A big gap in smart buildings: the needs of small-to-medium buildings

Jan. 20, 2021

A centralized, cloud-based system can drive smarter building operations.

Smart building technologies have come a long way, but there has been one group left out of this progress: small and medium-sized buildings. Traditional smart-building technologies have focused on the needs of large skyscrapers or sprawling corporate campuses, not the small- to medium-sized buildings that consumers use daily, such as banks, grocery stores, restaurants or medical clinics.

More than 90% of the US commercial building stock consists of properties under 50,000 square feet, yet businesses that occupy small- to medium-sized building have struggled to effectively optimize occupant comfort, operational performance and asset management.

Today, there is a need for a more centralized building-management system (BMS) that is adaptable to the unique needs of small- to medium-sized buildings. Simple heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems built for residential spaces can’t match the needs of a business location, while traditional BMS solutions built for large-scale, complex buildings are not scalable for smaller buildings. A small building footprint doesn’t mean a small business is using the site—many large, regional or national brands have scores of sites that occupy less than 50,000 square feet of space; not only can they not properly manage energy consumption at a specific site, but it’s nearly impossible to understand operational performance across a portfolio of buildings.

Existing challenges are abundant  

Business owners that operate one or a portfolio of small- to medium-sized locations are facing greater challenges than ever. Above all, they want to create a comfortable, safer and healthier environment for their employees and guests while also managing critical assets. Unsurprisingly, the uncertainty of the past year has only increased the challenges facing businesses that operate small and medium-sized locations.

Cost is a huge consideration for these businesses that, until recently, lacked the right resources to easily and centrally manage more than one building site at a time. When you operate a smaller location or a multisite business, you need a system that works for all of your buildings, no matter how old they are or where they are located.

These days, energy savings is top-of-mind for many organizations. When a business’ portfolio spans multiple buildings, each with its own unique set of requirements, tracking and managing energy output can be tedious and confusing. Additionally, most of these small- to-medium sized buildings lack a proper BMS to manage energy usage.

A cloud-based solution

So what’s the solution? A centralized, cloud-based system can drive smarter building operations to meet compliance requirements, energy savings and market demands.

In fact, cloud-enabled, easy-to-deploy building-management systems can allow multi-site businesses to improve occupant comfort, operational productivity and portfolio management. Additionally, the system can identify opportunities to improve the occupant experience through a comfort-index ranking that detects areas that need immediate attention and manage temperature controls, remotely, through a mobile app.

This allows building managers to minimize unintentional downtime with a smart alarm-management feature that provides insight into vital business assets like coolers or freezers by using sensing capabilities to allow for prioritization of alarms.  

The system can identify specific locations that consume a significant amount of energy or are not meeting a previously specified set of points and display those trends on a dashboard that is accessible via computer or mobile device, making it easy for businesses to implement solutions.

Ultimately, with new technology designed to meet the needs of small- to medium-building portfolios, companies can improve their business operations, better meet corporate sustainability goals and provide a better employee and customer experience.

Peter Fehl is Honeywell Building Technologies’ president of building management systems