A chief smart building officer showing colleague reports on tablet


For years, the adoption of smart building technology has been expanding. Instead of only humans managing buildings, AI technology is assisting in automating many of our redundant work tasks. And thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), from smart thermostats to refrigerators, many of our home tasks, such as adjusting the temperature or ordering groceries, are being automated too.

IoT property technologies have empowered both residential and commercial tenants to live smarter. As a result, there’s an increasing need for a point person to manage all aspects of smart properties: a chief smart building officer. Read on to learn more about what this position entails and why your building might need one.

In this post, we’ll discuss:


What is a chief smart building officer?

A chief smart building officer is a building operations executive whose job is to analyze data and implement property technology (proptech) to maximize energy efficiency and return on investments. In short, the person in this position is responsible for aligning various stakeholders and their desired outcomes. Such outcomes range from NOI and energy efficiency to resident experience and retention rates.

The chief smart building officer (CSBO) position is relatively new and hasn’t been massively adopted by many buildings yet. CSBO can be seen as the chief technology officer. But unlike the CTO, a CSBO’s primary concern revolves around building operations. And, as technology and energy efficiency solutions continue to dominate the field of real estate, the need and demand for a CSBO will grow. Some experts suggest that the role of chief technology officer can eventually evolve into the chief smart building officer role.

Some of the tasks of a CSBO might include:

  • Researching and implementing the best proptech solutions for a building
  • Analyzing the data gathered from smart devices and putting those numbers into use
  • Being a liaison between building developers and engineers, IT departments, and other stakeholders to streamline a smart building technology plan


How was the position created?

It’s hard to pinpoint when the conceptualization of a chief smart building officer began. However, its concept has been looming in the heads of industry leaders ever since the creation of the “smart building.” Smart buildings are properties that integrate amenities, property management solutions, and sustainability systems into one integrated ecosystem.

Over time, as buildings implement more proptech solutions, the need for a CSBO continues to rise. The most significant advantage of smart buildings is that they self-regulate and automate processes for owners, operators, and tenants. However, as technology continues to evolve and improve, equipment will need to be upgraded and replaced.

A CSBO will organize these pieces of technology and develop and implement a smart building strategy. Additionally, as society becomes more environmentally conscious, the CSBO will take the lead in adhering to the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) guidelines.


What types of buildings have a chief smart building officer?

Technically, all types of buildings that utilize smart technology could use a CSBO. However, this role is still in its nascent stages. So, it’s the tech-centric commercial buildings that are employing the first CSBOs. These buildings may be software companies, green energy firms, and smart technology manufacturers.


Chief smart building officers in tech-centric commercial properties.


Think of CSBOs as property managers for just the smart technology aspect of the property. A building can have all the latest technologies and gadgets. But if no one oversees these devices, analyzes their data, and facilitates the implementations and integrations, then the property won’t reap all the benefits of being a smart building.


The evolution of smart buildings

In 1993, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program was created to encourage property developers and architects to construct new buildings as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as possible. Led by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED transformed the real estate industry nearly overnight. Developers and constructors largely adapted LEED’s framework to build healthy, cost-saving, and green apartment buildings.


Adopting technology to make buildings smarter

The creation of smart buildings led to a shift from high-touch to high-tech in multifamily apartment buildings. From the late 1800s through most of the 1900s, multifamily property developers and managers focused mainly on providing residents with white-glove services. These apartment buildings were rich in amenities that attracted prospective residents, retained current tenants, and increased the properties’ NOI.

However, as the public became more aware of the damaging effects of greenhouse emissions, developers, owners, managers, and residents started looking for smart living solutions that’d be better for both the environment and them. Over the recent decades, sensor technology has exponentially advanced, making proptech devices like smart thermostats and smart lights a reality.


Chief smart building officers and the development IoT technology network.


At the turn of the century, the advent of smartphones also contributed to the widespread adoption of smart buildings. For one, smartphones and IoT development made installing high-tech amenities much simpler and easier since you no longer had to invest in expensive and confusing IT infrastructure. Today, residents use their smartphones to control the smart technology in their homes.

Additionally, the invention of smartphones made smart living easy and convenient for residents. For example, residents no longer have to carry keys, access cards, or fobs – they can open the door for themselves and guests right from their phones.


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Climate change and real estate

As years go by, the dangerous effects of climate change are becoming increasingly harder to ignore. And the real estate industry is not exempt from this. According to a 2020 Pew Research study, 62% of Americans said climate change already affects where and how they live. And many have been forced to migrate because of natural climate disasters like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.

As such, climate change is drastically affecting the real estate industry, and there’s tangible data to prove this. America’s 125 million residential and commercial properties use almost 75% of the nation’s energy consumption. If the real estate industry doesn’t make impactful changes now, its effects on climate change may become deadly.

That’s why today’s smart buildings are not only equipped with the latest energy-conserving technologies but they’re also being built with ethically sourced materials. There are plenty of low-carbon materials and products that developers can use to lower a new construction’s footprint as much as possible.


Do you really need a chief smart building officer?

In short, the need for a chief smart building officer depends on your property’s level of technological advancement and commitment to carbon reduction.

Proptech offers endless sources of data to analyze and draw plans that’ll help the building reach its efficiency goals. But if the data is siloed and underutilized or no one has the authority or the focus to move things forward, there’ll be lots of missed opportunities. And, if those performance indicators are essential to the building’s operations and tenants’ well-being, then maybe it’s time to bring in a CSBO.

But if your property is just starting to incorporate smart technology and it’s a small-to-mid-sized building, then hold off on hiring a CSBO just yet. There are a slew of outside vendors and consulting firms that can help see small projects to completion. Outsourcing might be the better path to take if your building can’t cover the cost of onboarding and supporting a new executive role. You can always reassess your building’s need for a CSBO if proptech isn’t achieving its maximum potential.


How can you prepare for the smart building revolution?

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on about chief smart building officers, one thing’s for sure: the smart building revolution will continue. And your tenant experience can very much depend on how you and your staff approach it.

As long as the climate change problem exists, people will keep thinking of ways to live smarter and eco-friendly. And these smart building solutions will not only combat climate change but also be financially sustainable for the property.

It’s completely okay if hiring a prominent executive figure like a CSBO is too much right now. There are still many steps to take to join the smart building revolution.

Start by investing in these proptech solutions to get a head start:

  • Implementing a solar-powered energy source
  • Installing mobile-enabled access control systems
  • Automating building processes through property management systems
  • Make managing visitor access easy with front desk station software like the ButterflyMX front desk station

No matter how you put it, smart buildings and proptech are the future of the real estate industry.


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Sarah Kim

Based in New York City, I love exploring the real estate industry and explaining how property technology can improve people’s lives.