From smart home to smart office
Given the fact that Europeans spend an average of 20 hours a day indoors – with most of that in an office – it makes sense to think about smart offices as well as the much discussed smart home. Digitisation is likely to play a crucial role when it comes to making office properties climate neutral. In turn, this means that the digital future needs to be green.
Major industry bodies such as the German Property Federation (ZIA), specialised consultancy firms like Westbridge Advisory, up-and-coming proptech companies such as Spaceti and many other experts are already developing concepts and solutions that will help to make the smart office a reality. Key to this work is reducing energy consumption, for example by installing so-called smart meters: intelligent energy measurement devices that help to ensure energy use is managed more efficiently within a building.
Relationship between digitisation and sustainability
A digital control system that regulates the indoor climate is not the only way to save energy, however. Defects in fixtures and fittings that lead to a potential increase in energy use can also be detected early on with the aid of digital technology. With predictive maintenance, damage and defects in building components can be identified if structures are documented, combined and digitally linked in a building information model. This makes it possible to predict when maintenance and repairs are required before problems emerge.
Intelligent use of digital systems enables smart offices to contribute to climate protection and allows potential cost savings to be identified at the same time. The outcome is a win-win situation for the global climate, tenants and landlords. Digital building facilities also contribute to the business success of companies that occupy smart buildings. Optimised lighting, climate control and the connectivity of individual objects in the office all help to boost employee performance.
Property holders need to step up to the plate
As a major holder of commercial properties, Union Investment believes that the combination of sustainability and digitisation offers huge potential. Careful analysis of the scope for making existing buildings and new builds smarter is already under way. Looking to the future, initial steps have been taken to align the property portfolio with the long-term requirements of the German Climate Protection Plan. When choosing digital solutions it is important that these solutions are designed in a sustainable way to make sure the potential increase of efficiency in a building does not have a negative impact on its carbon footprint or similar effects.
Examples of specific measures
In order to achieve this, Union Investment is actively engaged in exchanging information and ideas with other industry players, including as part of the ZIA Energy Task Force. Union Investment has also worked with the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF) to co-develop a free risk management tool for commercial buildings which enables real estate portfolios to be screened for climate risks. With regard to its own property holdings, Union Investment has launched a pilot energy monitoring project that is initially designed to identify the potential savings for 12 buildings in its portfolio. The installation of digital meters and monitoring of data required for the project is being carried out in conjunction with employees at local level. As the real estate industry faces the challenge of integrating sustainability and digitisation, we firmly believe that the digital future of commercial properties is green.
An article by:
Jan von Mallinckrodt, Head of Segment Development and Head of Sustainability at Union Investment Real Estate GmbH