Real estate industry

White House move signals major tech shift for real estate industry – Trade Observer

In late March, the Biden administration unveiled a new initiative that could have an unprecedented impact on our country’s health and infrastructure. The challenge of clean air in buildings urges building owners to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by improving HVAC and filtration. Although the request seems straightforward enough, it marks federal recognition of a major shift rocking the healthcare, real estate, and building management industries; IAQ has become a national priority.

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is part of the national COVID-19 preparedness plan and calls on building management to “adopt key strategies to improve indoor air quality in their buildings and reduce the spread of COVID-19.” The guideline highlights the buildings to which this would apply, including schools, colleges, universities and, more broadly, “organizations of all kinds”.

Ray Wu. Photo: WYND

While the health benefits are clearly outlined in President Biden’s announcement of this challenge, the fine print also underscores the immense infrastructure impact of IAQ. In fact, the administration will return both pandemic relief and infrastructure funds available to complement investments in ventilation and IAQ. Retrofitting the HVAC is often better and cheaper than replacing the entire system. It has a huge impact on the energy consumption and energy efficiency of a building. In some cases, installing proper IAQ filtration and monitoring systems can eliminate the need for additional rebuilding.

While the traditional approach to HVAC is simply to control temperature, today’s technology allows for a much more holistic approach. Ventilation systems can filter out particles that carry viruses like COVID-19 and pollutants that cause allergies and other long-term health issues. Current technology allows for proactive monitoring of air quality, so it can be cleaned as needed. As masks slowly recede in schools and offices, proper monitoring of indoor air quality is crucial for safety. It’s a main concern for tenants returning to shared spaces.

The push to prioritize IAQ is not just happening at the federal level. New Jersey recently introduced Bill S289, offering to provide loans to eligible small businesses for IAQ improvement. California passed Bill 841, providing funds to improve IAQ in public schools. Policy makers from coast to coast have recognized the importance of customer and employee safety and peace of mind to the health of the economy, and are making efforts to ensure that the necessary resources to make the necessary improvements are widely available.

On many levels, we are witnessing the progression of IAQ from luxury to status quo. Through new policies, technologies and best practices, the expectations placed on construction operations have been raised.

Although the real estate industry is well aware of the health and infrastructure benefits of improved IAQ, it has yet to become mainstream. But all of that is changing, and this announcement from the White House is set to accelerate the transition. A die principles of the challenge is “to engage the building community by communicating with building occupants to increase awareness, engagement and participation”.

This educational push will inform tenants of the benefits and risks associated with air quality – a process long overdue and brought to the fore by the pandemic. We are all hyper aware of the dangers the air around us poses to our health and livelihoods, and we can no longer afford to focus solely on the heat and cold of a building.

Those of us in the tech space know we’re on the brink of this tectonic shift similar to the rise of the smartphone. Traditional HVAC systems are dinosaurs, and those who haven’t yet upgraded their air filtration systems to enable intelligent monitoring and filtration are already behind. In five years, easy access to IAQ data will no longer be a selling point because it will be ubiquitous. The president knows this and is preparing the ground to accelerate this transition.

Ray Wu is the CEO and co-founder of WYNDwhich provides indoor air quality monitoring and improvement solutions for commercial offices.

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