Small to medium-sized commercial buildings have been the slowest to adopt building automation technology, but IoT-powered smart devices and systems have the potential to change that. Since the majority of multifamily buildings fall into the small-to-medium-sized category, the multifamily industry as a whole could be subject to massive change in the next decade.
The benefits of IoT for facilities management are well-documented, ranging from energy savings to air quality monitoring. Multifamily facilities stand to benefit in a number of unique ways as well. In an increasingly competitive rental market, smart apartments and condos are becoming more popular for residents and facilities managers alike.
(The multifamily industry as a whole could be subject to massive change in the next decade.)
Let’s look at five ways IoT is changing the game for multifamily facilities management.
1. Proactive Maintenance
Multifamily buildings generate mountains of data, whether it is being captured or not. Thanks to IoT smart sensors and connected building systems, this data can now be harnessed to predict maintenance needs and provide early detection of issues.
For example, imagine a faucet springs a small leak in one of your units. It might go unnoticed by the resident for weeks, causing water usage to spike, or worse, creating water damage. With water sensors installed on the building’s plumbing system, the leak would be caught in a matter of hours, not weeks, and the problem could be fixed before it became a bigger issue.
Some smart appliances go even further to enhance FM team’s maintenance efforts. LG’s new line of ThinQ products have built-in connectivity and AI, and automatically call for service when they detect an issue. ThinQ appliances range from refrigerators to washers and dryers to ovens, allowing properties to stock their units with an entire fleet of smart products that save them time and money.
2. Temporary E-Keys for Staff
When filling in-unit maintenance requests, staff members spend too much time traveling back and forth from the leasing office to pick up keys. In large or multi-building complexes, it could take up to 15 minutes for a round trip, wasting hours of your staff’s time each week.
IoT-powered smart locks offer a secure, keyless solution to this problem. When a resident submits a maintenance request, the smart property platform will automatically generate a temporary e-key and assign the task to a staff member. The employee activates the e-key on their mobile device, allowing them to access the unit without stopping by the leasing office. After the request has been fulfilled, the e-key is disabled.
[Related: New Hands-Free Access Control for Smartphone]
E-keys also alert residents when their apartment was accessed and by whom. Residents will love the extra level of transparency and peace of mind.
3. Utilizing Building Data
IoT sensors and devices provide unprecedented insight into a building’s performance. Apart from maintenance needs, FMs can utilize building data in numerous ways:
- Know the occupancy levels of public areas. Occupancy sensors let FMs track foot traffic throughout the building. This is valuable for understanding how residents use public spaces in the complex. For example, FMs can prioritize which amenities should receive upgrades. Occupancy data tells a manager which spaces are most popular and would, therefore, benefit the most people if renovated.
- Automated rules for energy usage. Smart sensors can trigger automated rules that maintain the comfort of residents while optimizing energy usage. When the gym is busy on a hot day, occupancy and temperature data will trigger the AC. When the gym is empty, smart systems will dim the lights and turn down the AC to save energy.
- Remote Systems Control. Along with automated rules, facilities managers also have remote control over climate and lighting systems throughout the complex. In vacant units, for examples, FMs can set the AC and lighting right before a showing and then ensure everything is shut down after use.
- Historical Data Retrieval. With IoT-powered systems and cloud storage, facilities managers can retrieve historical data about their building to make smarter decisions. If occupancy data from last September showed a steep drop off in pool usage, the FM might decide to shut down the pool earlier this year to save costs.
Another example of using historical data: If data from last September showed high AC usage despite the falling temperatures, the FM could remind residents to turn down off their thermometers or even incentivize energy savings with a contest or giveaway. The opportunities are endless once building data is collected and stored on the smart platform
4. Future-Proofing Properties
Future-proofing is a concern for FMs from an extreme weather standpoint, but also in terms of technology obsolescence. No one wants to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in building automation, only to have it become outdated in a few years. Fear of lost ROI is a primary reason why small and medium-sized buildings have not adopted BAS technology. IoT-powered systems and devices will help mitigate this fear in multiple ways.
First, the cost of IoT devices and sensors are dropping quickly, making the initial investment smaller and shortening time to ROI. IoT-powered building automation can cost up to 5x less than traditional building automation systems, making BAS feasible for smaller buildings.
Second, with the proper networking infrastructure in place, IoT devices can be upgraded easily as new models are released or new capabilities are needed. For example, a new building might not need to monitor plumbing infrastructure on day one, but after ten years, it will become a top priority. The FM can install inexpensive water sensors quickly and easily, without complicated networking or integrations.
5. Automated Security
Security should be a top priority for every facilities manager. IoT technology makes building security easier and more effective by adding intelligence and automation to a manager’s toolbox.
Smart security systems have come a long way in recent years, evolving from simple, digital cameras to cloud surveillance platforms that incorporate sensors, cameras, data storage, and analytics. Smart security systems constantly monitor the premises, detecting and automatically alerting staff of anomalies. Sophisticated access control systems can be controlled remotely in the case of emergency.
FMs no longer have to worry about setting up complex IT infrastructure to run their security system. IoT-powered security systems are completely cloud-based, which means no physical hardware is necessary. Security cameras and sensors take just minutes to install and connect to the smart building network.
Changing Multifamily Facilities Management for the Better
Multifamily buildings present a unique set of challenges for facilities manager. The stakes are unusually high– you are dealing with people’s homes and families. The demands are different, as well– there are no “after hours” in a multifamily building, so system downtime is not an option. Aligning the schedules of residents and staff for things like maintenance requests can be difficult and inefficient without the right tools in place. Multifamily FMs risk wasting time and money just trying to complete routine tasks throughout the day.
These are just a few of the reasons why IoT is primed to drastically change facilities management in the multifamily industry. Using automation, data, and remote control capabilities, facilities managers have the power to improve the lives of their residents and staff. Inexpensive and interoperable IoT devices allow buildings to maintain their advantage for years to come. Buildings become safer, more efficient, and more comfortable while reducing the workloads of the staff.
Thanks to IoT, every multifamily building can capture the benefits of building automation, but this is just the beginning of the disruption. In the near future, we are bound to see even more transformational use cases that change the game again. Will you be ready?
Blake Miller is a serial entrepreneur with expertise in growth marketing and the Internet of Things. He is the Founder and CEO of Homebase.ai a connected building solution for multi-family housing and the Host of The Future of Living Podcast.
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