Smart Retrofits: Bridging to a new normal, for the Middle East Real Estate sector
Sanjeevv Bhatia is the CEO of Netix Global BV, a vendor neutral iIBMS automation solutions provider
What will it take to adapt to the ‘new normal’, represented by the post pandemic world? Is a simple V-shaped recovery of the economy and business activities a reasonable expectation to have?
Frankly, adapting to this new reality will require some innovation, but if you are the owner or manager of a property portfolio in the Middle East there are reasons for both, cautious optimism and challenges to overcome.
Knight Frank’s recent “Impact of COVID-19 on KSA and UAE Real Estate Market” report makes the observation that although the scale of the pandemic means that its effect will be significant, it is almost impossible to quantify at this moment. The most challenging thing about dealing with a rare or unprecedented event is that standard correlations between metrics and outcomes are no longer reliable. Add to this uncertainty the nature of the disruption itself – an invisible and insidious threat to the health and safety of building occupants and workforces – and the complexity of the challenge facing the Middle Eastern real estate industry becomes starkly apparent.
So, what then is the basis for ‘cautious optimism’? The one-word answer to that query is Technology. The Middle East real estate industry has been one of the most proactive globally, in adopting emerging digital technologies to optimize operational efficiencies, sustainability and occupant experiences. The good news is that these smart technologies can also deliver the hands-on analytics and control that the new normal will be built upon.
And the challenge? Putting it simply, embedding these solutions in an entire portfolio, rapidly and affordably, presents an obvious issue to address. So, is such a model even possible to deliver, at such short notice? Can the industry turn to these, admittedly effective, solutions en-masse? The answer, fortunately, is resoundingly in the positive.
Smart Retrofits: The quantum leap that the CRE sector needs to make
The case for IoT and AI enabled building management was compelling enough even before the global spread of the COVID-19 contagion. To its credit, the Middle East real estate industry was also one of the more enthusiastic adopters of such solutions in the pre-pandemic world. With contactless access to amenities, and the need to accurately monitor the sanitation and access control of built spaces – among other priorities – this transition to a tech-enabled model of operations is set to assume the status of a default standard.
Smart Retrofits, which deliver these outcomes by adding a layer of appropriate digital solutions atop existing building automation and infrastructure, present the most cost-effective and rapidly deployable path to achieving such real-time and responsive building management. Unlike physical retrofits, this digital led approach leverages existing assets, rather than seeking to make them redundant. The process and business model enhancements that Smart Retrofits deliver include:
• Predictive Operations and Maintenance: By unifying automation into a network of digitally controllable and monitored assets, Smart Retrofits are able to instantly escalate the ability of building management systems to be more responsive and agile. An accurate and up to-the-minute 360° view of operations and assets enables fine and specific portfolio scale control, which can generate optimal efficiencies and ROI. Perhaps even more crucial is the ability to identify systemic issues before they result in disruptions or downtime.
• Efficient Resource Utilization: One of the ways in which commercial real estate will need to empower itself, in the post-pandemic economy, is to generate equivalent or greater outcomes using a smaller resource utilization footprint. Once a solely sustainability driven concern, this is now a capability that CRE businesses will need to develop to secure themselves from financial volatility as well as supply chain disruptions. Smart Retrofits allow building portfolios to radically turnaround under-utilization of resources. Being able to allocate resources in a targeted fashion, as well as achieving both granular and big picture optimization concurrently, can go a long way to enhance a real estate business model.
• Securing Built Spaces against the spread of COVID-19: The psychological impact of the pandemic cannot be overstated. People around the world have had to, suddenly and diligently, adopt practices and precautions that they would have found excessive only a few weeks prior to the global spread of COVID-19. A huge part of enabling the new normal will be restoring the faith of occupants in the buildings they occupy. Smart Retrofits provide tenants seamless access to services, comfort controls, and healthy living spaces, using interfaces, apps and dashboards, which can be hosted on cloud based platforms.
Transitioning seamlessly is the key
While the pandemic itself has resulted in the ‘new’, within the much-used recent buzz-term, the ‘normal’ will be very much about our ability to adapt and respond. As the infrastructure within which we conduct the vast majority of our commercial, leisure and every day activities, managing buildings will be critical to making this smart transition. The good news is that the Middle East real estate sector is better positioned than many other regions to rise to the challenge, and Smart Retrofits will be the defining pathway to drive this advantage home.