How Smart Buildings and IoT Are Impacting CRE

Nearly everywhere we go—every conference, every client meeting, every networking event—people are talking about smart buildings and the Internet of Things (IoT). But for all the buzz, many CRE leaders still have a lot of questions about IoT technology: Is it really worth it? How can it help with space planning and optimization? What data will be useful, and what is just noise? What are the implications for privacy and security?

At Serraview, we talk a lot about IoT, and we’re excited about the possibilities it offers—after all, a huge strength of our platform is its ability to incorporate utilization data from a variety of IoT technologies so CRE leaders have accurate, real-time data about how space is used in their buildings. Read on to learn about the opportunities smart buildings and IoT provide and what to consider when bringing IoT technology into your workplace.

What Can Smart Buildings and IoT Do?

Improve Employee Experience

Smart buildings use technology to collect data and automate processes so they can better adapt to occupants’ needs. By providing data on how your employees use the workspace, smart buildings and IoT can make it possible for CRE teams to remove the roadblocks to productivity.

For example, a common issue for employees in any large office building or corporate campus is finding a suitable conference room when they need one. Companies are starting to solve this with sensors and beacons that detect room occupancy and activity. The next step is to make this data available to employees in a way that makes it easier to find conference rooms—for example, wayfinding apps or software can show, in real time, which rooms are free.

Serraview’s platform pulls in data from sensors or other IoT technologies, along with data from Microsoft Exchange or Google Calendar. This way, you can see rooms that are booked (someone reserved a room under their name for a certain time) as well as occupancy, which might show that booked rooms are actually not in use (or rooms that are in use without being reserved).

Armed with this data, you can implement new booking policies and systems to make it easier for employees to find a room, saving heaps of frustration and time wasted wandering hallways or rescheduling meetings. You can also use this data to better manage company resources—for example, if a large, in-demand room is typically only used by two or three people, it could be converted into two smaller rooms.

IoT technologies in the workplace also provide the data that help you make other decisions about your space and building amenities: get accurate data about fitness center usage, add or move soft seating according to employee preferences, or co-locate groups differently based on work patterns.

Discover other ways smart buildings and IoT can enhance your employees’ experience.

Energy and Operational Savings

IoT technologies integrate with building systems, like lighting and HVAC, to help both CRE teams and facilities managers run buildings more efficiently.

In particular, sensors that integrate with your lighting system can track room occupancy and activity. Based on the occupancy data, the sensors can automatically turn lights on and off. Having lights automatically turn on only when rooms or spaces are in use can translate to significant energy savings.

Sensors can also work with the building’s HVAC system to adjust the heating or cooling based on real-time occupancy data—another factor in the employee experience.

Factors to Consider


Of course, cost can be the biggest barrier to entry for many companies, especially those with large portfolios. Depending on the device or technology, there may be an initial purchase price, the installation cost, and a recurring fee to access the data.

However, depending on the technology, cost doesn’t have to be a huge factor. For example, if you’re already planning to replace your lighting system, installing lighting sensors is often a relatively small additional cost. Choosing technologies that integrate with systems you already have in place can also be more cost-effective.

Be sure to look at the lifetime cost of the device—not just the initial purchase and installation, but maintenance and ongoing costs like subscriptions to access the data. Consider the value of the data you’ll receive from the device. Will it be useful and make an impact when you’re making decisions about future leases and other initiatives?

What other decisions can be made with good sensor data?

Installation and Implementation

IoT technologies can be deployed in many different ways. Consider how much control you have over the nuts and bolts of your building when evaluating devices. Here are some questions to ask when evaluating your installation options:

  • Are you using a network already in place?
  • Do they need to be hardwired and installed?
  • Can you place them on a desk?
  • How are they powered: batteries, solar, Ethernet cables, etc.?
  • If they use batteries, how often do they need to be replaced?
  • If they are sensors or beacons, how many do you need to deliver the data?
  • How precise do you want your data to be—do you need visibility for each individual desk or just each floor?
  • How frequently does the software need to be updated?

If you’re planning a retrofit or new build, you may have a lot more options. But even if you don’t have that freedom, there are still plenty of IoT technologies that can be deployed without complicated installations.

Also, there’s little point in installing a utilization sensor or beacon if you don’t also have a platform or system, like Serraview, to collect, integrate, and analyze the data.

The business applications for smart buildings and IoT in the workplace are only going to grow. It may seem overwhelming, but now is the time to start looking at how IoT technology can provide greater efficiencies and experiences at your company. We predict that IoT will be an integral part of corporate real estate in the future.

Learn how Serraview integrates with IoT devices and other systems to help you make evidence-based decisions about your space—request a demo today.


Making Space Utilization Work for Your Organization

Accurate utilization data provides CRE teams greater insight into how the workplace is used. With these insights, they can make strong, evidence-based decisions.

