsfeed style local events, special offers and a community chat forum can all be brought to users’ fingertips courtesy of a connected app.
When The Hickman in Whitechapel was extended and renovated, it was retrofitted with a smart workplace app developed by Smart Spaces, allowing tenants to access a variety of services and perks, as well as regulate their working environment.
The app provides contactless access to the building and its lifts, with staff able to book desks before leaving home, check workspace air quality and access up to date transport information to help them plan their journeys. They can even pre-order a coffee to be picked up at the reception café on their way in, as well as use the app to manage lighting and climate once at their workstations.
Smart BMS benefits for facilities managers
Retrofitting a smart BMS into an existing building also offers numerous benefits for the facilities manager.
Smart building management systems are designed to streamline facilities management. They offer a refreshingly simple way to monitor energy usage, and can also set automations to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, and to make sure meeting rooms are automatically stocked with refreshments and washrooms are serviced without a second thought.
One of the core benefits of smart building technology is that it collects rich data. This data is funnelled into an easy-view central platform, allowing facilities managers to drill down into the fine detail that allows them to make crucial informed decisions. Decisions that can save money, reduce energy waste and enhance working conditions. There is also the ability to observe how one event influences another, making cost-saving predictive planning a simple task.
FMs also get a helping hand with standards compliance, especially concerning health and safety. For example, the indoor air quality monitoring features of the smart building allow facilities managers to identify potential hazards before they adversely affect occupant health.
Smart BMS benefits for property managers
For those tasked with keeping a building safe and operational, there is a good case for retrofitting a smart building management system.
Property managers benefit from smart technology in a variety of ways, but one particular innovation that is allowing remote monitoring of multiple properties in real time and improving is the digital twin.
Digital twins are replicas of any physical object. When used to replicate a building, they use data from IoT connected sensors around the premises to virtually measure the likes of humidity and temperature, providing insights into the health and performance of assets, from HVAC systems to fire and security.
Digital twins make it possible to analyse data at a deep level, in real time, allowing any operational problems to be identified proactively, boosting efficiency and reducing maintenance costs.
When Smart Spaces worked on the smart BMS retrofitting project at 33 Charterhouse (the JJ Mack Building), a sophisticated occupant experience app was created. The app featured the likes of mobile access passes, visitor management tools, a social wall, climate control and maintenance support. Following this, the next step was to provide a Digital Twin, filtering in smart data from around the building to create a real time feedback digital replica of it.
As a result, the building’s property manager Ashdown Philips has been able to introduce proactive engineering and automated fault recognition and reporting courtesy of a fully integrated, asset-tagged Building Information Modelling system, helping to make the property Farringdon’s first smart and sustainable development.
Smart BMS benefits for landlords
Commercial landlords are benefiting from placing the end user at the heart of their occupancy strategy. Attracting and retaining loyal commercial tenants by offering something that will save them money, help them fulfil their environmental and safety compliance obligations and assist them in appealing to the best talent has to be a win-win scenario. And that something is, of course, smart building technology.
By retrofitting an existing commercial property with a smart building management system, landlords are able to offer tenants a major advantage, for all the reasons listed above. And with satisfied tenants come increased yield and reduced voids, as well as the opportunity to set a higher price-per-square-metre courtesy of providing a premium tenant experience.
What does smart building management retrofitting involve, and what to consider?
Retrofitting smart building management systems such as Smart Spaces involves integrating Internet of Things powered smart technology into an existing building management system.
Because older buildings were not designed from the ground up to accommodate such technology, retrofitting will often prove more complex than building it in at construction stage. However, that’s not to say retrofitting isn’t a viable option.
Some of the most common challenges that arise during the smart BMS retrofitting process include outdated infrastructure, incompatible existing systems and the need to create sufficient space for the new components.
Certain buildings may lack the necessary cabling, networking and power required to support smart building technology. The integration process required in-depth, careful planning, as well as potential modifications to existing building management systems and layouts.
In terms of costs, retrofitting a smart BMS is likely to be more expensive than integrating a system during construction or full refurbishment. This is due to the fact that modifications to existing infrastructure and building layout are often necessary.
However, the process is certainly possible and, as we have explored, offers countless benefits across the board. Providing the necessary specialist technical expertise is employed, supported by an expertly planned strategy, there is no reason why retrofitting smart building management systems shouldn’t pay back building owners in dividends.
Smart Spaces – the smart building management system that’s proved retrofitting a worthy investment
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based, app-driven platform that has the power to transform an existing building management system into a smart building management system.
Having been successfully retrofitted into a variety of buildings, including 33 Charterhouse, the Kensington Building and the Hickman Building, Smart Spaces can be considered an astute choice for any commercial property owner seeking to upgrade to today’s modern building management technology.
To learn more about Smart Spaces, you are welcome to request a free demo or get in touch.