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Tech can increase building reserve funds in unexpected ways

Condo corporations and rental building owners alike are always looking for resourceful solutions...

Parity, GHG, net-zero, Toronto

Condo and multi-residential portfolio owners across North America should consider leveraging technology in creative ways to save money (Courtesy, Parity / iStock)

Condo corporations and rental building owners alike are always looking for resourceful solutions to keep budgets balanced and cash reserves healthy. With inflationary pressures on the horizon and volatile markets, there’s no promise how healthy reserve funds will be in the coming years.

“The majority of reserve funds start off underfunded from the time the building is built, which has significant long-term implications on the financial health for the corporation and subsequent revisions to reserve funds seem to be a continuous game of catch-up,” states Steve Herzog, long-time advocate for responsible reserve fund planning and the technical director for Greener Solutions, an energy and environmental group focused on lowering operating and reserve fund expenditure for buildings.

With all of the costs of running a multiresidential property — including keeping amenities open, responding to residents’ requests, maintaining the grounds, addressing equipment maintenance, managing equipment failure and responding to current or coming net-zero emissions regulations — how can building owners and operators maintain reserve funds substantial enough to accommodate the unexpected?

Without careful evaluation of alternative ways to insulate reserves against current market uncertainty, condo boards and building owners could find themselves in unfortunate circumstances, needing to double back on where to invest cash reserve savings and how to stay afloat in what many predict will be financially harder times ahead.

While still faced with the economic uncertainty of a post-pandemic world, condo corporations and multi-residential portfolio owners across North America should consider leveraging technology in creative ways to save money — on utility costs which can be applied to make-up any current or future shortfalls in their reserve accounts — and ensure cash reserves remain healthy through the challenging times at hand.

Smart technology = smarter savings

“Deploying AI-driven technology that learns, controls and automatically adjusts HVAC equipment performance in response to changes in occupancy levels, weather patterns, building CO2 levels and seasonal energy usage eliminates energy waste in real-time and helps condo boards, building owners and property management teams effectively reduce their energy costs year over year,” says Brad Pilgrim, CEO of Parity, a leading technology provider that delivers energy savings and sustainable CO2 emission reduction solutions for the North American multiresidential building market.

According to the 2017 ACEEE Report, Smart Buildings: Using Smart Technology to Save Energy in Existing Buildings, “Smart buildings save energy by automating controls and optimizing systems. Whereas an upgrade to a single component or isolated system can result in energy savings of 5–15 per cent, a smart building with integrated systems can realize 30–50 per cent savings in existing buildings that are otherwise inefficient.”

Also, evidenced by numerous multiresidential building case studies, leveraging technology to automate, monitor and control building HVAC systems so they run at the precise output for a multiresidential building’s specific resident comfort and operational requirements, ultimately improves energy efficiency throughout the building for the long term. With the control hardware and logic deployed, and the right partner to manage the equipment installation and performance, buildings can realize savings of 20–30 per cent on their energy costs year over year.

Data intelligence, HVAC transparency = savings

Incorporating smart technology within a holistic strategy for reducing long-term operational costs to increase building cash reserves can result in savings in other areas as well.

“Beyond the benefits of energy efficiency, technology also makes buildings smarter, more environmentally friendly and serves to improve operational efficiency,” notes Pilgrim.

“Having a dedicated software partner ​​that controls and monitors energy intensive equipment like building HVAC systems, coupled with an intelligent visualization platform that provides real-time data, system transparency and alerting on both equipment energy use and equipment performance, helps property management teams pinpoint any system issues well before they get out of hand. This saves the reactive costs of calling maintenance technicians or replacing damaged equipment, which can add up to thousands of dollars over time.”

Additional technology-driven cost savings can also come from running equipment less often, as this level of run-time efficiency extends the life expectancy of equipment and allows for some capital costs to be deferred longer. Also, having detailed trend data that demonstrates the building’s true demands for fresh air, heating and cooling, can help consulting engineers better assess and recommend the right-sized equipment when current systems are in need of replacement.

This level of data-supported accuracy for equipment requirements helps reduce wasted capital dollars on oversized equipment.

These are just a few of the many examples of how the right smart building technology serves to proactively preserve and add to a building’s cash reserve fund beyond traditional and linear financial investment options.

Long-term smart partner = long-term savings

The best part about including technology in your long-term cost-saving strategy for your multi-residential building is you don’t have to do it alone. Condominium boards of directors that are successful at realizing significant cost savings often rely on the collaboration between their property management teams and their technology partners.

Identifying a knowledgeable and committed team of energy-efficiency professionals with dedicated technical support is an excellent first step. Smart, AI-supported platforms that include human and machine learning also facilitate much of the real-time monitoring, adjustments and responses that will help avoid costly system issues.

To note, as always, it is the human element that makes the most difference in how well we leverage technology for any means. With this in mind, it is critical to work with a team that is innovative, helpful and growing with you — one you know will be there to support your financial and operational strategies for the long haul, regardless of the economic challenges on the road ahead.

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