Jeff Jarvis, in his recent book What would Google do? asked how different industries could make themselves more “googly.”

As buildings become more intelligent, several things will happen to make real estate more googly:

* Individual systems will be converged on an IP network, which allows them to interact.
* The performance of individual systems can be measured in real time.
* Devices can increasingly communicate with users (appliances such as washing machines can now text users when their load is done).
* Remote control is a side effect of converging networks, as owners, managers and residents can adjust conditions remotely through a web-based interface.
* Buildings will increasingly have the ability to interact with each other and with the power grid.

One of the most interesting byproducts of measuring performance in real time will be the massive amounts of data that will be generated.

In a recent interview with Jarvis, he said, “Google loves data, data and more data.” Intelligent buildings are going to generate massive amounts of data during the course of their everyday performance. Not only will this help build a compelling business case for the adoption of new technologies that drive energy-efficiency, but it will also create avenues for exploring unforeseen relationships between data sets.

For example, Wal-Mart launched a series of Ecomart stores that explored the costs and benefits of green features. One of these early stores featured skylights, but because of the high materials cost of these skylights, they only used them in half of the store. Managers of departments located beneath the skylights reported significantly higher sales per square foot in the areas that were lit by sunlight, as compared to other stores.

“It’s a more complicated equation, one that’s more visible in hindsight,” said Barry Katz of Katz Home Builders, a sustainable developer in Westport, CT and author of Practical Green Remodeling (Taunton Press, 2009). “You have higher first costs because of the skylights require more materials and labor. The daylighting will offset the need for some artificial lighting, so some energy costs may be lower. They skylights have a lower R value than the ceiling itself, so you will lose more heat, which means higher costs on that front. But going in, it would not be typical to correlate construction and design features to per-square-foot sales figures.”

The Hotel 1000 in Seattle is regarded as a technology pioneer (and it is described in greater detail in Hammersmith’s report on using technology to enhance the experience of being in a space). Among the hotel’s many connected features, even the minibar is connected to the Internet.

“Let’s say we have a repeat guest, and we’d like to do something nice for them,” said Matt Hagerman, general manager of the H1K. “We can easily check the records and see that the guest likes Jack Daniels and Toblerone. We can have a bottle of Jack and a large Toblerone waiting for them in their room when they check in.”

Hagerman emphasized that it would not have been feasible to enter this data manually. “It would have been too time-intensive to manually enter this data in a database. But this is a beneficial side effect of converging systems, and it allows us to provide a personalized, value-added experience for our guests. That becomes a competitive advantage”

Intelligent building features make green buildings greener, by equipping them with sensors to monitor performance and essentially functioning as constant commissioning. They also help identify problems quickly, and can identify unexpected relationships between performance and other factors.

One green school (and I can’t recall which one so if anyone out there knows, please comment) discovered that the water usage in its bathrooms depended less on fixtures but more on the age of the students using them. This in turn helped them switch to a different system which helped them conserve more water.

Buildings as a massive source of data. Who would’ve thought?


Real estate and technology aren’t two terms typically used in the same sentence. Real estate isn’t an early adopter of technologies, and construction is even less so. But the industry is facing extraordinary pressures to catch up to the leaps of innovation found in other industries – and to remain relevant to the changing preferences of consumers.

Much of the general conversation on real estate and technology focuses on green buildings, and the next step will likely be on intelligent buildings. Green systems typically use resources more efficiently; intelligent building features help make green buildings greener by allowing them to be responsive to their environment.

The next step beyond this is to add wireless sensors to individual components and systems. This will not only enable owners to monitor a building’s performance in real time, but (to simplify greatly) it will also generate a massive amount of data … data that will be analyzed, anonymized, Googlified and correlated for some very interesting results. And you thought Google Analytics for your website was interesting? Just wait until the equivalent is available for the building and the surrounding street activity.

We wanted to use this blog to share some of Hammersmith’s research and engage in a dialogue over this emerging trend in real estate. For the first time, it looks like the next phase of the web – the Internet of Things –  may emerge from the real estate sector.

This is going to have very interesting opportunities and possibilities. We’ll try to explore some here, but one thing is certain – some the most interesting will be user-generated hacks that take advantage of converged systems and connected buildings. (It’s like trying to extrapolate call waiting, 900 numbers, and booty calls from Alexander Graham Bell’s first phone call. Which happened in my hometown, by the way, but that’s a different story).

We look forward to your thoughts on this forum.