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How Can Technology Assist In Contributing To Making The Built Environment Sustainable? with Serene Al-Momen and Sara Anzinger


The Propcast talks to Serene Al-Momen from Senseware, and Sara Anzinger from Measurabl, to discuss those famous three letters that everyone loves talking about -the ESG – and how technology can really play a part in not only assisting the climate crisis but helping to reduce it. We also find out what changes in the adoption of real estate technology they have been seeing, and some future trend predictions.


Key Insights From This Episode

  • Starting a business is never a straight line – Serene Al-Momen
  • There’s outsized impact and therefore outsized opportunity in terms of transforming the built environment – Sara Anzinger
  • The action piece is about implementing solutions that are going to help decarbonize the industry and both protect and future-proof from transitional and physical climate risk – Sara Anzinger
  • We believe that getting real time data versus data after the fact is really important to affect real change – Serene Al-Momen
  • What we’re really seeing is this push for decarbonizing the life cycle of real estate – Sara Anzinger
  • 80% – 90% of all buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today – Sara Anzinger
  • Commercial estate is one of the largest asset classes in the world, but less than 1% of CRE space is digital or digitised – Serene Al-Momen
  • Within Europe there’s a lot of awareness and prioritisation of sustainability – Sara Anzinger
  • We’re seeing the move towards real estate as a service is a big trend, which requires more digitisation than what’s available out there – Serene Al-Momen
  • I’m excited for us as a society to continue to move into a world where energy environment, sustainability and tech intersect. And I believe that bringing these sectors together will not only be better for the world, but will also be better for our bottom line – Serene Al-Momen


About Our Guests

Serene Al-Momen

Serene Al-Momen is the CEO and co-founder of Senseware, a complete IoT technology stack that provides modular connectivity for digitization of assets in the physical environment. Serene holds a Ph.D. degree in IT and is a certified PMP, SCM, ITIL, and SCJP. Before Senseware, Serene spent over 11 years managing large, mission critical projects overseeing teams as large as 40 people and managing an annual budget of at least $10M. She has a track record of delivering projects on time and budget and growing revenue by an average of $1M a year. She is an expert in self-managed and control systems, and Serene has been recognised by Forbes as heading up one of their Top 50 Women-Lead start-ups.


Sara Anzinger

Sara is SVP of ESG Capital Markets at Measurabl. Sara is a seasoned finance and business development professional at the forefront of sustainability, she has rich experience in strategy and product development, global and cross-sector project management, investor and lender engagement on ESG. Sara is a Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA) Credential-holder and holds an MSc in International Finance. She is responsible for Measurabl’s capital markets line of business, which includes development of business models, GTM strategies, and engagement with banks and lenders, insurers, indirect investors (LPs), and ratings agencies.


About Our Host

Louisa Dickins

Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).

About LMRE

LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the place at the time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people’s careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.


Resources Mentioned

LMRE website

Senseware website

Measurabl website


Episode Transcript

Introducing Our Guests


On today’s podcast, I’m joined by two women who I’ve been closely following not only the successful personal journeys, but their company’s involvement within the ever-growing and topical climate sustainability tech space. So without further ado, I love to introduce you to Serene, who is the CEO and co-founder of Senseware and Sara Anzinger, who’s the vice president of capital markets at the well-known Measurabl. So welcome to the show ladies.



Nice to be here, thank you for having me.



Thanks, good to be here.



Usually I introduce both my guests by I thought I would change it up a bit because Serene and Sara can tell their stories a lot better than I can. So let’s actually get started on the questions, but we’ll hear from both of them and see how they got into this space. We’ll hear from Serene on her journey from sustainability finance, which I didn’t quite know what it was, to ESG, we’ll talk through how Serene went to being a founding woman, we will be chatting through the famous three letters that everyone loves talking about, the ESG and how technology can really play a part in assisting the climate crisis and reducing it. After this we’ll be hearing about what changes they have seen in an adoption in real estate and also the common misconceptions in the value of the product across geographies now Sara’s worked not only in the US but in Europe too, so it’d be good to draw some comparables there. And then we’ll finish off with hearing a little bit more about basically future projections they are expecting. So as I mentioned, let’s start off the show first hearing from both the ladies. So we’ll start from Serene, how did you become the founder of Senseware, and also please let our audience know a bit more about your product and how it’s changing real estate?


