Is Your Building Ready for Tomorrow’s Digital Needs? How WiredScore Can Help You Future Ready Your Assets
Creating a “future-ready building” is not just about adapting space aesthetically; in fact, what really matters is much more than skin deep. A building that’s poised to satisfy emerging needs must be designed to accommodate society’s increasing demands for digital connectivity and smart technology, says WiredScore’s founder and CEO Arie Barendrecht.
Earlier this fall we sat down with Barendrecht and WiredScore’s Global Director Of Operations John Meko for their insight into how commercial real estate trends are pivoting to meet the advanced ways we now live and work. We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Barendrecht again as he dove deeper into the current movement toward ESG+R, which expands the more well-known “environmental, social and governance” principles to include “resilience.” Taken holistically, ESG+R is creating urgency for future-ready buildings to fulfill these new expectations.
Shining a Spotlight on ESG+R
While there has been a swift progression to adopt ESG+R principles, the addition of resilience is gaining traction among thought leaders such as the World Economic Forum, along with real estate industry influencers like JP Morgan and Invesco who are now including ESG+R on their reporting frameworks as they set benchmarks and organizational targets.
“There’s been a shift in industry perspective, and it now includes considering how to protect properties from additional risks that might be physical, economic or reputational,” explains Barendrecht. “Planning for resilience is a vital aspect of preventing obsolescence given the increasingly turbulent world we live in. Developers, operators and landlords want to be certain their properties can withstand diverse shocks ranging from weather events to cybersecurity breaches.”
For example, something as simple as ensuring your digital infrastructure isn’t located in the basement when your building is in a flood zone can improve your resilience.
This evolving need has led WiredScore to expand its mission. When Barendrecht first founded the firm in 2013, he was primarily focused on making it easier for tenants to find the best digitally connected buildings. “Technology and connectivity touch every aspect of our lives and have an incredible impact on how happy and productive we are, yet there was little information available that would allow tenants to select the right apartment or office space based on its technological capabilities and quality,” Barendrecht says. WiredScore’s answer was to inject transparency into the process by identifying which assets offered superior performance.
And that is paying off. According to a recent report with Moody’s, a WiredScore Certified building delivers increased performance across all majors indicators, including a 3.8% lower vacancy and higher rents averaging $6.50 per square foot in North American office buildings that are WiredScore-certified compared with similar profile non-certified buildings. The report also found a 1.5 to 2.7% rental premium increase for WiredScore-certified office buildings in New York between January and September 2022, demonstrating that WiredScore certification makes buildings more resilient to tougher market conditions.
While that’s still a cornerstone of its purpose, WiredScore’s work with over 1,000 landlords around the world has illuminated new ways to deliver value. “Although digital connectivity is as crucial as ever, building operators are coping with these even more intense challenges, which has led to broader dimensions for what constitutes a robust ESG+R strategy,” Barendrecht says.
Many landlords and developers may not realize the foundational role building design, digital strategies and smart technology play in achieving ESG+R outcomes, Barendrecht believes.
Most obvious is the direct impact that comes from tracking usage and collecting data around metrics such as energy efficiency and water consumption, which can then be analyzed to ensure you can effectively optimize and report on energy demand to better improve performance over time.
There’s also an indirect impact, given that correctly designing infrastructure from the start lessens the chance owners will eventually have to undertake large-scale changes and retrofits. “Clearly the best thing from a carbon perspective is to use the structure you have, rather than expending resources on expensive upgrades,” Barendrecht points out. That’s why WiredScore’s certifications are prized by companies focused on creating structures that are future-ready for decades to come.
And then there are the ancillary areas, such as ensuring you have a robust cybersecurity policy and a plan to actively test your building to ensure it isn’t at risk of being hacked. In fact, many buildings now require separate cyber insurance as part of a resilient risk assessment framework.
That focus on cybersecurity was a foundational element of The John Buck Company building at 151 North Franklin in Chicago. Its cyber infrastructure was designed for resiliency and high availability and contains enterprise-level hardware, IoT collectors with heuristic systems analysis and the utmost in security. These components integrate with the building’s cutting-edge technology stack to deliver a premier and secure user experience to building occupants.
