As commercial real estate continues to navigate pandemic conditions, a recent study reveals changing priorities in building management.
A recent comprehensive study commissioned by Honeywell Building Technologies has confirmed that commercial real estate operators in the United States, China, Germany, and Saudi Arabia are facing new challenges, adjusting their priorities, and investing in new opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired 71 percent of those surveyed to completely rethink commercial building management practices as shutdowns and social distancing protocols increased concerns for occupant safety and well-being.
Investments in healthy buildings, indoor air quality (IAQ) technologies, and remote building management stood out as top priorities of those surveyed. In fact, out of eight options to choose from, improved IAQ (50 percent) was cited as one of the most important factors for enhancing value for stakeholders.
While nine in 10 of the surveyed facility managers said they were hesitant to make decisions about costly and complex future investments, 94 percent consider healthier buildings a top priority — a trend that will remain place as CRE enters 2022. Over the next 12 to 18 months, 33 percent of respondents expect to invest in IAQ solutions, 33 percent in energy efficiencies, and 31 percent in remote building management capabilities.
This study also revealed that while facility managers around the globe were all compelled to respond to the challenges of COVID-19, the current focus of their efforts to create healthier and safer buildings varies. In China, two out of three surveyed facility managers are more willing to invest in smarter, healthier, and safer solutions than they were prior to the pandemic. In addition, four out of five plan to provide new workforce training in the coming year — the highest percentage of any surveyed region. In Germany, facility managers report that prioritizing financial resources to implement enhancements — including remote management and cybersecurity — is a top challenge. In Saudi Arabia, four in 10 facility managers say they manage a leading facility with respect to digital transformation, and nearly seven in 10 say that healthier buildings remain a top priority even after COVID-19 subsides. In the U.S., 33 percent of facility managers say improving energy efficiency is a priority for the next 12 to 18 months. Another third (33%) said improving operational technology and cybersecurity protocols and preparedness are priorities.
Transforming the Built Environment
Technology adoption in commercial facilities management was already evolving at a rapid pace before the onset of COVID-19, but since, 56 percent of respondents have seen digital transformation pick up acceleration. Surveyed managers, however, are less likely to rate their digital progress as “leading” compared to other industries (67 percent versus 79 percent average for other industries).
More technology means more exposure to cybercrime, and 35 percent of those surveyed are setting priorities to improve digital security over the next 12 to 18 months. Cyber-risk and privacy concerns were on the rise well before COVID-19, but the pandemic quickened the drumbeat of negative incidents, and bad actors are constantly searching for new ways to breach security protocols.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired 71 percent of those surveyed to completely rethink commercial building management practices.
Nearly nine in 10 surveyed organizations experienced at least one disruption in the last year alone, relating especially to outages/downtime (56 percent), unplanned downtime (36 percent), or a cyber or physical breach (36 percent). In the coming 12 to 18 months, respondents are likely to invest in security products with increased cybersecurity protocols and design (33 percent) and operational technology cybersecurity solutions (30 percent).
Minimizing disruptions and maximizing business continuity are the top objectives that managers are seeking for their occupants and stakeholders. High on this list of priorities is taking more proactive measures in anticipating unexpected occurrences, especially in aging buildings and in after-hours situations. In all sectors, being prepared to respond and coordinate resources during emergencies is of greater importance after COVID-19.
Occupants have become more aware of the role of buildings in their well-being, quality of life, and safety over the past 18 months. As a result, commercial real estate owners are implementing new technologies, procedures, and efficient, sustainable solutions that enhance their overall experience, not only with respect to near-term needs such as the return to offices, but for the long term as well.