What was the journey to founding Senseware?


Yes sure, so the origin story of Senseware is kind of interesting. it touches on how starting a business is never a straight line and basically the idea originated in Portugal. So in Europe and I was there for my PhD research, I was presenting my work in a conference there, it was around healthcare and my co-founder Julian Stamatakis was also doing the same. He was presenting his PhD work and I attended his session and it was around how using sensors, such as accelerometers can improve the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease patients, because the sensor can pick up on things that doctors naked eye cannot. And he also mentioned how it would be nice to add other sensors to the mix like gyroscopes and sensors like that, but that it was too late for him to actually incorporate new sensors without re-developing the whole technology. But that was an area of improvement in that research.


And that just was a light bulb moment for me when I met with him after the conference and I said, tell me more about this issue. And as we talked about it, we quickly realize that this could be really interesting technology to develop where we’re able to connect any type of sensor or data source into one system without having to redevelop every time we add new types of sensor data. And that was that whole beginning of the idea of Senseware, we wanted to go into the healthcare space given both of our backgrounds. But again we go where the market takes us, as we were talking about this technology that can connect to any sensor, can get the real-time data very quickly easily, a lot of the interest came from the built environment ecosystem. So owners, operators of building, construction professionals, building technology manufacturers that came to us and said, Well can you connect and get the real-time data from the sensors in the building, energy, air quality and things like that? Well we can, and we just went where the market took us and here we are today. We’re focused on applying the technology in the built environment ecosystem.



Well, congratulations, no doubt you’ve seen a massive surge in people probably wanting to use your product, especially since the year we’ve just had. You cover the built environment, but you cover all the spaces from medical, entertainment venues, schools, commercial. When people think of the built environment and for our audience listening in, or people trying to learn about PropTech, people just think, Oh, maybe it’s just offices or maybe just residential. There’s so many things that come into it. Sara, what about you? Your background is sustainable finance specifically, and now you work in Measurabl, you’re leading up capital markets. How did you get to where you are now and what is your remit of your role? What does the role actually entail? Is it finance related, is it strategic, is it business development? Tell us a bit about it.


How did you get into working with Measurabl and what does the role entail?


Thank you so much for the question. It’s been a long journey here, I actually started my career in traditional commercial real estate finance and banking. Spent some time at Royal bank of Canada and PNC bank in the US before doing my graduate studies in Amsterdam. I spent some time working at GRESB, which is the industry standard for ESG assessment and benchmarking of real estate vehicles and worked on the debt side there, given that was what I knew. And then spent some time as well at the tradings, so in the credit ratings industry and structured finance rating, CMBS transactions, and getting the opportunity there to help establish their sustainable finance group and looking at how ESG, could be more transparently communicated to investors in terms of how it was being taken into consideration in fundamental analysis And how it was impacting the ratings that we were assigning to all kinds of entities, so cross sectorally not just real estate related.


It was really through that process of being drawn to furthering sustainable finance and seeing how important data was, to being able to see that market grow and being able to further the credible verification of impacts associated with allocation of proceeds around sustainable finance instruments, that I became interested in working for a tech company and Measurabl was really at the nexus of all of those things. So a SaaS company, specifically focused on the real estate sector and very much engaged in making ESG data collection and analytics and reporting simpler for owners and operators. So that’s kind of what brought me to Measurabl. And then in terms of my specific role there, as FTP of capital markets it is kind of all of the things that you touched on.


