Healthy Buildings: How IEQ Solutions Drive Sustainability & Performance Healthy Buildings: How IEQ Solutions Drive Sustainability & Performance

Healthy Buildings: How IEQ Solutions Drive Sustainability & Performance

An Interview with Matt Schaubroeck, VP of Product, PremiseHQ

1. How do you see the role of IoT today in commercial real estate? What are the key drivers behind it?

IoT is revolutionizing the way we interact with built environments. This will be a vital tool in improving building performance and helping us meet global climate change targets, helping to target areas of wasteful energy consumption and building system performance.

The way we collect data in buildings is wholly improved thanks to IoT. Conventional building monitoring software needs to be plugged or wired into mechanical systems, which limits their placement and how much building data can be collected. IoT can place sensors that can collect data in nearly any physical location, with various transmission tools to transmit that data wherever you need it reliably.

We see this technology being deployed to the greatest benefit with aging building stock, where it is cost-prohibitive to install even limited permanent data collection tools like a building monitoring system. IoT can provide similar (or better) data collection capacity at a fraction of the cost of traditional building systems.

This technology application is a game-changer for understanding how buildings operate. However, it’s not enough to simply collect data from new sources. These datasets must bring you actual insights – otherwise, you’re stuck with raw or unhelpful data.

2. What is the relationship between indoor environmental monitoring and sustainability? How will property owners and managers benefit from implementing an IEQ monitoring solution?

Buildings (including materials and construction) account for 39% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to the United Nations, the built environment’s energy intensity will have to improve by 30% by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Therefore, reducing energy waste, and related carbon emissions in buildings is a critical component of fighting climate change.

Nearly all commercial buildings can increase their energy efficiency by up to 50% and save thousands of dollars in monthly utility costs by investing in green building retrofits through a combination of quickly implemented retro-commissioning tools and more capital-intensive deep retrofits. However, most building owners are unaware of the problems that exist in their buildings. They can’t fix what they don’t know exists.

IoT technology, backed by an intelligent platform like PremiseHQ, can monitor a building and identify many issues driving energy waste and other areas of concern. For example, testing the effectiveness of a building’s HVAC system, external envelope, controls systems, and occupancy trends can help identify areas that can be improved and optimized or areas that require maintenance or retrofits.

3. What constitutes “building health,” and how does it impact the health and wellness of building occupants? How do you see this changing in the wake of Covid-19?

A healthy building can mean two separate things – how environmentally sustainable the building’s infrastructure is and how healthy the environment is for the people living and working inside it. A healthier building is better for your bottom line, the people in that building, and the environment.

The health of a building is directly related to its occupants’ health, productivity and satisfaction. Due to illness and productivity loss, buildings with poor indoor environmental quality cost the global economy billions of dollars every year. In addition, those buildings are consuming more energy, releasing more carbon emissions.

Although the worst of the pandemic appears to be behind us, COVID-19 has permanently changed how we consider indoor air quality (IAQ) as a source of airborne infectious disease transmission. As a result, there is a greater understanding of how poor IAQ can impact human health and lead to higher disease transmission risk – issues that can be easily identified and resolved. Going forward, it will be essential for facilities managers to invest in making indoor environments healthier, including ensuring adequate ventilation, filtration, and mechanical system performance.

4. What are CRE companies’ challenges or hesitations when implementing an IEQ solution?

The main barriers to implementing IEQ solutions are knowledge and cost.

Unless you have on-site expertise or management software, you likely don’t know all the ways your building is losing efficiency. Buildings are complex and deteriorate over time, experiencing many efficiency problems – no building is immune from this efficiency degradation. If you don’t know what to look for, you won’t know how to start implementing solutions. Even permanent building management software won’t be able to pinpoint every problem that exists in a building.

The financial barrier mostly has to do with sticker shock on the up-front costs of some IEQ solutions. In addition, many buildings operate to maximize revenue above all else – so if it’s not broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed or improved. In those circumstances, paying for an efficiency retrofit can be a tough sell at the C-suite level.

A healthy building is good for your bottom line. If you consume less energy, you’re paying reduced utility bills. Proactive monitoring means a greater emphasis on predictive maintenance rather than waiting until system failure, which has a more significant tenant disruption and is costlier to fix. There is a strong business case that your return on investment will improve with every IEQ solution you implement – what we need to create are IEQ solutions that are less capital-intensive.

5. What role does data play in a successful IEQ strategy? What does a successful information architecture look like?

Data is essential for any real estate IEQ strategy. Without access to reliable data, any issues could occur that go unnoticed and unresolved, negatively impacting tenant satisfaction, facility operational costs, and the long-term asset value of that facility.

These issues are not new, but data is a new tool that will allow facility managers to better manage and prioritize their work to realize a more significant impact in that space. By using data intelligence to automate the identification and prioritization of issues that need addressing, facilities staff can maximize their time on resolving issues instead of simply managing tenant complaints and work orders.

Unlocking these kinds of insights depends entirely on that facility’s information architecture – data needs to be accessible, reliable, and actionable. But, most importantly, that information needs to be translated into actionable, well-understood insights with a defined ROI.

6. What predictions do you have for the commercial real estate market in the next 3-5 years?

After a global pivot towards working from home for the past few years, office and retail buildings are beginning to welcome back tenants at nearly pre-pandemic levels. However, the increasing shift towards a hybrid work model will have a longer-term impact on how commercial real estate offers value to tenants.

Crucially, access to CRE real estate is increasingly tenant friendly as buildings compete more fiercely for a smaller overall tenant pool thanks to employer hybrid work models. As a result, CRE decision-makers need to offer new value-adds, including tenant engagement tools, monitoring and acting on maintenance requests more quickly, and amenities upgrades (including IoT and other smart building tools). Furthermore, tenants will continue to demand IAQ solutions as they become more aware of the impacts of sick building syndrome and the necessity to keep their employees healthy.

Building sustainability and energy waste reduction will continue to increase in relevance, thanks to the introduction of enforceable legislation on building efficiency standards, the prevalence of green building retrofit funding and tools, and tenant-driven requests to work in a building that meets their ESG values and mandates. Many governments have adopted national net-zero targets, for which the CRE industry will be asked to contribute actively.

Matt Schaubroeck

VP of Product, PremiseHQ

Matt Schaubroeck has been working in the PropTech sector since 2016, focusing on data intelligence and Internet of Things deployments. Before joining PremiseHQ, he co-founded and was CEO of ioAirFlow, a company focused on digital retrocommission audits to identify areas of concern in the indoor environmental quality of commercial facilities. He has also served as the Director of Programming for the North Forge technology incubator in Winnipeg, with a focus on commercialization strategies for early-stage tech companies. Matt earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship in 2017 from the Asper School of Business.