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Rise of the "Building" Dead: How to Outsmart Zombie Buildings

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Laura-Jane Miginiac

In a world where buildings stand as empty, lifeless structures, a new threat looms on the horizon - the rise of the "building" dead. Zombie buildings, once bustling with activity, now succumb to neglect and decay, haunting our cityscapes. With an estimated 18.3% vacancy rate across the United States, these buildings not only pose safety hazards but also contribute to blight and economic decline.

If zombie buildings are weighing down your portfolio, hope is not lost. You can outsmart these depreciating assets and revive your balance sheet. In this article, we explore the strategies and tactics that will help you deal with the zombies you’ve got, and keep the contagion from spreading.

Understanding the concept of "zombie buildings"

Zombie buildings are not just out of horror movies; they are a real and growing problem in the post-pandemic world. Originally coined because these structures are essentially undead, devoid of activity or purpose but still there, consuming space and in many cases energy.

Often at these properties, though, owners and asset managers aren’t seeing a huge change in the operating expenses at these sites, even though their revenues have plummeted. Meanwhile, some cities are introducing new penalties and fines for unoccupied buildings which means they could end up costing owners even more.

The rise of zombie buildings: Causes and implications

The rise of zombie buildings is a symptom of larger societal and economic issues. In recent years, we have witnessed economic recessions, population shifts, and changing occupant preferences, all of which have contributed to the increase in vacant properties.

The impact of the work-from-home and hybrid work phenomena on the rise of zombie buildings cannot be overstated. As companies increasingly adopt flexible work arrangements, the demand for traditional office spaces has diminished, leaving a growing number of commercial buildings vacant and vulnerable to becoming part of the zombie building surge.

Property owners and facility managers find themselves grappling with the consequences of vacant and underutilized commercial spaces. For property owners, the shift in demand for traditional office spaces can lead to plummeting property values, prolonged vacancies, and financial strain. The reduced demand for leasing or purchasing office spaces may necessitate a reevaluation of rental rates, making it challenging for property owners to maintain profitability. Additionally, the responsibility of securing and maintaining these empty buildings falls squarely on the shoulders of facility managers. Abandoned structures require ongoing maintenance to prevent further deterioration, posing a considerable burden on facility management teams who must navigate budget constraints while ensuring the safety and integrity of the properties in their care.

Outsmarting zombie buildings: Strategies for revitalization

In the fight against zombie buildings, using data effectively is crucial for managing and reviving structures. Easy access to comprehensive data allows property owners and facility managers to make informed decisions, optimize resource allocation, and enhance operational efficiency. Leveraging data analytics tools enables real-time monitoring of building performance, identifying patterns, and predicting maintenance needs.

An essential tool in combating the building undead is the use of automated demand management solutions. These systems, equipped with advanced algorithms, analyze occupancy patterns, energy usage, and other vital metrics. Surprisingly, many zombie buildings continue operating at their normal capacity simply because no one knows how to turn the equipment off. Or, the reverse happens where HVAC equipment is off for a prolonged period of time and when the building is ready to come back to life, a huge capital expenditure is needed to replace failed equipment that was inoperable for longer than O&M recommendations.

With relatively low capital outlay, fault detection and diagnostic (FDD) technologies can be deployed to trend, monitor and execute remote commands to a zombie building system and in many cases, the energy savings will pay for the FDD in about a year. These solutions use sensors and analytics to identify inefficiencies and potential faults in real time. Addressing issues promptly enables facility managers to prevent further deterioration, ensuring the safety of the surrounding community.

In conclusion, outsmarting zombie buildings requires a multifaceted approach that integrates data-driven decision-making, automated demand management solutions, and fault detection technologies. Moreover, the concept of adaptive buildings emerges as a transformative force in this endeavor, responding dynamically to changing needs and conditions. These intelligent structures leverage cutting-edge technologies such as sensors, smart grids, and machine learning algorithms to continuously monitor and adjust their environments. For instance, adaptive lighting systems can optimize energy consumption based on real-time occupancy data, and climate control systems can adapt to weather patterns and occupant preferences.

The flexibility inherent in adaptive buildings not only aligns with the fluid nature of modern work arrangements but also enables a more sustainable and efficient use of resources. By seamlessly integrating technology and architecture, adaptive buildings play a pivotal role in revitalizing urban spaces, offering a beacon of hope in the fight against the 'building' undead. As we navigate the evolving landscape of work and living arrangements, the power of innovation and strategic planning becomes crucial in overcoming the challenges posed by the zombie buildings.

So, are you ready to fight zombie buildings? Reach out today to learn more about our services and how they can drive your business.


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