So it’s both strategic, it’s product development, it’s R&D, a bit of sales, which is really nice for me. It’s very much a hybrid role. But essentially it’s to look at how we as a company can grow and move into serving both new customer segments, so what we might use the umbrella term of capital markets for, so including ratings agencies, real estate lenders, insurers, etc. as they are looking for more data, in order to incorporate in their own business practices. But also how we can better connect our own customers and real estate owner operators to finance, to access to capital through ESG and through the data that they are collecting through our platform and able to better disclose.



So both your businesses are heavily in real estate sector. Sara, you mentioned ESG, you also mentioned the word impact, and that’s what both your businesses are having on the real estate sector and it’s changing it. So would you like to walk us through, the ESG components of Measurabl and how it directly impacts the climate crisis? Because I think lots of our listeners are trying to understand and understanding more about real estate role to play, about how it directly can impact what’s happening to the climate.


How can real estate impact the global climate crisis?


Absolutely. So I think in terms of just a high-level view, the built environment is arguably the largest asset class in the world and contributes roughly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. So there’s outsized impact and therefore I think outsized opportunity in terms of transforming the built environment. What Measurabl does in that space is offer essentially an ESG data management platform to help automate data collection at the building level, which historically has been done through spreadsheets. It was quite cumbersome and prone to error. In fact our founder and CEO, Matt Ellis, was previously sustainability director at CBRE. And it was really in that role that he saw the deep need for that type of support for owner operators, especially as GRESB and other disclosure frameworks, like CDP became more and more popular. How is data actually collected and aggregated and disclosed to investors for example, and how could technology support that process?


So if we just think about the EPS alone, what Measurabl does is essentially pull in utility meter level data, because almost every building has utility meters. And so we’re pulling in energy and water data, from the utility providers if that’s an option that’s set up by our users. Also waste collection where calculating carbon emissions based on the energy usage, and we’re also enriching that with other ESG data sets, right? So green building certifications for example LEED and BREEAM, we cover ordinances which is essentially regulatory risk, especially within the US there are a lot of municipalities and local governments who have recently implemented or are increasingly implementing energy and carbon benchmarking laws.


And we’re providing analytics on top of that for pure benchmarking, for target tracking as more real estate organizations set net zero targets. And then essentially integrating with GRESB and CDP for example, to push that data that has already been pre-populated in terms of what’s been collected on the quantitative KPIs, so that that reporting process can be made more streamlined. So, we’re also providing physical climate risk data, so there are a lot of different data sets that we’re pulling together and essentially trying to serve as a centralized platform, an ESG hub if you will, for the industry. And that makes the measurement and management hopefully simpler, and most importantly allows them managers to focus on the act. So if we think of the action piece is about implementing solutions that are going to help decarbonize the industry and both protect and future-proof from transitional and physical climate risk.



I guess we’ll go into the future-proof part towards the end of the podcast, but Serene your product is more focused around IoT and indoor air quality, and congratulations you had a partnership Siemens, which is incredible. But talk us through how that affects the climate as well, since it’s coming at it from a slightly different angle and more to do on the smart building side of climate tech.


How does Senseware help the environment?


Yes well we’re seeing that investors of real estate are requiring to see real changes and reduction in carbon emissions. And we believe that getting real time data versus data after the fact is really important to affect real change. So we play in getting data that is either missing or typically after the fact in the E side, with environmental around energy data and water data and things like that. We’re own the S side, the social side, health and wellness and that indoor air quality monitoring, and getting that type of data in real time. And we believe that when you get real time data, it’s more actionable and you can make real changes that are effective in real time, and that’s how we feel that we participate in enabling this carbon reduction and the whole, ESG improvements.



And since you both have been growing your products in this space, I’m sure you’ve seen further adoption. Are there any key trends you’ve seen in both your markets, be them slightly different? What major trends have you seen?


What major trends have you seen in the real estate global markets?


