A dawning has occurred in the world of retail facilities management, a world characterized by the complex schedules and systems used to maintain heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting. It's also a world fraught with costly, cumbersome and generally underutilized legacy "solutions" that don't interact or provide timely information and also fail to support the proactive, forward-thinking style of facilities management it takes to lower energy cost, expand operating margins and present a "sustainable" brand in today's increasingly "green-minded" marketplace.
According to a recent survey of retail facilities management professionals (conducted by Navigant Research and sponsored by ENTOUCH), more than 60% of retail companies are considering purchasing "smart" building technology. Another 25% claim they have already deployed the technology.
This shows the move away from aging, redundant automation and control infrastructures, monitored by time-consuming and lagging homegrown spreadsheets and databases has begun. Smart building technology is here to stay.
Defining smart building technology
To level set, smart building solutions leverage integrated technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) devices and easy-to-use, cloud-based software. They are offered as a service and supported by a command center that monitors everything, 24/7, through a 360° view of the facility and equipment ecosystem. Real-time data, gathered from traditional building automation systems and lighter IoT platforms, are analyzed alongside weather, utility and occupancy data, to create actionable insights affecting energy, comfort, repair, maintenance and productivity decisions.
Top Concern: Energy savings
"When you look at the complexity of managing energy usage across a distributed portfolio of assets alone, the need for a more intelligent solution becomes apparent," said Casey Talon, principal research analyst, Navigant.
Indeed, the survey showed that energy management was a foremost driver for investigating a smart building solution. Where HVAC, lighting, refrigeration and utility bill management all scored less than 20% as a consideration for outsourcing, energy management scored nearly 60%. The reason: It takes a cohesive view of the operating landscape to effectively manage energy across an entire asset portfolio, something most facilities staff struggle with given the age and disparity of most legacy control systems.
If energy savings were not compelling enough, the survey uncovered six other facility management issues causing respondents to consider an outsourced smart building solution. Each scored a flat three, with a score of 5 being "extremely influential." (Less than one percent of respondents scored any of the options as "not at all influential.")
The issues included:
• Not enough maintenance staff
• Not enough visibility into operation info
• Too many systems in place
• Corporate reporting and sustainability goals
• Need to manage sub-billing
• Need to manage work orders
Returns on investment
“We are now seeing multi-location retail businesses adopt a smart building approach, to free internal resources and achieve significant returns through energy savings and reduced total cost of ownership. It is not unusual for a company to quickly realize two-to-four dollars in return for every dollar invested. When you can demonstrate a 20% reduction in energy usage over the first year of deployment, people tend to notice," Talon said.
With so much at stake in today's brick-and-mortar retail environment, it's no wonder companies are starting to whole-heartedly embrace smart building solutions.
Greg Fasullo is CEO of ENTOUCH, which provides smart building solutions and managed services to multi-site companies across North America. Its integrated, cloud-based software and technology, combined with 24/7, consultative services, render a 360° view of the facility ecosystem.