In an ‘old’ industry where digitalization is considered lagging behind other industries, and which younger talents tend to avoid, what exciting developments can we expect?

The built sector –comprising building and construction, facilities management, and real estate management – is considered an old industry with lots of legacy issues.

Challenges organizations in the sector face include a talent crunch, perceived unexciting career prospects, slow digitalization, technology laggardness, and environmental sustainability.

How can no-code/low-code, AI, digital twin and IoT platforms help? What can industry leaders do to ensure the built sector continues to thrive in the Asia Pacific region that is bent on creating smart cities and transforming the workplace of the future?

DigiconAsia raised these questions and more, and got some answers from Lakshita Wijerathne, CEO, Eutech Cybernetic, which owns iviva.

Why is it important to turn legacy buildings into ‘smart workplaces’ by centralizing management and visibility of all IT, business operations and IoT systems on a unified interface?

Lakshita Wijerathne (LW): Buildings generate 39% of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide; 28% from the energy needed for operations, and the remaining 11% from their materials and construction. When the high carbon emissions of new construction is viewed against the backdrop of the global imperative to combat climate change, demolishing old buildings and erecting new ones is not more sustainable.

As about 80% of today’s buildings are expected to still be occupied in 2050, we need to convert them to become smart ones to operate more efficiently and achieve our net zero targets. A recent report predicts that the smart building market will be more than quintuple – from USD103.91 billion in 2022 to USD538.45 billion by 2030. And the best way to retrofit old buildings for a greener environment is by undertaking a cost-effective tech refresh – equipping such buildings with smart devices.

Lakshita Wijerathne, CEO, Eutech Cybernetic, iviva

Implementing a user-friendly unified platform empowers owners, operators and occupants to cost-effectively retrofit their buildings and workplaces for greater efficiency by integrating information technology (IT), operational technology (OT) and internet of things (IoT).

Having these solutions on a single, easy-to-deploy platform leads to financial savings for owners and operators through greater operational efficiency. It also helps increase the value of assets by providing data needed by global companies for sustainability reporting, enabling such retrofitted older buildings to attract these companies as tenants.

How can data-driven insights empower owners, facility managers and building users with information and control across their real estate usage?

LW: Through platforms such as iviva, building owners and operators can use a digital twin to enable simulations of the expected benefits from upgrades without having to interrupt real-time operations. This will allow them to make more informed decisions as to whether to proceed with the upgrades.

We can also leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) modeling to learn how buildings behave and highlight any possible issues ahead of time. For owners and operators, this enables intelligent predictive maintenance, rather than having to follow the old format of a fixed schedule when maintenance may not be needed yet.

This enables them to ‘sweat’ their assets by operating them without interruption for longer to maximize profits and carry out maintenance only when needed.

Besides owners and operators, we also provide building users with a comprehensive view of data within a single building to enable more informed decision-making. By weaving all the information together, we help all these stakeholders optimize resource allocation and energy use, and reduce emissions.

Here are two concrete examples of how this technology can be used on a daily basis:

    1. Optimized visitor and user experience: Visitors can register their arrival ahead of time. When they arrive at the building, they can quickly get a QR code or visitor card, enabling easy access past turnstiles and into lifts to get to the floor they want.

      Building users such as employees can pre-book a hot desk in their office, guaranteeing them a workspace when they get in. They will also be able to calculate the carbon emissions of every choice they make – such as using an entire meeting room with separate air-conditioning and lighting all by themselves just to work in silence, as opposed to working in a common area with earphones on to filter out background noise. This will help drive the change towards more sustainable behavior.

    2. Increased revenue and efficiency: Owners and operators can also increase carpark revenue through smarter management. With data on carpark occupancy, building owners can gain insights into peak usage times and patterns, allowing them to plan resources effectively and optimize space utilization. This data helps them understand when and where additional parking capacity may be needed, and they can then identify where these spaces can be carved out.

      They can also manage facilities such as toilets more efficiently. For example, installing ammonia sensors in toilets to monitor hygiene levels can notify cleaners to go in only as needed, rather than following a fixed schedule. This will free them up for other jobs, increasing productivity and helping address the manpower crunch while minimizing costs.