Corporate real estate leaders are starting to shift away from working with old assumptions and manual processes. Instead, as new technology becomes more widely available and accessible, they are using automation and verifiable data to make their workplaces more efficient and effective.

If you’re just beginning to work with utilization data, or feel your team hasn’t yet tapped into its full potential, this guide will:

  • Show the differences between measuring space occupancy vs. space utilization
  • Illustrate the importance of accurately measuring utilization is today’s flexible workplaces
  • Provide examples of how CRE teams can use utilization data to bring more value to their organizations
  • Examine what’s to come as CRE and utilization data become more intertwined

Build a Better Business Case: 5 Tips to Set Yourself Up for Success

Luckily, now we have access to more and better data—but numbers alone won’t get your business case approved. Whether you’re looking at taking on a new lease, consolidating employees, moving to a new office, or transitioning from a fixed workplace to an agile or hybrid one, here’s what you should know about building a strong business case.

1. Know Your Audience

First, does your company have a standard template or guideline for building a business case? Make sure you have them and are comfortable with the format.

Second, the odds are the executives at your company won’t be impressed with subjective factors or soft dollars. What may seem like common sense recommendations won’t hold much water if you can’t tie them to a projected dollar amount based on facts.

Hard dollars are still what drives approval. You want to be able to state your case with hard numbers and evidence-based data backing it up. For example, an argument like, “Moving to a new campus will pay for itself in three years due to lower real estate costs,” (with clear cost comparisons) is more likely to get buy-in than simply stating, “A new campus with better outdoor space will create a more positive work environment.”

This isn’t to say you should never include soft dollars in your strategic business cases. They shouldn’t be a key driver, but should be considered additive to your ROI. Instead, you could say, for example, “We expect the new campus will make commuting easier for most employees, resulting in decreased lateness and absenteeism rates.” After the move, you can compare the data (absenteeism rates at the old and new campuses) and gather evidence that proves your hypothesis. In the future, you’ll have the data to tie “ease of transportation” or other subjective factors to hard dollars. In the future, you can use this data when calculating total cost of ownership/occupancy (TCO) and, for example, justify subsidizing mass transit for employees who could require a longer commute.

2. Consider the Big Picture

Look beyond just the dollars that could be saved in real estate costs. What is the potential impact on employees? For example – you move to a new campus and the commute is significantly worse for some employees, so approximately 10% of your staff choose to leave the company. Check with HR to ascertain the cost of replacing that portion of your workforce. How will that affect the projected three-year timeline for the move to pay for itself?

How can CRE leaders slash expenditures?

In the early stages of building the business case, when you’re still gathering data and exploring possible scenarios, it’s a good idea to check in with the executive team. Make sure that what you’re planning is aligned with the company’s long-term plans (which may have changed since you last looked at your five-year strategic plan). For example, you may be looking at a scenario that moves a division to a different office, only to find out that there are plans to sell that division in the next 18 months.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like most things, the best way to get better at something is to practice it—so get in the practice of putting together mini-business cases for all your plans and initiatives, even if a proper business case isn’t required.

When you work on a move for five people in one department, come in with a well-defined plan that sets objectives and expectations. And then review the business case to ensure you met your goals.

An added bonus to this practice is elevating the work that CRE does within the company. Think of it as a way to “advertise” the CRE skill sets, and then, when it’s time to plan something on a larger scale, not only will you feel more prepared, the executive team and other staff members will have confidence that your team will handle it in a strategic, professional manner.

4. Use Valid, Evidence-Based Data

This is where tools like Serraview make all the difference for CRE. When you bring in data from activities like badge entry swipes and conference room usage, plus validated data from each business group about allocations, you can actually put hard dollars to items that were only estimated in previous business cases.

Find out which space utilization metrics will help you build the strongest case possible.

Look for data in industry benchmarks and documented research. “We’ll have more collaborative space” isn’t as strong as “Records show that companies similar to ours that increase collaborative space see revenues increase.” This can also make your soft dollar items stronger.

5. Remember Change Management

This is something that CRE teams often overlook or underestimate when building their business cases. Moving, whether it’s across the floor or to another building, can have an emotional effect on many employees. Don’t just assume that “millennials want an agile workplace” and neglect how you’ll “sell” any kind of move to the staff. It’s important to have a strong change management plan in place to anticipate and mitigate any negative effects the change can have on teams.

Some space management and planning software will let you see estimates on the cost of moving each employee. This is a great start, but you should also talk to other teams that would be facilitating the move—like HR and IT—to get a full picture of the associated costs.

Building business cases don’t have to be onerous for CRE teams. Use these tips the next time you’re putting one together—large or small—and see for yourself.

Building a business case for a hybrid or activity-based workplace? Check out our guide on how to transition to activity-based working.