Property managers are busy. While their responsibilities were already a never-ending list, additional expectations and requirements of buildings and their tenants have added new complexities. After spending a year largely out of the office, tenants are returning to an environment different than the one they left. And, we should be grateful for that. To put it mildly, there was room for improvement.
The new office environment requires less hands-on management and control due to an increase of trust in automation and in data transparency. Of course, people want to know what’s happening in real time within their buildings for their own safety but also with reverence to impacting the greater good through intelligent energy usage. While these motherhood concepts are important, implementing them can be difficult.
Most conversations about data in buildings include the challenges of silos and not being able to utilize data in an efficient way; so much so, that getting actionable information is more difficult than it should be. This is something we discussed in one of our latest Metatrends articles, how all of the data within buildings is like operating within The Matrix. There are powerful systems connected to buildings from the minute someone walks in until they leave but, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the systems themselves are connected. Instead of juggling dozens of responsibilities, now property managers are juggling multiple disconnected dashboards and trying to keep data up-to-date across them. Adding to the pressure is that as people come back into offices, they expect upgrades for experience, safety and energy usage to already be working or their confidence in and appeal of coming back to these buildings falters.
Touchless is the new VIP door
Access control is more than understanding who is coming in and out but an opportunity to start an upgraded touchless experience one has throughout a building. Evolving the desk and paper sign-in experience not only gets people in quickly but it creates real time data about who is there and when they leave. This information is necessary for building security and social distancing practices at a property management level, but also for scheduling collaborative time through hot desking or room reservation systems at a tenant level.
This means that access control systems need to communicate with other aspects of the building including aspects normally controlled by tenants. Blurring the line between a property manager’s responsibilities and a tenant’s requires reliable communication between the two parties. What used to be a manual process of PDFs can happen automatically and seamlessly behind the scenes, expanding the definition of a touchless experience to one that doesn’t require much thought either. Matija Abicic, Product Manager at Genea, a property technology company, explained, “Office administrators already have a roster of employees and, through their own portal, they can automatically create access for those that need it when they need it. It’s like granting access to a Microsoft or Google account but instead to the building. It also starts an approval process where each new request can be reviewed or automatically approved.”
Getting access into the building is important but what may be even more of a security risk is allowing access to someone who no longer should have it. Abicic explained that when employees leave, their credentials immediately deactivate in the tenant’s chosen office software, like its email system. But if property access was through a physical key card, credential deactivation may be overlooked. It’s simply a matter of the office manager not telling the property manager that access should be revoked. “The difference is that office managers get yelled at when someone can’t get inside so it takes top priority over someone who still has access but shouldn’t,” Abicic said.
Transparent about individualism and energy
Being able to make “just-in-time” adjustments goes beyond access management and into the increasing concern of an individual’s impact on the planet’s health. Related to another Metatrends article, building owners are at risk of being fined or otherwise penalized if their buildings are not operating with higher energy efficiency through legislation such as Local Law 97. However, as tenants use the majority of energy within a building, property managers need ways to incentivize and promote energy-saving practices.
Giving tenants access to energy data allows for gamification within a company and educates tenants on how they spend energy. “When you democratize access to HVAC, you take that job off of the property management team,” stated Michael Wong, CEO of Genea. Cloud-based dashboards keep data confidential among all tenants within a building yet still share energy usage across all floors with the property manager.
Bringing together the two, access control and energy, is the new target. “When you overlay energy usage over tenant behavior, you notice really interesting things,” added Abicic. “You could turn off the AC in the entire building, saving the vast majority of energy costs, but give tenants the ability to turn it on on-demand. This way we could understand much better how spaces are used and where energy is being consumed.”
Further leaning on technology, especially AI, parking lot cameras could recognize license plates and activate the HVAC in the appropriate part of the building for that individual. The same could be done with facial recognition between a public transit stop and the building’s entrance. Integrating data from various sources not only makes property management easier and saves energy, but it improves the entire experience.
Interoperability between systems should not be a luxury that only fortunate property managers have. We have the functionality available and the need for these capabilities to be integrated within buildings has never been stronger. We don’t have the luxury of time to fight climate issues. With the pandemic still an influential part of our daily lives, property managers need to know what’s happening within their buildings and who’s there and be able to do it in an efficient and safe manner. Pairing access control and energy is just part of the puzzle as our buildings become places we want to be and can thrive in, but it’s a really good place to start.