Chicago Smart Building Initiative (Monica Carranza – Illinois Department of Innovation)

Monica Carranza, from the Illinois Department of Innovation, discussed building branding at the DisruptCRE event in Chicago in early May. She discussed the Chicago Smart Building initiative, how it began.

She began by discussing some of the negative impressions elements of a building can create in terms of a personal brand.

“I currently work in the Thompson Center, so my brand is inefficient, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s poorly used, and it doesn’t at all really work with the customers coming in,” she said. “It’s impossible to get into and out of, and it always smells like hamburgers or Taco Bell. So that would be the state of Illinois in a nutshell.”

Many other issues were created by the fact that many of the state’s buildings were built in the 1920s, and have problems such as mold and decay.

Carranza pointed out that efforts to centralize IT across the state of Illinois are relatively recent, happening only in the past two and a half years. The scope of the work.

“I have about 20 agencies┬áthat I helped deliver IT solutions to,” she said. “One of them builds all the state buildings, state capital development board, and one of them manages all the buildings’ central management services, so we have a real estate portfolio at the state of, we think, 7,000 buildings.”

She discussed how the deferred maintenance building was over 10 billion dollar. She could not believe new construction was happening on top of that. However, in 2016, the goal was stated for Illinois to become the first smart city. That brought Carranza and her team to their current work.

“I’m currently working on drafting and introducing legislation at the state of Illinois to allow for public/private partnerships,” she said.

She discussed some of the unique challenges that surround the type of building required. For example, she brought up a mental health facility that was in the works.

“The biggest challenge we obviously have obviously is our prisons,” she said. “We are building a prison right now in Joliet….it’s not just a prison, it’ll be a mental health facility in a fully functioning hospital, and we don’t want it to look like a prison. This is where we’re putting those people in our state who have the most severe mental health handicaps, so it needs to be a hospital, it needs to be safe for them, it needs to be safe for the officers, but we want it to be the bleeding edge of smart technology.”

She wrapped up by discussing how her team’s goals for the future included bringing smart technology to a wide range of facilities.

“We can’t keep building prisons, veterans homes, hospitals, universities, that are…traditional brick and mortar. So we’re very much at the beginning of this journey,” she said. “I’m dragging people kicking and screaming as I need to, but I’m really here today to let you know that we’re here. We’re very serious about this initiative, and I’m…driven, and looking for interested partners, in educating out teams and our architects and engineers and all the new technologies out there. So we’d love to work with any and all of you.”