By Samar Kawar
From the December 2022 Issue
Facility managers are tasked with keeping buildings running cost-effectively while delighting customers. Today, with economic volatilities putting the spotlight on cost cutting and remote work, making it harder to attract tenants, the pressures to excel at both have never been greater. This is why it’s vital to leverage technologies that make it easier to drive efficiencies, lower costs, speed responsiveness, and improve marketability. The Internet of Things (IoT) makes this possible.
While the concept of IoT—or connected, internet-accessible devices—is not new in facilities management (FM), wide-scale adoption is lagging. Few are truly taking advantage of the data, insights, and automation that IoT has to offer.
A reason for the lack of adoption is because technologies and use cases are rapidly advancing and can be hard to get a handle on. Some organizations may also view IoT as an expensive “nice-to-have.” The truth is that not investing in IoT can result in tremendous waste, costs, loss of goodwill, and competitive disadvantage. To achieve FM goals, IoT is a “must-have.”
Start With The Strategy
There is so much IoT can help with that it can be a challenge to know where to start. To ensure you’re focusing on what’s best for the company, it’s important to get input on priorities and gain buy-in from key stakeholders including IT, real estate, finance, and marketing teams.
For instance, if attracting and retaining tenants is a priority, then occupant comfort, facility experience, and sustainability should be IoT focus areas. Or perhaps improving FM staff productivity is most important due to talent shortages. Maybe equipment maintenance and energy consumption should be higher on the list to achieve cost-cutting needs. Here’s a breakdown of some common IoT use cases:
Occupant Experience: Comfort And Safety
Making buildings safe and inviting for occupants is different today than it was before COVID-19 and remote/hybrid work became the norm. Now, 87% of employees don’t want to return to the workplace full-time, and 45% don’t want to return to the office at all. 1
It may not be surprising, then, to learn that a CBRE survey found that about 52% of companies expect to shrink their office space over the next three years. If employees, students, or visitors can find a reason to stay away from a facility, chances are they’ll take it.
Facility management must make sure their facilities make people feel comfortable and safe, instead of adding to their discomfort. Facility services missteps can have costly results: lower occupancy, lost tenants, and lost revenue. Sensors and QR codes can help minimize these risks by ensuring facilities are clean, air quality is good, and occupants feel empowered. Here are a few examples of how:
- Automatically alerting janitorial staff to empty garbage bins, refill hand soap, and reorder supplies when they reach a specific threshold. Triggering heating and cooling systems based on occupancy so spaces don’t get too warm or too cold. Ensuring proper lighting in rooms, hallways, and parking lots based on occupancy. Using sensors to detect air quality levels and HVAC health, and take corrective actions.
- Enabling occupants to use their cellphones to submit tickets for service requests like spills, blown light bulbs, and non-working toilets, which are then quickly addressed by janitorial staff.
- Requiring QR codes on phones to ensure only authorized people can access specific elevators, stairwells, and rooms.
Energy Savings And Sustainability
Commercial buildings account for 35% of all electricity consumed in the U.S. and HVAC consumes about 35% of a building’s energy costs. Even more staggering, about 30% of energy that buildings use is wasted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
IoT can help eliminate waste and costs. Rather than keeping lights, heating, or cooling running all day, smart thermostats can adjust room temperatures and lighting based on real-time occupancy and trends. Internet-connected window shades can open or close based on outdoor light levels, triggering the use of natural light instead of indoor fixtures. Building occupancy sensors, combined with sensors on HVAC equipment that monitor usage trends and factor in weather predictions, can better regulate indoor climate control to minimize power consumption.