So, I think most recently we’ve seen this evolution to green, which was really focused on building certifications and sustainability awards for real estate companies, to ESG which is a more holistic approach, not only looking at ESG which of course is important from a climate standpoint, but increasingly especially in a post COVID environment, really emphasis on the S as well as G and looking at governance issues. Now I think with the Paris agreement, and it’s zero targets that are all kind of aligned as well as these different reporting frameworks like TCFD for example, that are trying to support net zero by 2050, what we’re really seeing is this push for decarbonizing the life cycle of real estate. And so I think it’s helpful to be a SaaS company and that we’re constantly enhancing the software features and functionalities that will support our customers. And so that’s really the evolution that we’ve been on with them. And so I think now it’s fascinating because a lot of sustainable finance for example, so green bonds and sustainability link loans go toward the development or refinancing of Green certified buildings.


And yet there’s also this huge opportunity for transforming the existing building stock, for example 80%-90% of all buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist today. And so that opportunity then to invest in retrofits and interventions that will reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions for existing buildings is there. And I think Serene really touched on the fact that this is moving. The trend that I see is moving from proxies for what is green, to this real demand from investors and other stakeholders, including regulators now for actual asset level data that’s granular, that is based on operational performance and increasingly real time, to see how is the building operating? What is its impact on the environment? And what steps are being taken to transform or to transition business models so that going forward, it’s, it’s aligning with these global trajectories towards net zero by 2050.



Sara you’ve worked across different markets, so the US has seen a change in President and maybe things have slightly focused when it comes down to like the climate. Are there any of massive differences you’ve seen in adoption sustainable tech across markets from even your sustainable finance days to now?


Are there changes across global markets to adoption of sustainable tech?


So overall really there’s a growing interest globally when it comes to this topic of ESG, whether it’s the fund flows we’re seeing in ESG focused funds or the investment flows coming into climate tech. The last figure I saw was something like over $14 billion already at the first half of this year in climate tech alone. And funds closing that were equal to what’s closed within the last five years. So a lot of momentum globally, but generally speaking I think what we see is that within Europe there’s a lot of awareness and prioritization of sustainability, clearly a much more developed regulatory framework with the EUs green new deal, a raft of sustainable finance regulations. But interestingly, tech adoption is a bit more advanced in North America. So what we see are some unique opportunities in that you have this huge awareness and regulatory as well as investor drivers within Europe. but maybe not a completely satiated tech environment yet. So there’s opportunity there. And then in the US likewise openness to tech adoption, but now with the new administration, increasingly rejoining the Paris agreement and it looks like more regulation will come into play. So I think all of those things work in favour in terms of this industry that we find ourselves in.



Agreed. Now Serene, what have you seen in terms of trends within air quality, you mentioned a vast increase in that space, but you can probably talk a lot more around the data analytics as well.

What trends have you seen in data analytics relating to sustainable buildings?


Like Sara said commercial estate is one of the largest asset classes in the world, but less than 1% of CRE space is digital or digitised. And at the same time, the whole CRE space is moving beyond just prioritizing locations to also including improving of experience and including analytics in the way they operate the space. And that requires data. So, we’re seeing the move towards real estate as a service is a big trend, which requires more digitization than what’s available out there. And that’s where we come in with Senseware being an IOT platform that can connect to anything and have extra fit capacity and get more and more data to help with this new way of operating and managing, commercial real estate spaces.


Digital includes some more useful data, and like you mentioned post COVID, we really change how we think about being indoors and the air that we breathe and the spaces where we spend 90% of our time, before COVID no one was really thinking about how and their spaces can affect our health. Now we’re thinking more about ventilation in this space, we look around if there is filtration, we try to read about what the space is doing around improving air quality, and on monitoring that which includes, do they know CO2 levels, humidity, occupancy levels and things like that. So that’s becoming more in demand. And also how people should be in the spaces so that everyone is, feeling safe and comfortable is a big push and a big question that everyone who’s asking. And we’re giving organizations and CRE leaders the data that they need to understand the health of their space more so today than before.



Would you say there’s another question around what education needs to be done with that? Obviously you can give that data, are they often reading into it, reading around that? What more do you think needs to be done in the educational space?


What education around sustainability and data needs to be done still?


