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An ESD-incubated intelligent building platform is making two buildings in Chicago smarter

Building Technology

An ESD-incubated intelligent building platform is making two buildings in Chicago smarter

The new company, Cohesion, helps synchronize tenants’ workflows.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | May 30, 2019

155 Wacker Drive in Chicago is one of two office high rises, owned by The John Buck Company, that have installed a software product devised by Cohesion that gives tenants more control over their businesses' workflow activities. Image: Cohesion

What started out as a consulting assignment ended with the installation of a new intelligent building platform, incubated by a leading engineering design firm, into two high-rise office buildings in Chicago.

The IoT-enabled platform, which unites a building’s various workflows, is from Cohesion, a company launched in August 2018 after being spun out from Environmental Systems Design (ESD), which has been at the forefront of designing intelligent buildings. The two buildings in which Cohesion’s app is now live are owned by The John Buck Company, a Chicago-based real estate services developer.

John Buck had initially hired ESD to upgrade the technology in different buildings within the developer’s portfolio. After John Buck asked about possible vendors, ESD decided that it would develop the app itself, according to Laura Hagan, Cohesion’s director of marketing.

She explains that the two buildings—the 35-story, 807,000-sf 151 North Franklin, which opened in 2018; and the 48-story 1.12-milliion-sf 155 Wacker Drive, which opened in 2009—are rigged with I-nodes, little black boxes that, she says, act like routers that connect different systems.  The I-nodes transmit data to Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, which in turn supports the app.

One of Cohesion’s software partners is Iotium, whose product integrates with and connects systems already in the building.

Building occupants can use Cohesion's app to gain more direct access to a building's amenities. Image: Cohesion

Cohesion’s software provides building occupants with comprehensive and direct access to their building’s amenities, information, and documents. It also provides a single interface for occupants to take actions, such as reserving parking spots and bike storage, or viewing the availability of equipment in the building’s fitness center.

Select tenant companies have chosen to launch mobile credentials and/or building visitor management functionalities. So, for example, if a tenant invites a guest to a meeting in the wired building, Cohesion would streamline the process by setting up the appointment, alerting security and relevant parties about the guest, and would send an email to the company upon the visitor’s arrival.

All 13 tenant companies at 151 North Franklin and the 40 tenant companies at 155 Wacker are using the app. When a new tenant comes into the buildings, they are onboarded onto the app.

“The real estate industry is experiencing significant technological disruption, and our solution benefits all stakeholders across the operational lifecycle—from owners to tenants,” says Thru Shivakumar, Cohesion’s CEO. “By connecting all the systems and human interactions in a building, we can provide the most powerful insights to deliver efficient and sustainable building operations,”

Cohesion charges the building’s management a setup fee and a monthly service fee. “It’s up to them whether they want to pass along those costs to the tenants,” says Hagan.

The new company is currently in fundraising mode, and is expected to close its latest financing round in June, at which point it plans to hire 35 employees over the following 12 months. (Cohesion currently operates with a 24-person team located in Chicago and Banaglore, India.) Hagan says that, including John Buck, Cohesion has commitments from three developers across eight buildings.

It also has an innovation pipeline to develop new uses for its app, possibly including building performance analytics.

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