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November 2019
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The New Office Environments

Smart building technologies becoming a key part of tenant efforts to recruits and retain employees.

Lisa Thibodeau

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Distech Controls

Do the lights turn off in the office when you leave? Do the blinds automatically lower when the sun shines through?

Proptech, or property technology, advancements are making it increasingly easy for landlords to integrate new automated amenities and services into buildings.

With the ability to control lighting, heating and cooling or even oxygen levels in the office, building managers are able to meet the rising demand from tenants for better, healthier and more customizable workspaces.

By using the Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as security cameras or air conditioning that would traditionally run independently – all with their own switch or control – can now communicate with one another to ensure the optimal work environment.

A custom workplace

A smart building allows its tenants to control and connect everything in their office space via the internet. From adjusting lighting hues to booking parking spaces, users have the ability to make a workspace their own by controlling the office settings through an app on their phone.

“There’s a huge trend to adopt technology in buildings in order to improve the tenant experience, improve the efficiency of the office and make it a more enjoyable place,” says Derrick Hanson, president and co-founder of The Attain Group, a local telecommunications company specializing in intelligent buildings.

Having a connected office allows landlords to track usage and conserve resources such as water or energy, which can be a significant selling point when attracting new tenants to the building.

Connected spaces appeal to businesses and organizations as they give employees the benefit of online collaboration while also providing them a comfortable, adjustable space to work. They can book board rooms online, monitor who is in the office and close the blinds when it’s sunny – all from their smartphones.

Attracting top talent is also becoming synonymous with providing these fully connected work environments. A company located in a building with fast internet, low energy consumption and customizable workstations can help attract and retain workers, says Hanson.

Employees are able to work more comfortably because they have control over where they sit, how hot it is and how much air is flowing, which all leads to better work and better health, says Ron Zimmer, the president of The Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA).

“We know that the sick days will go down, absenteeism will go down, the productivity will go up and complaints to facility managers will go down,” says Zimmer. “You will have happier, healthier, more content staff and customers. The value proposition on that is huge.”
Landlords also benefit from the ability to grow and redesign the office space because it is not tied down by cables and plug-ins. With nearly every room connected through the internet, new tenants will have the flexibility to move people and workstations around freely, expanding the function of a traditional office.

There are more than 300 systems and sensors that can be connected in a smart building, offering landlords the ability to install everything from smart elevators to sensor-controlled washrooms. Connecting an entire building on one system provides unparalleled customization and control over the space, giving the building an edge on the market and happier tenants.

“It’s truly one way as a landlord that you can win,” says Zimmer. “It’s not just about the energy savings, it’s about the people in the building, and technology can play a huge part in that.”

J2 Innovations What's in demand?

As smart building technologies continue to make their way to market, there has been a significant up-tick in requests for certain gadgets, features and apps.

“From a landlord perspective we want to be able to attract and position our assets as being able to deliver on the services that the tenants are looking for,” says Thano Lambrinos, vice-president of smart building technologies at QuadReal Property Group. “What we’re trying to focus on is ways to digitize and streamline these processes, and that’s where we feel we get a pretty high return on investment.”
Some of the most common requests from tenants are:

Tenant engagement applications: Apps that connect tenants to all of the amenities in a building are rising in popularity. These can help build relationships and communication between employees, tenants and landlords, letting everyone know what’s happening within the building.

Access control and parking: Tenants are looking for ease of accessibility at the office. Having smart tech parking and seamless scan-in entry can help mitigate any friction when it comes to arriving to work.

Work order processing: Having a smart system that allows tenants to book services, place work orders or communicate directly with the landlord is a growing request. Simplifying the system on a digital platform makes it much easier for tenants and landlords to keep track of inquiries.

This article originally appeared in BOMA Ottawa’s Commercial Space Directory 2019/2020 and in the Ottawa Business Journal. Reprinted with permission from Great River Media Inc.; all rights reserved.

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