So I think it’s very helpful to look at the element of systemic risk in this, when it comes to education. And yes, there’s always been a kind of a financial imperative in terms of okay greater energy efficiency absolutely reduces, expenses increases NOI, and so there’s an immediate or fairly short payback period for a lot of these types of energy efficiency investments. But I think we’re looking at climate risk as well as the pandemic, these are issues of systemic risks where it’s not building by building, but it’s basically, are the buildings prepared and resilient in terms of what risks that may be facing going forward? So I think education around that piece could definitely continue to evolve. And I think that’s what we’re seeing happen.


I think the challenge is the timeframes involved. And so trying to find the balance between shorter term investment horizon. and the longer-term climate impacts let’s say, has been a challenge in the past. But I think as regulations coming into play, and as we’re seeing the very real impacts of either COVID-19 or extreme weather events due to due to climate change, it’s becoming more obvious and more of a reality for the industry. So I think understanding that in order to protect asset value and be a good fiduciary, that these things have to be viewed in terms of risk and, investments made around that.



And Serene you hold a PhD, you’re a doctor, you’re very well educated, what do you think needs to be done on the educational piece?



We put valuable data into the hands of leaders and without access to that real time data, we’re inevitably losing money every day. And so we believe that people in today’s world, they understand the value of the data, but there is more of the need to educate them on what to do with that data. And what exactly then defining the data set that they get the access to. And that’s a big component of what we do at Senseware with all of our customers, we serve as a resource and a partner to help them bring that IoT vision through this data to life and help them through thinking through what to do with that data. It’s a greatest moment to us as a company when a customer comes and says, it wasn’t for Senseware we then never have known that there’s a power outage and that would have caused a lot of disruption for our work and whatnot. So it’s educating based on each business, what that type of data and how that could help is a big, big piece.



And in terms of helping, whether it’s now and in the future, are there any particular things that you’re predicting when it comes down to real estate and how it’s going to change in terms of adoption and technology, and how real estate is run?


Are there any predictions for the future of real estate and adoption of technology?


Yes, I think just because there was an understanding that, the built environment a lot of it is aging and whatnot and a lot of its technology is obsolete. So when you talk about real time data from these types of assets the misconception is that it’s just going to be really hard to get the data. And that’s where we try to tell the market that we have a solution technology that exists that is actually easy to get that type of thing. Especially from old aging infrastructure, it’s more important for us to know what’s happening in real time around the clock and on these critical aspects of the building. So that’s a big, big piece that we just try to educate the market on the fact that there is an easy way using IoT and getting all the different data that matters.


And the last thing I’ll add is just that we’re technology experts so that they don’t have to be, that’s one of the things that we’ve learned from dealing with this market and this industry is that they really look for companies like us, the technology providers, to be a partner more than just a vendor because it could be really overwhelming to incorporate more technology, additional data into the space. And that’s a big aspect of what we do, is helping our clients figure out their data strategy. And a lot of times it’s starting with one use case, energy monitoring, water monitoring, and then air quality. And then the next one expand from there. That’s been working really well.



Yes it’s building on your case study. Well like I said at the beginning, I’ve been following what you have been achieving and it’s pretty impressive. And I think it was Brad from Green Gen who originally introduced us and he’s an incredible ambassador of you as well. Most people in this space know who Green Generation are, so if they’re backing you that’s a pretty good case study as well. Now Sara, any future trends you’re anticipating?



I think they will be more convergence around ESG and climate. So what I mean by that is, and I think Serena is spot on around transforming the building sector, having data that can inform what projects need to happen right at the building level, in order to implement changes that will be effective in driving down carbon emissions, for example, or making it more attractive to occupants. And I think at Measurabl, we talk about meter to market. So I think increasingly, connecting that line from, let’s say the most granular meter level, data at a building all the way up to the market, which traditionally is thought of as maybe the market for buying and selling property, but increasingly as also the capital markets and finance. And so I think we’ll continue to see the growth of green and sustainability labelled debt and equity, and the need for more robust verification of these types of funds being allocated for projects, we’ll continue to grow the need for this. So I think that technology can continue to help support the development of that.



