Last Friday at Knotel’s 655 Madison Avenue headquarters in New York City, Propmodo Live’s Managing Next Generation Connected Building Systems event kicked off with a VIP breakfast. Kristen Sterner, Knotel’s new head of design and construction was joined by Gary Fescine, BlackRock’s head of global building operations, to share technology insights with a table full of corporate facilities managers.
Among the topics of conversation were BlackRock’s new headquarters currently under construction at 50 Hudson Yards. When completed in 2022, the building will be the city’s fourth-largest commercial office tower, spanning an entire city block and BlackRock will take 875k square-feet. Other breakfast topics included the outsourcing trend in facilities management, and leveraging sensors and data to better manage things like energy use.
Gary told Kristen and the group about how BlackRock was using the latest energy monitoring technology to help lead the NYC Carbon Challenge for Commercial Offices. “We committed to reducing our building-based greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 30% from 2011 levels by 2023. But you can’t do that without accurate data. […] We’ve already beat that benchmark thanks to a building operating system called Nantum.”
Gene Boniberger, Director of Operations for Rudin, was a co-inventor of Nantum and was also at Propmodo’s breakfast. He added: “We gave Gary a system which pairs thermodynamics of space with machine learning to provide energy savings to help BlackRock exceed their sustainability goals. A micro-suite of cloud-based applications is constantly fed by real-time data from throughout their properties.”
As for outsourcing, Gary said that BlackRock is not there yet. He explained that it’s difficult for outsiders to understand BlackRock’s culture and unique organization. “We use lots of vendors, but I think of it as ‘out-tasking’ rather than outsourcing,” said Gary. “I know that’s gradually changing with on-demand services, but people still want to be a part of the team and not feel like an outsider.”
Following the breakfast, event attendees were treated to a variety of educational presentations including Five Ways Technology Can Improve Your Operations This Month by Courtney Porcella from AwareManager; How Understanding the Connectivity Ecosystem Can Help Property Executives Drive Efficiency by Chukwuma Agba from WIN Connectivity; How Connected Building Systems Enhance Employee Experience by Elizabeth Dukes from iOffice; and Learn More About the Most Popular ‘Person’ in Real Estate – Rob Sparke by Brendan Canny from Open Box Software. Recaps and videos of the presentations will be published in the coming weeks.
After the educational presentations, Gary Fescine and Gene Boniberger were joined by Mike DeNamur, VP of JLL’s Smart Building Solutions and Chris Parra, President of Facilities Management Planners for a keynote panel discussion. Moderator Brian Schwagerl asked them about ways that landlords and tenants could collaborate in order to achieve productivity, sustainability and wellness goals. Gene and Gary pointed to how the non-adversarial relationship between Rudin and its tenant BlackRock helped them understand the true costs of decisions, “BlackRock increased the efficiency of its space by densifying, using flexible hours and hot desking,” explained Gene. “Ultimately that increases the energy use of the building so it decreased his carbon footprint while it increases ours.”
Chris Parra also pointed out how data from both the buildings and its occupants was important to seeing the unknown consequences of decisions, saying, “Alternative workplace strategies are great but there are other implications like internet bandwidth, parking, and building wear and tear that need to be understood.”
Mike also stressed that some of JLL’s smaller clients are now following the bigger tech firms on bold workplace strategies, “No one wants to be the first person to try something, they want to be the fourth. Adopting some of these technologies used to be undertaken by the top five-percent of firms but now it is like the top fifteen or twenty.”
All of the panelists agreed that innovations in facilities management and the workspace could lead to improvements to company bottom lines and to the health and happiness of employees. To understand the true return on any initiatives though, data from both the owner and the occupant of a building need to be considered in the analysis.