Smart Building Maintenance (or How the Internet Dictates Cleaning)

By Sue Minichiello

Smart_RestroomTechnology is rapidly changing how buildings are managed. So-called smart buildings are on the rise. Such facilities integrate equipment with sensors that can generate notifications and, ultimately, data and analytics on everything from energy management to space management to maintenance routines.

According to a 2017 Navigant research study, smart building technology investments are gaining momentum: “Revenues generated from the sale of commercial IoT [Internet of Things] devices, a core technology used in smart buildings, are projected to rise at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.2% over the next 10 years.”

In terms of cleaning and maintenance, commercial IoT devices – that is, Internet-connected sensors, meters, and equipment – can perform numerous helpful functions ranging from automating restroom supply orders to detecting problems with critical building systems like HVAC and elevators. AffinEco is particularly interested in the practical applications of this connectivity on its cleaners’ daily routines, especially when it comes to restroom cleaning.

“Restrooms are the most-used area of any building. Whether you’re a CEO or a visitor, you’re going to use the restrooms at some point, and that experience will influence your impression of the building and the businesses within it. The better maintained the restrooms are, the better your impression,” said AffinEco Managing Partner Michael Diamond. “So, when a company or property manager hires us as its building services contractor, impression management becomes a big part of our mission.”

Poorly maintained restrooms – both in terms of cleanliness and the supply of essentials like toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels – also tend to generate more complaints than any other building condition and can even result in tenants severing leases or property managers ending maintenance contracts.

According to CMM (Cleaning & Maintenance Management), building service contractors can utilize smart building technology to enhance restroom cleaning and maintenance effectiveness and generate advantages like:

  • Addressing issues before they arise
  • Improving staff deployment
  • Streamlining supply ordering
  • Elevating building impressions
  • Revealing traffic patterns
  • Letting technology do the heavy lifting

Until recently, supply checks have been done manually by cleaning staff – floor by floor in an office, school, or hospital and stall by stall. Now, connected solutions that use Internet-enabled sensors in restroom dispensers can wirelessly transmit information to a maintenance application or dashboard. In turn, automated supply checks can alert staff to when and where refills are needed.

Sophisticated connected solutions include data-gathering and analytics that reveal patterns in a building’s restrooms. For example, are the restrooms on a particular floor used far more often than others? Within a restroom, does a certain stall – as indicated by more frequent toilet paper refill signals – appear to be used more often than the other(s)? The ability to track and analyze such data can serve to further refine cleaning and maintenance practices and, when tied to an inventory system, can actually trigger supply ordering.

Such automation reduces labor and boosts productivity at the same time that it improves restroom appearance and reduces complaints. And this is just the tip of the smart building technology iceberg. As time goes on, you can expect to see more and completely new fact-based decision-making devices and tools designed to optimize building services and facility management.

“As new Internet-connected devices come to the market, we are constantly evaluating how they can support and empower our workforce. The human element is key, but the use of such technology will help us be even more laser focused on building usage and needs,” Diamond said. “We’ve already seen great results from our cloud-based building inspection system. It saves countless hours of work, eliminates paper waste, enables real-time data uploads, and automates reports that ensure we’re consistently meeting our client’s needs.”

(image courtesy of