Agreed with that. And ladies unfortunately coming to the end of the show, but we do the LMRE part and it’s a chance for our audience to get to know you guys a little bit more personally, and may learn from a few things you guys have gone through as well, whether it’s founding at new business or moving into a completely different type of business and world. So three, one is, starts off. It goes one, your main lessons learned too. So L main lessons learnt?


What are the main lessons learnt working in the built environment?


I think over the last year the main lessons we’ve learned is that things are always changing and can change pretty rapidly. And it’s important to always just stay up-to-date and be flexible and change where the market takes you. That’s very true for the PropTech and space and what’s happening there. And not to be afraid of having the opinion on the future of it. That’s my L. As far as mention, just so many people that comes and companies that come to mind, but shout out to my co-founder Julian Stamatakis who’s been really evolving the technology to me with that rapidly changing industry, and helping us create a brand out there that people look for when they’re thinking about data from the real estate space.


On the customer side, Boston Properties came to mind, one of our first customers and have been really showing leadership in the space and the series space, and prioritizing now safety and comfort of tenants as part of that moving forward plan. So that was very admirable to see, and we’re happy to be part of that. Let’s see, R and rewarding, I love that PropTech touches the lives of many, and how our technology has had a direct impact on people and helping make their lives better. And at the end of the day, data is empowering. It helps you make more informed decisions, I love that about my work. Exciting, let’s see. COVID has brought even more innovation out of the PropTech space I believe, and I’m excited for us as a society to continue to move into a world where energy environment, sustainability and tech intersect. And I believe that bringing these sectors together will not only be better for the world, but will also be better for our bottom line.



You absolutely nailed that one, Serene thank you so much. Sara lot to compete with! Let’s start with what’s one of the main lessons you’ve learned.



I think just emerging from the trajectory of my career, I would say to follow one’s natural interest and curiosity, it really helps, in terms of work not feeling like work and aligning with your values and in terms of how that melds with my work at Measurabl. It’s just a great place to kind of meld enthusiasm and passion with data-driven decision-making, whether that’s around product development or agile processes, or this really fascinating time where we see such growing market demand around the ESG on climate tech. So following one’s interests and passions.


Any special mentions in PropTech?


Mention is so difficult because indeed I feel like there’s so many people who have contributed to where I am today. and it sounds strange to give a shout out to a country, but what comes to mind just to give a shout out to the Netherlands! But it’s had such an outside impact in terms of ESG and sustainability. And it’s kind of my adopted country as the catalyst for my pivot into sustainable finance, the birthplace of many sustainability initiatives. So that’s my shout out.



Are there any products within the Netherlands you are following?



Yes, one of the things that I’m really fascinated in, which is a little bit tangential to our conversation is circular economy, there’s some amazing, innovative interventions going on here around waste, and in particular some really fascinating things being done in the built environment, where materials are being catalogued and coded for reuse and recycling when the building’s life cycle is over. So I think there’s some really interesting, initiatives going on around in that space.



And now what about, what’s been the most rewarding part? Is it working across the different markets, seeing the growth?


What has been the most rewarding part of working within PropTech?


I think in terms of PropTech, what’s really rewarding is that there’s just such opportunity for transformation. Real estate, which has historically been considered kind of an antiquated industry and slow to change, has this amazing opportunity it’s really ripe for innovation. And so I think working in that space is exciting. And as far as the E goes, what am I excited about in the future of PropTech. I think that there’s still the chance for mainstream adoption. There’s still so much opportunity for market penetration, for PropTech in general. And then as we look at the potential to transform the existing building stock through all kinds of decarbonization initiatives and data informing that, that’s really exciting to me. And of course the intersection of tech and sustainable finance will continue to motivate me I think.



Unfortunately now I’ve at the end of the focus that I know our audience loved hearing stories about the businesses as well and the growth of the sector, but also the challenges that we’re up against in the future. But I feel like we’re on the right track and I want to thank you both for joining me on the podcast and hopefully meeting guys all in person, but thank you.

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