Last week, our engineers Matt Flanders (MF) and Jason Cummings (JC) had the opportunity to have a conversation with Daniel Newman (DN), Chief Compliance Officer at Stockbridge Real Estate Funds. They discussed some of the most common questions we receive from potential clients and peers in the industry. Indeed, most often, as it did last week, the conversation starts like this:
DN: Tell me, in very simple terms, what exactly does TEECOM do?
MF: Daniel, thank you for this question. We get this question so often! I will try to be as succinct as I can. TEECOM is first and foremost an engineering firm. We work with architects and owners on large construction projects to design and plan the technology infrastructure and systems needed in buildings to operate up to today and tomorrow’s technology standards.
Take the new Cal Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park, for example. Like every building, occupants and users need phones, computers, server rooms, security doors, card readers, cameras, flat screen TVs, proper sound masking, and insulation. What we do as engineers is the design and planning, on architect’s “blueprints”, of pathways to provide the infrastructure to connect all these different systems. We also help architects and owners identify and specify the products, and systems (phone systems, servers, flat screen, or project options and sizes etc).
Similar to an electrical engineer, who identifies where all the electrical outlets, lights, and panels will be located in a building, TEECOM plans for all the technology required in a project.
DN: I understand. But you mentioned phones, computers, security cameras, large screen TVs, etc. Do you help with all these different technologies for advanced buildings?
MF: Yes we do! TEECOM provides telecommunications, security, audiovisual, acoustics, the network, and control design services. In 1997, the firm was founded with the vision that all these systems would one day converge onto a single network, “talking” to each other. We call it integrated technology. The integration allows for a variety of cost savings, less cabling, fewer consultants to coordinate, early clash detection, as well as a number of additional benefits. But really, what has allowed us to serve our clients even better and lead the industry is the way we operate. We are organized in four different practice areas: integrated technology package (engineering), technology program management (technology owner’s rep), strategy, and research.
DN: Ok. I understand low voltage design & engineering…this is what you just explained, correct? What about the other three? And research, I rarely, if ever hear that in engineering.
JC: That is correct. As Matt mentioned, the design and engineering group translates the client’s technology requirements onto construction drawings, which are used by contractors to build a fully functional and integrated building technology system. The strategy team helps our clients understand future trends, and develop long-term plans so that the building and owner is empowered to adopt new technologies as they become available. Essentially, this group helps owners prepare for the future iterations of technology, and enables the building to align with the rapid evolution of technology, which is a consistent concern we hear from clients. Our project managers act as the voice of the client and ensure the needs of the project are fulfilled by both the design and construction teams. Our research department ties all of the groups together by providing detailed insight into upcoming advances in technology. We use information gathered through meetings with the thought leaders shaping the future of the digital landscape, such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard among many others. We meet with these technology giants frequently to understand where they are investing their Research & Development dollars to better advise our clients what possible futures we may foresee.
DN: I see. Well it sounds like you have a pretty large group. As a Chief Compliance Officer my job is to make sure that, we meet our budgets, that we build sustainably, and that we hire the best value and thought leadership for the dollars we spend. What benefit does TEECOM bring to my projects?
MF: Great question, and yes, we are one of the largest firms of our kind in the nation. But to your point, the value we bring to your projects is simple: Primarily what TEECOM brings to the table is Flexibility FOR the Future, and I insist on FOR. Look at it this way – you often hear “Building OF the Future”, but when you think about the whole process of designing, planning, and constructing a building, it takes years. If you plan the facility OF the future, five years before it is operational, there is a good chance it will be obsolete by the time it opens its doors. That is why I insisted on the “Facility FOR the Future”. We have built our practice around better understanding what the future may bring, and how to plan for it so that, when technology evolves, and it does very rapidly, you do not need to rip and replace the entire infrastructure. The cost of technology now represents, on large healthcare projects, for example, up to 25% of the entire project cost. Having to replace all of that five years from completion is a mistake no one wants to make.
JC: If I may Matt, let me also add that as integrated technology engineers, you would not need five or six different consultants on your project. This represents a sizeable savings in terms of coordination meetings, billing, and probably most importantly in ensuring that all the systems are designed and planned in conjunction with one another, therefore reducing the number of errors and omissions tremendously.
MF: Good point, Jason. Lastly, TEECOM operates with the environment in mind, not only because a lot of us spend time outdoors either hiking, mountain biking, or camping with our families, but also because we are dedicated to use less to do more. Integrated technology has another great advantage. Imagine having all your systems connected to one network, controlled by fewer servers. The result is less space required, less pathways, less cables. AtCalAcademy, where we provided our integrated technology package, we saved our client over $4 million in construction cost and close to $1 million in operational cost by maximizing the number of staff needed to operate the integrated systems.
DN: Matt, Jason, thank you for spending some time with me to explain all this. This has been very enlightening.
MF: Thank YOU, Daniel. We hope we can be of service to you in the future. If you have any questions regarding the new iPhone 5, or the next Samsung Galaxy, you can always call Alex, our Director of Research, he loves playing with this stuff!
Daniel Newman is currently the Chief Compliance Officer at Stockbridge. Mr. Newman has ten years of real estate experience in reporting, accounting, asset management and compliance. Prior to joining Stockbridge, Mr. Newman worked for Cushman & Wakefield in an accounting function. Mr. Newman has also worked in London as a Controller at a television production company and as an auditor in public practice. He was awarded accounting qualifications from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, U.K. and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Mr. Newman holds a B.S. in Pharmacology from the University of Edinburgh.