Jan/Feb 2015

The commercial construction business has never been more competitive, and owners and investors are more cautious than ever in their commitments to new work. How do we as commercial contractors compete for and win the business that’s out there?

The answer may be in knowing our way around “smart” building technology so that when we show up at a pre-bid meeting, it’s not just saying “we can do that,” but being able to show how our smart-building experience is a “value add” that your competitors don’t have.

Today’s owners interest (and willingness to invest capital), reflect the awareness that Smart Building technologies significantly reduce facility operating costs over time.

Regardless of the activity that takes place inside, every building needs heating, cooling, ventilation, plumbing, lighting, and mechanical systems. Even very specialized technical facilities, hospitals or research labs can be smart. And it’s not just new construction—some of the smartest buildings in the world are not new at all, but have demonstrated the return on investment in smart technologies. The Empire State Building, for example, exceeded projected energy savings for the second year following an extensive phased retrofit begun in 2009. Most U.S. buildings are not new, but most could potentially be retrofitted with smart technology. Think about the potential …

Do you think of components of buildings you construct as a system? In the past, building controls were designed as proprietary systems, each with its own data language. Back then, creating a unified automation system required either a system’s integrator or dependency upon a manufacturer for all building systems.

New providers of building technology are now offering interoperable-building automation systems that can integrate proprietary controls, while smart-building management technologies can accommodate any system. Are your people up to knowledge and skill level in these new innovations?

A recent report by CBRE points out that today’s tenants expect more. An owner whose buildings are “smart” can recoup building-technology investments quickly in reduced occupancy rates, facilities operating costs, and also gain advantages from sustainability programs that engage employees and satisfy shareholder demands. Historically commercial-property investors were often less concerned with public image or employee engagement—that’s starting to change as tenants pick smart buildings over those that lack the features and services that are becoming more common as evidenced by companies worldwide who have spent $5.5 billion on intelligent buildings in 2012, (the figure is expected to rise to $18.1 billion by 2017, a 27.1% (compound annual growth rate), according to IDC Energy Insights.

As affordable new technologies for commercial buildings are adopted, tenants are beginning to expect smart-building features—and owners and investors alike are beginning to see how smart buildings help both occupancy plus return-on-investment.

Are you ready to dominate this new growth area? Ask yourself: Are you able to embrace the ever-changing “smart” technology offerings that are in today’s marketplace?

Are your people equipped with the knowledge skills and tools needed to handle this kind of work?

Will you immerse your leadership team and staff into this emerging area?

If the answer is “yes,” you may have what it takes in “smart” building knowledge and experience that can put your firm head and shoulders above your competition.

Jim Kissane is a retired construction industry veteran, having served the design/construction industry for more than three decades. He can be reached at jim.kissane.tampa@gmail.com

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