Smart Offices Becoming the Norm: Is your Building Smart Enough?

Smart offices are all the rage in cities from London to Cape Town, and with automated security, climate control and building management features, some of them could be a science fiction fan’s dream. But smart buildings have gone from the realm of fantasy to reality as developments across the city roll them out in a bid to increase productivity and sustainability.

The increasing popularity of automated buildings is not only making the 9 to 5 a lot more enjoyable and efficient for employees. It’s also redefining tenant expectations of an office building, making traditional buildings that haven’t implemented technological solutions yet seem instantly old fashioned. Let’s take a closer look at this trend that’s reshaping the commercial property market and understand exactly what’s involved in creating smart office spaces in every modern building.

Smart offices are the new normal – Here’s why

Technology is making the office a more efficient place to work by streamlining key business processes. Over the past decade, commercial buildings have undergone two major broad transformations in this regard:

  • On the one hand, green building technologies have reduced resource consumption, making buildings more sustainable, especially in a country with perpetual electricity shortages.
  • The other major trend has been a move towards automation and cutting-edge technologies that are creating incremental efficiencies in almost every aspect of building management.

We’ve outlined some of the benefits of smart buildings in our previous articles, and while all of these perks still exist, the key difference today is that the necessity for having them is no longer a nice to have.

The Cape Town commercial space has seen the dramatic increases in efficiency that smart buildings can bring, and they are becoming as necessary to the marketability of buildings as basic features like security and internet access.

Broadly speaking, the various aspects of smart buildings can be categorised as follows:

  • Security and visitor management systems
  • Resource use monitoring
  • Energy monitoring and saving
  • Building maintenance and administration

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and consider the case for each one. We also outline the steps necessary to implement them in your building from a cost/benefit perspective.

Smart security for peace of mind

One of the most crucial considerations for any building manager is the safety of commercial property owners, tenants, and visitors.

Fortunately, building security has come a long way since the days of a solitary security guard asking visitors to write their names in a huge book that nobody ever looks at. Today, thanks to smart building technology, security can keep accurate tabs on everyone on the premises and ensure that the only people using the building are those who belong there.

  • Automated building security systems can sync with the appointment schedules maintained by every company on the premises to ensure the visitors are met on time by the building concierge and are able to sign in effortlessly. CCTV cameras can capture their facial details in high resolution without violating their privacy.
  • Motion detection sensors can be integrated with attendance monitoring software to alert building security to unusual activity in office units that should be empty.
  • Cameras located throughout the building can assist security guards in approaching potentially dangerous situations with the maximum chance of a peaceful resolution.

Efficient resource use for sustainability

The Eskom situation has forever changed the way that we view electricity. As a result, commercial buildings across the Mother City are doing all they can to minimise power usage with Cape Town moving away from crisis mode on the electricity front with plans to generate its own power.

Energy efficient appliances and building systems including aircon, ventilation, and lighting with monitoring systems that automatically adjust the conditions in the building to meet users’ needs while saving power are just two of the ways in which automation can contributed to sustainable building management.

  • Since utility bills are a major cost for every building, more efficient use of resources can result in lower overheads which may reduce the annual rental increase that landlords are likely to demand.
  • Smart systems that monitor building facilities and automatically report when systems malfunction can save building managers crucial time in making repairs and maintaining the premises in perfect condition.

Implementing smart building technology: what’s the cost?

A new building that comes fully equipped with smart technology will always be highly desirable for tenants – and this type of Cape Town office space usually already has the cost of smart building functionality built into its original financing and cash flow projections.

As smart buildings become the norm, the owners of older commercial buildings are keen to upgrade their premises.

However, given the cost of technology, especially for larger buildings, a careful analysis (including the cost and benefit of modernising some or all building functions) needs to be carried out.

  • Automated security features, including smart tags and CCTV cameras or fingerprint identification, may be much cheaper to implement than a brand new building with an energy-efficient aircon system which could run into tens of millions of Rands.
  • In general, systems that interface with and manage people will always be cheaper than basic building infrastructure. Since the systems are people-facing, implementing them may have the biggest impact on a premises’ perceived desirability by potential tenants
  • On the other hand, upgrading building infrastructure to increase energy efficiency is a large, long-term investment that may only pay dividends over the decades.

Building owners may need to finance large investments, like aircon, ventilation systems or grey water recycling, and working with a building management expert to calculate the potential savings will be of great value when applying for a bond to cover the costs.

Commercial Space embraces smart buildings with a cutting edge portfolio

It can’t be denied that smart buildings are both the future of commercial real estate, and a highly necessary feature of every successful office building of the future.

Whether you’re a building owner looking to improve your building’s appeal or a tenant in search of modern new premises, the Commercial Space team is ready to assist.

Our portfolio of modern, sought-after office spaces throughout the Cape peninsula contains many smart buildings with turnkey technology solutions, ready to make every day at the office a pleasure. Contact us and we’ll match your business with some of the best office spaces in Cape Town.