In the wake of last month’s deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida, there will be an increased urgency to further develop, improve and utilize a variety of new technologies for inspecting commercial buildings, said Eric Maribojoc, executive director of George Mason University’s Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship, part of the School of Business.
“A tragedy such as what happened in Surfside is a call to revisit our best practices in building inspection and will likely serve to accelerate the use of new technologies,” said Maribojoc. “There are interesting technologies being developed, and in some cases already being used, that can improve building inspection.”
Maribojoc said that the average age of a commercial building in the United States is about 40 years. As building age, inspections and maintenance become increasingly important.
Robotics and drone technology allow inspections of hard-to-reach places—both internal and external to a building, said Maribojoc.
“If you combine both robotic and drone technology with sensor and scanning technology, then you have the ability to get to hard-to-reach places and then see so much more, even beneath the surface,” said Maribojoc.
Maribojoc predicts that engineering and inspection firms will increasingly offer scanning, robotics, drones and other technologies, and that the quality of the technologies will improve. In addition, Maribojoc predicts that there will be efforts to retrofit older buildings with smart technologies that allow sensors to generate data to tell operators if there are issues with the building.
“Smart technologies in older buildings could produce data indicating problems earlier so that building owners and operators can do something about it before it becomes an even bigger problem,” said Maribojoc.
Maribojoc also said that some companies are pursuing what’s called a “digital twin” of existing buildings.
“The technology exists to take a physical building and create a digital version of it, which then can be viewed using artificial intelligence,” said Maribojoc. “The artificial intelligence can help with predicting what will happen to the building over time.”
Finally, said Maribojoc, there has to be an increased effort to make sure that the stewards of residential buildings, such as condominium boards, are more educated about the real estate and any potential issues they will be confronting.
“While we talk about using technologies for inspections, there is also the human aspect of making decisions with the information they are given,” said Maribojoc. “There has to be more discussion about the importance of funding required repairs and ensuring building maintenance.”
Maribojoc is a real estate professional with 25 years of experience in the acquisition, financing, asset management, construction, leasing, repositioning and sale of multifamily, office, retail and industrial properties. He has previously worked with private equity groups and has been a principal in more than $200 million in value-added and opportunistic commercial transactions across the country.
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About George Mason
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. Learn more at gmu.edu