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Smart Multi-Dwelling Units: What Facility Managers Need to Know

13.08.2021, 12:26

Smart Multi-Dwelling Units: What Facility Managers Need to Know

Mitch Klein, executive director of The Z-Wave Alliance – an industry initiative to promote Z-Wave as the global standard for interoperability, considers the impact of smart building technology on MDU management.

Technology for the smart home is a highly-requested feature for smart MDU spaces (which are otherwise referred to as multifamily units).


At the beginning of 2020, the National Apartment Association predicted that the United States would need an average increase of 328,000 new multifamily units, annually, to keep up with the growing rental demand.


Technology for the smart home is a growing trend in the multi-dwelling unit (MDU) community to support more robust building management and operations for facility management teams, as well as attract potential renters. By adding smart hubs and devices like smart locks, lighting, thermostats, and more, to apartments and condos, facility managers can easily monitor energy expenditures, grant access for showings, contain costs, and more.


The central component of any smart home system is the wireless technology, or protocol, supporting its communication. Z-Wave is one of the most popular smart home protocols on the market, and is a mesh network, which means as more devices are added to a system, the system connectivity becomes stronger. Other wireless technologies, like Wi-Fi, often experience slower performance as additional devices are added to a network – this is problematic, especially for larger, complex systems like those found in MDUs.


Z-Wave can be found in millions of deployed smart devices that are all backwards and forwards compatible and interoperable, meaning that no matter when or by whom a Z-Wave device was manufactured, it will still work with future Z-Wave devices. These features provide facility managers with a greater range of product choice and the assurance that they can easily scale a system up with new smart devices in the future, without additional time and maintenance costs required for older devices.


The latest Z-Wave Long Range (Z-Wave LR) technology builds on these performance qualities, featuring increased range and coverage, scalability, optimized battery life, and device interoperability. Z-Wave LR is designed to provide equally strong network coverage as Z-Wave mesh, no matter how close or far away devices are located from the centralized gateway/hub, with an open field tested range of over one mile. Z-Wave LR also scales to much larger systems, with the ability to support over 4,000 nodes, or device endpoints, than Z-Wave Mesh, while maintainimg full interoperability with all Z-Wave mesh devices.


Z-Wave LR also leverages dynamic power control to offer up to 10-year battery life on a single coin-cell battery. Dynamic power control allows facility managers to install devices like sensors and not have to worry about replacing batteries for a decade. That “set it and forget it” capability makes it feasible to deploy in hard-to-access locations on an MDU property: behind apartment walls or in utility closets, for example.


The Z-Wave Alliance consists of members who are leading the charge in developing technology solutions for the MDU market, including TrustHab, STRATIS, Leviton, and others.


The Oasis at Highwoods is a 300-unit luxury apartment community that Z-Wave Alliance member Leviton contributed to. Together, Leviton Decora Smart, the iQuue MDU platform, and a Z-Wave ecosystem of products enable comprehensive, personalized automation applications for building management and residents alike.


Z-Wave Alliance member STRATIS fully installed and activated its software at The Miles. These modern luxury apartments consist of 203 units across three buildings with JASCO Z-Wave Smart Lighting Dimmers and Switches, Schlage Smart BLE Locks, Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostats, ButterflyMX Guest Access Control, and Alexa Voice Control. The property-wide Z-Wave and Wi-Fi network provides a secure, constant connection for all devices. Because of the advantages of the network installation, the portfolio is recovering 100 per cent of its investment in less than two years, as well as benefiting from increased property value.


Member TrustHab created a facilities-based IoT solution that leverages connected Z-Wave devices. This helps building owners and operators reduce costs and increase property ROI. TrustHab’s solution was installed across a student housing community in Charlotte, NC consisting of 180+ units across mid-rise apartments and townhomes, with the goal of extending the life of HVACs by improving run time efficiency, while reducing energy costs and promoting a green-living environment. The results showed a savings of over US $65,000 YOY, and ROI was achieved in less than seven months.


Technology for the smart home can be used to help facility managers more closely monitor and manage building costs, while providing a more enticing experience for renters. It’s important that facility managers consider the network protocol that they are building their property-wide smart ecosystem on to ensure renter satisfaction, greater product choice, and reliability that delivers now – and in the future. 



CAMFIL HVAC Filtration Solutions

Staff Reporter covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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