Belfast keeps up to speed as smart buildings move from concept to reality
Recent decades have seen major advances in how businesses use technology, with an ever-increasing reliance on computers and smart phones to carry out every day activity.
It means the digital connectivity of commercial premises is now among the key considerations for any tenant or prospective occupier, sitting alongside cost and location as the most important factors in choosing new office space.
A natural progression, therefore, has been the idea of a ‘smart building' moving from a mere concept to concrete reality to satisfy the growing need.
And, as demand increases for connectivity, so too has the need for landlords and agents to prove the reliability of a building's digital infrastructure.
To that end, the ongoing renovation project at Belfast's Chichester House by Causeway Asset Management, due for completion before the end of 2018, recently became the first in the city to seek certification under the WiredScore rating system.
The system grades premises on a variety of digital measures, including their resilience to internet outages and their ability to cope with future changes in available technology.
It's important, because a reliable internet connection is deemed essential to businesses and the work of their employees.
Firms that report connectivity issues also say outages increase stress levels, while also having an adverse effect on productivity.
According to research by Imperial College and research firm Opinium, internet downtime cost businesses across the UK around £7 billion last year due to lost productivity and additional overtime.
The awarding of a certificate can therefore play a major role in attracting new tenants and enhancing the reputation of a building.
While the rating - due to be issued for Chichester House later this year - will make it the first in Belfast to be graded by WiredScore, it certainly won't be the last, especially as the city's reputation as a hub for the fintech and cyber security sectors shows no signs of abating.
WiredScore was set up in New York in 2013 with early support from then mayor Michael Bloomberg, and has already become well-established in major cities and business centres including London and Paris.
The company launched its services in the Republic of Ireland earlier this year, and already certification for more than a dozen buildings has been sought.
Dublin is now home to six buildings awarded platinum certificates and a further seven with either a gold or silver grading, while eight more are currently under consideration.
Belfast's first WiredScore certified building can only help the city compete on the post-Brexit stage. The bar has been raised and Causeway's plans to launch more WiredScore certified office developments across the city in coming months will only serve to raise it further.
As the impending roll-out of 5G sits on the horizon, Belfast has the opportunity to position itself on the global stage as a ‘smart city'. The introduction of WiredScore certified buildings is a great start in achieving this lofty goal.
Declan Flynn is managing director of Belfast-based commercial property agency Lisney, which works on behalf of many of Northern Ireland's most significant investors and developers as well as major retailers and businesses.