The Smell of a Smart Building

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

Smart buildings are identified by their use of technology to reduce costs, stay energy efficient, and improve operations. The latest innovations help them stay clean.

Image by David Rinehart

As technology has evolved over the years, so too have our expectations of what it can deliver. While previously we may have only expected that a new technology would help us address an existing problem, today it is more prudent to invest in solutions that prevent the issues from happening at all. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

In commercial real estate, there is technology now available that can help building staff maintain a constant state of cleanliness in their facility.

One example of this technology is a people-counting sensor that can be placed inside a restroom. The sensor can monitor traffic and indicate to staff when the room may be due for a clean without violating anyone’s privacy. Alternatively, the sensor can indicate when a restroom doesn’t need to be cleaned, allowing cleaning staff to more efficiently utilize their time.

There is also a sensor that can alert staff when a soap dispenser is running low, and a water management device that can count how many times the flush has been used by each toilet. In addition to indicating to building staff when the restroom is likely due for a clean, such a device can also be used to optimize the performance of an automated flush system, which are often either too sensitive, or not sensitive enough.

Another example is a “smell sensor” - an odor detection device that can monitor odor levels and alert staff if they start to peak, indicating that the room may require cleaning. The sensor can also monitor temperature & humidity levels, which can contribute to the strength of a smell.

Solutions like the smell sensor are practical - unnoticeable and cost-effective - enough that building owners are opting to install them throughout their building. For example, placing the sensor inside a refuse room to ensure an odor does not travel to a tenant area, or placing it inside a shared tenant space (e.g. a conference room) to make sure the room never retains a bad smell.

The sensor could also be placed inside a tenant office. Imagine if a tenant in your building has an event in their office that results in an unusual excess of trash. Without invading the tenant’s privacy, the sensor can alert the building staff that they may require their trash removed earlier in the day. As the industry as a whole moves towards offering a better tenant experience, staff that are immediately responsive to an issue - before it becomes an issue - are a valuable amenity.

The CCIM Institute reports that cleanliness is one of the top three tenant complaints.

That is the deeper appeal of devices like the smell sensor; it not only prevents a bad odor, it prevents a negative tenant experience. If a tenant reports a bad smell, even if the issue is addressed immediately, it may still incur some reputational damage. If the odor is detected and addressed before the tenant can notice it, this risk is mitigated.

Cleanliness, after all, is extremely important to tenants. The CCIM Institute reports that cleanliness is one of the top three tenant complaint topics, and that tenants are increasingly expecting landlords to “anticipate what they want” and “solve their problems as quickly as possible.”

Beyond offering a better tenant experience, the smell sensor can also help building owners monitor staff performance. The sensor can identify cleaning chemicals, such as ammonia, in the air, which typically spike after a restroom has been cleaned. This allows the owner to monitor how often the restrooms are being cleaned and to confirm their staff are fulfilling their responsibilities.

From enabling building staff to optimize their cleaning schedule, to improving the tenant experience, the value of smart restroom technology is clear. So how does a smart building smell? Clean.

Elliot integrates with a large range of smart building technologies, including the sensors detailed above. Reach out today to sales@elliotmanagement if you’d like to learn more.

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