Truly smart buildings even embrace opportunities for enhanced security, such as the 11 Times Square Building where PGIM Real Estate and its joint venture partners SJP Properties and Norges Bank Investment Management have deployed a host of security measures, such as a card access system integrated with the elevators that use QR codes to limit floor access as appropriate and ensure occupants are adhering to new health and safety standards.
In fact, Barendrecht believes that as ESG+R becomes a more expected standard, companies will increasingly rely on WiredScore certification as an advantage to augment their official benchmarking and reporting activities.
Earlier Involvement Yields Significant Cost Savings
The impact of engaging with WiredScore early in the building process can be profound, Barendrecht notes. Recently WiredScore conducted an assessment of an office project in the later stages of design and immediately recognized a number of infrastructure enhancements that are frequently sought out by modern-day businesses that rely on sophisticated networking to power their operations. That advice was confirmed when the developer began talking with a potential anchor tenant, an innovative life sciences company, who echoed those requirements in their lease agreement. Ultimately the property required a 7-figure retrofit to adhere to these intricate connectivity needs.
While many properties tout their “smart technology,” Barendrecht finds there’s often a disparity between claiming these capabilities and actually delivering on them. This is one of the reasons that WiredScore launched the “SmartScore” in 2021, a new certification that measures and promotes technologically advanced buildings globally.
Over 150 buildings around the world are pursuing SmartScore including those from landlords such as Hines, Hudson Pacific, Rudin Management, and Skanska who are using SmartScore as their primary technology roadmap, leveraging the firm’s user-centric approach to ensure they are prioritizing the right technology and features. This provides a much more compelling way to design the building and avoids delivering technology that doesn’t fulfill users’ requirements.
“By delivering a roadmap for upgrading a building’s tech ecosystem, SmartScore supports developers who aspire to be leaders in smart technology and want to move from marketing fluff to actually deploying technology that tangibly removes friction and makes people’s lives better,” he says.
WiredScore will inventory the existing technology and capabilities, identify deficiencies and then deliver a report card, along with a best practices guide that details its recommendations, accompanied by cost data that give owners clarity over which modifications will help them achieve the optimum return on investment.
So, for example, if a current design scores 60 out of 100, the development team can look at the analysis and make tangible upgrades that improve their score. Barendrecht is proud of the effect WiredScore’s assessments are having, with two-thirds of the buildings that undergo the certification process ultimately rising at least one level by implementing the suggested modifications. “The value of our work is confirmed when clients apply our data to their planning and capital improvement processes,” he says.
Steering Clients Toward Relevant Solutions
Of course, identifying deficiencies is just the first step, and often building operators need a roadmap for where to start in deploying this array of potential solutions to their best advantage. WiredScore has them covered with its freshly launched accreditation for solution providers, “Accredited Solutions.”
“Procuring technology can be daunting for landlords because the landscape of solution providers has grown exponentially and is becoming increasingly fragmented. It can take an incredible amount of time and effort to filter through the sheer number of options,” Barendrecht says. In addition, technology is easily outdated and often incompatible with a building’s existing tech stack, making the task even more complex.
To help ease the decision-making process, WiredScore’s platform currently features more than 50 suggested partners and is growing rapidly. “We have reviewed and evaluated their capabilities and mapped these solutions against our SmartScore framework,” Barendrecht says. “We’re trying to make it a little easier for our clients to put together the puzzle by showing them which tech solutions align with specific SmartScore credits to move them up the scale. It allows them to really understand how each piece fits into the master plan.”
Where Are You In the Quest For a Best-In-Class Smart Building?
The most enticing value proposition today is to have an asset that’s equipped to fulfill the needs of today’s exacting tenants – whether it’s an apartment resident needing adequate bandwidth to work from home or a cutting-edge company in the fast-growing life sciences industry aiming to ensure the smooth operation of mission-critical systems.
“WiredScore’s SmartScore certification provides the framework that owners, landlords and developers need during the planning process to improve their assets and contribute to better outcomes going forward,” Barendrecht says. “Whether starting from scratch or retrofitting, the quality of a building’s digital infrastructure will continue to be a critical decision-making factor for today’s sophisticated tenants.”