For generations in American big cities, folks lived a lot of their typical workday out of the home. Average days might find an office worker logging eight hours at work, maybe 90 minutes in commute and another hour or two in restaurants, watering holes or retail stores.
But as we know all too well, the pandemic forced folks nationwide to hunker down at home. Despite the lifting of shelter-in-place orders around the country, many people — especially middle-age and older — are likely to see their own domiciles as the most comforting places to ride out the storm, until an effective vaccine or COVID-19 treatment is identified.
This paradigm shift has created all kinds of headaches for property managers. Those in retail and office structures have seen utilization nosedive. Managers in multifamily have watched use grow dramatically.
Both scenarios pose hurdles for these managers.
For those working in multifamily property management, including apartment managers and staff, orders to quarantine have meant full buildings all day, every day. These unusual circumstances have presented challenges that range from record high electricity and water usage levels to the daily performance of customary maintenance chores, along with the pandemic-era mandate to go beyond maintenance and keep public areas sanitized.
Cleaning and sanitation of different building areas, from door handles to elevator buttons, must be tracked to allow different team members real-time awareness of what has been cleaned, and what is yet to gain attention.
This is one new, pandemic-specific line item straining the abilities of managers. Another is concern too much electricity usage during hot summer days could, if allowed to extend too long, result in building power outages.
These COVID-19-sparked challenges and others have led property managers and staff to recognize the old ways of keeping their residential buildings humming simply won’t work during the health emergency and afterward. That’s because other buildings’ managers are adopting measures designed to more efficiently perform their operational tasks, and at a time when extra efficiency has never been more critical. These managers are turning to property technology to help generate solutions they urgently need, particularly if orders to socially distance and shelter in place prevent them from working on site.
“A lot of residential property managers are working from home, and the ability to check in on their buildings and ensure they are operating smoothly is paramount,” says Jeff Hendler, CEO of New York City-based Logical Buildings. The company is a smart building software and solutions provider helping residential and commercial building management reduce energy and operation costs and improve resident and tenant satisfaction.
Its core offering, SmartKit AI, is a cloud platform letting managers remotely monitor their buildings’ energy and water utilization and keep tabs on possible equipment malfunctions and anomalies that might result in exceptionally high costs. It also lets them lower energy use in response to distress signals utilities send out when high energy usage strains capacity.
The product’s ability to monitor energy and water use and other building operations is intended to help building staff continue managing their buildings, even when there’s no more than a skeleton staff onsite.
Energy use is down as a result of the virus. But energy spikes in residential areas can play havoc with the grid. So says David Klatt, Logical Buildings senior vice president, operations and analytics. “In a market like New York City, Manhattan is unlikely to have any issues,” he explains. “But depending on the weather, grids in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx run a serious risk of being stressed.”
In challenging situations such as this, he says, the SmartKit AI technology can help building managers monitor their energy usage and work hand in hand with utilities to help ensure viability of the electric grid.