Survey reveals retailers ready for smart building solutions
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.
Notes from the California housing crisis
The California Building Industry Association sent out a memo from president and CEO Dave Cogdill on Monday regarding what it deemed a "housing crisis" in California.
"California is facing a housing crisis that has reached alarming proportions: demand is far outstripping supply, driving prices up and keeping far too many working Californians from becoming first-time homeowners," read the report's summary.
Cogdill cited reports from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office and Beacon Economics that point to the lack of supply as the primary culprit of California's expensive housing prices. Consequently, both of these reports also recommend adding up to an additional 100,000 private housing units annually as a meaningful solution.
Here are some other highlights from the memo.
The average cost of a California home is $440,000 — two-and-a-half times the average national home price, according to a March 2015 report from the LAO. California's average rent is also outpacing the national average at $1,240 per month — 50% higher than the rest of the country.
California's homeownership rate was 54.1% compared to a national average of 63.8% for the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Potential consequences of this trend continuing unabated include: the inability for employers to recruit and retain employees, the migration out of California of middle- and lower-income earners, an inability for lower-income earners to attain homeownership to build wealth, and a general increase in the poverty index.
According to the LAO and Next 10, there are a number of reasons why housing supply is so low, which include regulations, community opposition and lawsuits, and local finance and land use policies that favor nonresidential development and work against increasing densities.
Ideas for public policies to address the affordability gap include: policies that allow dense development in coastal cities, or expand new market rate housing to alleviate competition.
- The memo also pointed to policies that can make matters worse, such as Mandated Residential Prevailing Wage on Privately Funded Residential Projects, which would result in fewer construction jobs, higher housing costs, and lost GDP and revenues.
Electrolux to acquire Best from Broan-NuTone
In a move that aims to strengthen its position in Europe (and in the kitchen hood market), Electrolux Group has agreed to acquire the Best Kitchen Ventilation EMEA Business from Broan-NuTone.
The acquisition will help Electrolux to flesh out its offering of built-in cooking solutions and will support its growth in the region.
"The acquisition of Best is a perfect strategic match to reinforce Electrolux capabilities for design, R&D and manufacturing of kitchen hoods, which is a key aspect in offering consumers a simply outstanding cooking experience," said Dan Arler, Head of Electrolux business area Major Appliances Europe, Middle East and Africa.
According to the terms of the deal, Electrolux will acquire the Best manufacturing facilities located in Cerreto d' Esi Italy and Zabrze, Poland as well as the rights to design and market the Best brand of kitchen ventilation products in EMEA.
However, Broan-NuTone will continue to design, manufacture and market Best products in North America.
"While we are sad to part ways with our Best EMEA employees and business, we know Electrolux will continue the great tradition and investment of the Best brand in their markets. The Best brand will continue to be an important part of our portfolio and we look forward to continuing to serve our customers and consumers in North America," says Frank Carroll, CEO Broan-NuTone.
The sale is expected to close during the third quarter of this year, pending all regulatory approvals.