Smart Building Retrofit: Tackling Some Common Concerns

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There are a number of reasons to consider retrofitting an older commercial building using smart technology. One of the top priorities for many commercial building owners and facility managers is to reduce the amount of energy used by older buildings. Whilst important, reduced energy consumption is not the only reason for retrofitting a commercial building to be smart. A smart building retrofit can help in achieving sustainability goals but also improve the lives of people who use your building space, whether that be for work, accommodation or another activity.

Smart buildings have a number of competitive advantages, which have been well documented. Not only are these buildings better able to meet sustainability goals, but smart technology produces a great deal of useful data, which can deliver more complex use cases like intelligent space optimisation.

Smarter buildings are valuable assets for businesses. A smart building retrofit can optimise the efficiency of operations, give facility managers greater command and control of the space, and deliver a frictionless workplace experience. These factors are all key indicators to justify premium lease rates with longer terms and happier tenants.

Whilst retrofits have been proven to be beneficial, there are a number of challenges organisations face when considering an upgrade to their building. Will implementing “smart” features actually help my bottom line? How long will it be before there is a monetary value? And so on.

In our years of experience, we’ve found a few common challenges exist when executing on a smart building retrofit project. We’ve outlined a few to illustrate the pitfalls to avoid when considering a retrofit project.

Project costs and long payback period

A common barrier to retrofit projects is the fear of disrupting the status quo. Of course, it is perfectly valid to question whether a costly upgrade will deliver the intended results in a timely fashion, but it takes strong leadership to take a step back and understand why the retrofit is necessary and how the project will get completed.

What many organisations focus on are short-term, low-cost solutions which won’t disrupt the status quo or the budget. However, this often leads to expensive repairs or replacements further down the line, not to mention the missed opportunity for improved performance during this time.

Solution: Building awareness around the importance of a retrofit project is key to creating a strong framework for the project. Ask questions to gain a broader understanding of what the project would entail, and what it would mean for wider business objectives. For example, how will it drive sustainability within the organisation? How do the potential costs translate over the lifetime of the asset? Will this smart building retrofit enable us to do more with what we have today?

Lack of clarity surrounding KPIs

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are important for monitoring and reporting on the success of any project. However, an organisation’s decision-makers can face problems when setting KPIs for a retrofit project. They can struggle to arrive at a consensus for which KPIs are appropriate, they can select too many that potentially complete, or others that are not within the scope of the planned building upgrades.

Even if the right KPIs are set, they are often unsure what sort of building upgrades will help achieve these KPIs, especially when it comes to more complex efficiency or workplace experience-oriented use cases.

Solution: Begin your project with an in-depth data analysis to get a real understanding of which KPIs are important to achieving your wider business goals. If leading the project, get buy-in on these KPIs from other decision-makers. Once your KPIs are set, try not to adjust course during the project, as it may have impacts on the work your smart building retrofit partners may be planning further down the line.

Landlords failing to see the benefits

Commercial leases can be real obstacles in your smart building retrofit initiatives if they are solely focused on energy savings.From a landlord’s point of view, there is no clear incentive to agree to a smart building retrofit to save energy, when it is the tenant that pays directly for their energy consumption. At first glance, it appears that a retrofit would only financially benefit the tenant, whilst creating a longer payback period for the landlord.

Solution: To resolve this, it is important to encourage the landlord to take a more holistic, long-term view of the situation, and consider the benefits of a retrofit beyond energy efficiency. For example, increased workplace satisfaction and productivity are huge advantages of upgrading to a smart building. Often, retrofits are thought of purely in energy-saving terms, but it just as important to realise how they can improve the experience of those using the building, leading to higher tenant retention and better relationships – more attractive reasons for the landlord to consider the investment.

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Want to discuss how your building could benefit from smart technology? Get in touch with AXON today.

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