Do Smart Building Certifications Measure Up?
The advent of certifications brings new opportunity and new questions for operators.
“Multifamily landlords in particular have been setting out to prioritize connectivity and ensure a higher level of service and superior experience,” said Kevin Donnelly, vice president, government affairs at the National Multifamily Housing Council. “To achieve this, they need to know the buildings they are investing in can provide for renters today and will also deliver the technology renters will be using tomorrow.”
Benchmarking and certifying sustainability are established practices for operations. Though the idea of certifying technology performance is less widespread, it is gaining significant traction through a variety of initiatives. Operators must weigh whether participating in the programs will improve the resident experience and provide a competitive advantage.
Although smart thermostats have become selling points for some multifamily building residents, and residents generally appreciate having sophisticated technology in general, most are unaware of smart building certifications, experts say. Savvier renters may recognize LEED placards when entering a building, but because smart building certifications are so new, most residents typically don’t recognize them, reported Joe Alquist, a vice president at Bright Power, a New York City-based energy efficiency consultant.
Yet raising the standard for smart building performance—and making it a selling point—is a undoubtedly a worthy goal, given the disruption and expense created by inadequate connectivity. Downtimes can impact multiple aspects of residents’ lives: health, well-being, work and productivity. Connectivity affects 86 percent of North American renters and homeowners, according to a survey commissioned by WiredScore, perhaps the best-known standard for smart-building certification.
The study, released in June to coincide with the launch of WiredScore’s new multifamily smart building certification, found that residents experience 20 service disruptions monthly. Making up for inadequate service with extra mobile data costs the average household $337 annually, the survey found. More than four in five respondents (84 percent) consider Wi-Fi service to be a standard apartment feature, the research found.
Smart buildings can benefit from reduced operating costs, yielding greater income for multifamily owners and investors, and more appeal for residents, expert say.
A smart building certification might encompass smart waste, lighting and shading controls, water efficiency, leak detectors and other controls integrated throughout the building to deliver greater efficiency.
“What matters most is validation, to ensure these investments are integrated into the asset,” said Etienne Cadestin, founder & CEO of Longevity Partners, an energy and sustainability consultancy with U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas.
“Nowadays, it’s not enough to say how good you are. You have to prove it, and certification is a good way to have that third-party validation that what you say is in your building is actually there,” he added.