The commercial and business world has experienced great disruptions in recent times. We have just endured a global pandemic demanding unprecedented actions and emergency measures; our response to the public health crisis triggered a global financial crisis, the biggest since 2008. Communication technologies have progressed leaps and bounds to 5G/6G networks, ubiquitous smartphones, and superfast internet; work culture has changed dramatically to take advantage of new technologies. All the solid foundations and certainties believed necessary for successful business have faded away; while new tools have emerged to help corporations navigate instability. The digitalization of human information, advanced computing power, and rapid networks have birthed one particular solution that is indispensable for the modern age: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI harnesses data, processing power, and analysis to enhance the decision-making process for businesses. Whenever corporations grapple with weighty choices depending on mass information and multi-factor analysis, computer algorithms can help. On every aspect from asset acquisition; to business ‘right-sizing’; to employee hiring; to equipment scheduling, AI has left its mark on the commercial space. Now with the transformative pressures being applied to the real estate industry, AI has also found application in enhancing and optimizing commercial real estate (CRE).
AI in Modern CRE
With a rapidly changing business environment, new demands are being placed on commercial real estate. What used to simply be premises for a commercial entity is now expected to help firms deal with turbulent markets, destabilizing trends, and progressive government regulations. The concept of hybrid operations has taken root with the advent of the pandemic – commercial real estate must adjust accordingly. With increasing environmental concerns and ambitious pledges towards decarbonization businesses are expected to adhere to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals. The built environment, accounting for 40% of global annual carbon dioxide emissions, is under scrutiny. Increasing instability in the commercial world comes alongside mushrooming opportunities. Companies expect modern CRE to cushion them from risks while also expanding agility to exploit possibilities.
Each of these challenges demands collection of vast quantities data, intelligent analysis, and informed decision-making. Here is where artificial intelligence steps in – let’s examine how AI can transform office space with respect to hybrid operations, decarbonization goals, and business risk mitigation.
Adjusting to Hybrid Operations
Hybrid operation refers to a scheme where employees operate flexibly from the physical premises, a remote office, or home depending on their work goals and convenience. This mode of work has increased in popularity since the pandemic regime of reduced mobility and physical contact. Hybrid operations poses some challenging questions for business owners: How to manage work schedules such that office space is being optimally used? How to ease collaborations between hybrid and onsite workers? How to ensure consistency in experience from the home office to the onsite office? AI/ML tools, analyzing sensor-collected utilization data, can provide insights and adjustments for these cases.
AI can work on utilization data to detect employee work patterns and predictable trends. This analysis can help generate worker schedules that avoid resource clashing within the workplace. In this way, business owners can optimally share office assets among onsite and hybrid workers and ensure ideal utilization of space.
By collating data for employee presence and space availability, AI algorithms can arrange frictionless collaborations of teams. Project teams in a hybrid workplace may comprise onsite and remote workers. Avoiding common problems like no-shows, room unavailability, and schedule conflicts is essential for a smooth collaborative experience; this can be enabled by AI.
AI-based tuning of the office environment can help hybrid workers feel as comfortable and productive at the onsite office as at home. Many businesses struggle with attracting remote workers back to the office, because of an inferior workplace experience. Personalized work settings and smart ambience, powered by AI crunching of employee preference data, can ensure a seamless journey for hybrid workers.
Achieving Decarbonization & ESG Goals
Amid increasingly concerning reports about the global climate and environmental destabilization, many international business and state actors have adopted sustainability goals. At the COP27 climate conference, high-profile brands such as PepsiCo and General Motors entered a commitment to decarbonize heavy industry and transport. By 2030, companies have pledged to use at least 10% low-carbon cement in a bid to reduce emissions.
Occupied commercial premises are high carbon consumers and represent a low-hanging fruit for responsible entities. By suggesting data-based solutions and reforms AI can help decarbonize real estate. Enabling hybrid and remote work, as discussed above, is already an important contribution made by AI in the fight for sustainability. But AI can help optimized offices decarbonize further by reducing energy wastage.
HVAC systems account for 50% of total energy used in commercial buildings, and 10% of global electricity consumption. With real-time data accumulation and central control algorithms, HVAC systems can be operated autonomously. By ensuring systems only turn on when needed, dynamically adjust to occupancy load, and avoid over-cooling or over-heating through continuous environmental feedback, AI can help buildings cut down on heating/cooling related emissions.
Nearly 16% of all electricity in the world is consumed by commercial lighting. Instead of a single on/off switch, AI/ML systems can use ambient data to generate and control sensorized light. Lighting can dynamically vary its operating state, intensity, and hue in accordance to real-time information from sensors. By eliminating redundant lighting, smart sensorized light can save upto 40% of energy consumed for illumination and promote decarbonization.
Mitigating Business Risk
Enterprises are hesitant to make large capital investments in real estate in the present environment. How can AI make physical workplaces ‘worth it’ to businesses? By activating space flexibility, reducing operating costs, and promoting scalability. With the advent of AI-powered ‘flex spaces’ firms can take baby-steps into new markets without incurring too much risk. A further inducement is the reduction in operating costs which goes hand-in-hand with hybrid operations and decarbonization.
The most remarkable thing about AI, however, is its very low physical footprint. An AI solution for CRE could be implemented with cloud-based software and scalable, retro-fittable physical infrastructure. In uncertain markets where opportunities or threats require a rapid response, this is invaluable for businesses.
Major challenges lie ahead for offices and enterprise-owners. Increasing instability is predicted not only from the technological field but also from financial markets, public health, and employee culture. Fast decisions based on accurate analysis of data are essential for businesses to stay afloat and capitalize on favourable currents. In a world of work-from-home, office-less businesses, and strict regulation, artificial intelligence can help commercial real estate stay indispensable. By leveraging copious data offices can become smart, green, flexible and serve as foundations for the corporations of the future.