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“Commercial buildings, including office, retail, hotel, and hospital buildings, can all benefit from installing smart technologies. However each of these sectors has its own unique business goals to achieve, stakeholders to satisfy, and barriers to overcome, so the opportunities are different for each sector. The most favorable technologies will also change over time, as smart technologies continue to grow into interconnected systems that learn and adapt to human behavior,” states a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The report entitled, ‘Smart Buildings: A Deeper Dive into Market Segments’ explores the similarities and differences in energy saving potential between the major building use types. It assesses current adoption levels and makes specific recommendations on how each building type can best gain from smart technology for energy and other benefits.


Offices make up the largest energy consuming group within the commercial buildings sector, but as the report points out, there is a broad range of office types and therefore widely varying levels of smart technology adoption. However, the paper also included a variety of cheaper smart technology recommendations that could help offices of all sizes reduce energy and gain other benefits.

“Large Class A offices in the downtown areas of major cities may have more flexibility to install smart technologies like energy management and information systems and HVAC system controls. Class B and C office buildings may not have the capital to invest in these types of systems but could still benefit from less costly technologies like advanced power strips at employee workstations,” explained Christopher Perry, Senior Analyst on the ACEEE’s Buildings Program and the report’s author.

While the energy saving paybacks of smart technology have long been known to the office management sector, the emergence of employee productivity benefits is now driving a new wave of adoption. Sensor rich offices are discovering the seemingly unlimited value of data in the workplace.

By using data to redesign offices in a more human-centric way, businesses are able to enhance employee health, comfort, focus and collaborative abilities to bring about greater productivity, and even support recruitment according to our own comprehensive report on the topic – The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era.


Despite widely held expectations that online retail was set to die out in the face of online competition, this has not happened. In fact, during 2017 we saw major online retailers like Amazon opening their first brick-and-mortar stores. Online and traditional retail have merged to form Omni-Channel retail combining the best of both and ensuring the continued presence of physical stores. However, if retail outlets are to be part of the 21st century they must do so in an environmentally friendly way and ideally at low cost.

“Embracing smart technologies can help propel retail stores into the future. For example, most stores use packaged rooftop HVAC units. When these units are equipped with the proper actuators and controls, they can be directed through smart thermostats or energy management and information systems. Since retail stores often operate within small margins, a cloud-based energy management and information system may be more affordable than a wired system. In addition, lighting is a major energy user in buildings, and smart lighting controls can help reduce this cost,” the ACEEE report recommends.

Smart technology goes beyond energy efficiency benefits to add significant value to the world of retail. By implementing radio frequency identification (RFID) to retail supply chains, companies are improving inventory accuracy to 99%, from just 60% offered by a barcode system. RFID within an IoT platform can also track the location of products and customers around a store, aiding restock and reducing losses from theft. Finally, all this data is being crunched to create actionable insights that will make retail more profitable.

Hotels and Hospitals

Hotels and Hospitals are two more significant groups that can benefit from smart technology. Each can create vast savings through energy efficiency, with the key element for each of these dynamic environments being occupancy sensors ensuring lighting and environmental controls are only active when necessary. However, a decent 75% of healthcare buildings in the US use building automation systems, while less than 40% of hotels use these technologies.

“Sub-sectors like offices, retail stores, hotels, and hospitals are all prime candidates for smart technologies. However it is imperative that efficiency program administrators working on smart building programs address the limitations of and motivations for investing in new technologies. For those involved in the industry, a critical next step is figuring out a way to move beyond case studies and demonstration projects, to take advantage of the massive quantities of data collected by smart technologies,” states the ACEEE report.

The research demonstrates that with standard smart technology adoption, offices see an average 18% savings, retail and hospitals experience 14% savings, while hotels gain from 8% savings. This represents huge value for the individual buildings, over the course of months and years, then when combining the potential savings from all these buildings we see the true value of smart technology for society. A value we hope to see expanding in the not-so-distant future.

“The sooner the average commercial building becomes smart, the sooner smart buildings can develop into smart cities connected to a smart grid, adding value to our lives and revolutionizing US energy efficiency in the process,” Perry concludes.

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