March 2020

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Update from Australia:

A diverse set of solutions for the built environment.
Kerri Lee Sinclair

Kerri Lee Sinclair
SBE Australia

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Like many Western countries, the outlook for the built environment in Australia is mixed. See the Australian Government State Of Environment Report.  As a relatively young country, aspects of our cities are in good shape, but the high growth in population moving into cities challenges existing buildings and demands new infrastructure.  Further climate change continues to create diverse and varied pressures facing our built environment as heatwaves, floods, fires and storms occur frequently across the country.

Examples are being demonstrated in real time, with the recent bushfires burning more than 10.7m hectares of land – larger than the total area of South Korea, or Portugal.  The unprecedented fires came within 50km (30 miles) of some of Australia's most populous cities, driving smoke and dangerous PM2.5 particles into hospitals, train stations and major density areas.   Buildings could not cope with the in-building smoke alarms triggering falsely, impacting critical services, driving many vulnerable people directly into the smoke, and challenging already-exhausted firefighters.      

Effective management is made difficult by the various arrangements involving the Australian, state and territory, and local governments, and the private sector. The lack of coordination and integration is acknowledged, and recent initiatives by the Australian Government are designed to provide additional frameworks and processes to improve coordination and leadership.

Fortunately, there are new and leading technology businesses in the private sector who are transforming the built environment in Australia and in honour of International Women's Day,  we wanted to highlight two amazing Australian women-led businesses are taking on the world.

Automating the human connection in buildings:  Equiem

Founded in Melbourne in 2011, Equiem is the global leader in commercial tenant experience technology.  The firm works with leading property owners and managers in the real estate industry to breathe life into their buildings, by transforming them from mere brick & mortar structures into vibrant, connected and engaged communities with services and experiences that enrich occupants’ lives.

Equiem’s market-leading app, used by 170,000 people across 60 million sq ft (5.5 million square metres) of commercial real estate worldwide, helps landlords attract and retain occupiers, deliver seamless tenant communication, supercharge onsite retail and services, and unlock additional asset value across their portfolios. Equiem’s app also offers the most advanced tenant analytics in the market, providing clients with rich, actionable intelligence to drive smarter, more effective tenant engagement.

Gabrielle McMillian, CEO, started the business in Melbourne, and relocated to New York in 2017 to focus on the US market.  In America, Equiem is now live in 30 buildings across 13 cities and 11 states, with more than 12,000 registered users and growth requiring them open a second US office, in Los Angeles.  

“We believe that the future of the workplace is a tailored, hospitality-forward, tech-enabled environment. Our industry-leading platform is enabling building owners and landlords around the world to offer that kind of workplace to their tenants today, by providing frictionless access to sought-after services, facilities, events and experiences, all at the touch of a button. Combined with our tenant analytics feature, which offers clients valuable, actionable intelligence to drive smarter asset management, our platform is transforming the kind of product today’s building owners can offer their buildings' occupants.”

Automating the machine connection in buildings:  Switch Automation

Switch Automation is unwavering in its mission — to reduce the environmental impact that buildings have on the world. Because buildings consume 40% of the world's energy use, the PropTech industry has the responsibility to impact the climate crisis, by using the data that’s already flowing from buildings to optimize performance. Building owners and operators cannot wait for governments to regulate—we have a responsibility to affect change, the technology to underpin it, and the opportunity to improve business at the same time.”

Deb Noller, CEO of Switch Automation is now based in Denver, but started her business in Sydney over 10 years ago when she could see a developing complexity that digital technology would bring into existing buildings and the requirement for seamless automation in the new ones.  Deb has also written a piece for this special IWD issue.

On International Women's Day, we stop to reflect on the benefits that diversity brings.  As in many technical fields, further work is required to attract, hire and retain women in the built environment and related fields in Australia.  However, the global success of these two businesses shows that not only can it be done, but it can make a global impact.   

Organisations like
Springboard and its sister organisation in Australia, SBE Australia (of which I am the Chair) actively seek out women entrepreneurs making an impact across all technical fields so ensure they have the human capital required to support them throughout their journey.  


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