Robotics in Real Estate: Revolutionizing Building Maintenance

Robotics in Real Estate: Revolutionizing Building Maintenance

Written by: Anthony Nazzaro

Real Estate owners and managers must look seriously into robotics to support maintenance operations in their properties. Having spent more than my fair share at property sites, little has changed relative to property maintenance. In this segment, we will explore several opportunities that you can implement today.

Firstly, I will do my best Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue imitation here and try to list the types of robots while picturing yourself cleaning a floor with a toothbrush.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV), Wall Climbing Robots, Cable Crawling Robots, Marine Robots, Hinged Microbots, Legged Robots, Hybrid Robots…and so on. I’ll leave the definition of each one to another writing, but as of this writing, my favorite is the Hinged Microbot since it reminds me of Transformers.

Here are some specific examples and their benefits.

Benefits of Robotics in Real Estate

Robotic Cleaning

We are partnered with a company that provides vacuuming and floor-cleaning robots. This partner recently brought a new machine into our office, and I witnessed the robot’s actual “programming.” It was straightforward to start the process. The first activity completed was a manual push around the perimeter of the space so it could learn the perimeter envelope. He then pressed a few buttons, and the machine began to map out the entire area, including those aisles that he did not travel during perimeter mapping using Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) capabilities. From that point, the machine knows its job and can continue for 6 hours on one battery charge. Another device using the same technology acts as a floor scrubbing “Zamboni.” We have seen these technologies as “sit down driving” machines in commercial properties sometimes, except this product is autonomous and can replenish water and cleaning fluids at a docking station.

Benefits: Consistent cleaning over large areas reduces headcount needs and subsequently reduces workman’s comp claims and insurance costs. Data can be collected to impact maintenance schedules and reduce energy usage costs.


With an increased need to manage ESG requirements, these robots can support the initiatives. Firstly, the machine’s software could communicate with occupancy information collected and only deploy the machines where needed…saving expenses relative to using the devices. The machines can also be fitted with air quality sensors and feed that information back to the facilities team to proactively manage HVAC system filtration.

Benefits: Supports collection of ESG data requirements with sensors collecting information at different times and locations, gaining a comprehensive view of air quality that can be fed back to the HVAC system. Additionally, data can be collected to impact maintenance schedules / HVAC usage to save on energy costs.


It is envisioned that the machine can capture video and be “trained” to recognize required maintenance items. This type of robot can be aerial, ground-based, or can climb to access difficult to reach areas or are dangerous to reach for people. Of course, video can be reviewed by a person who decides whether to make the ultimate decision on the need for proactive maintenance. An example could be a video of a commercial building flat roof where standing water can be recognized, or where flashing might be damaged. The robot can also be utilized on the interior to detect water intrusion that would indicate roof leaks to be addressed.

Benefits: Access hard to reach spaces, increase safety for people, reduce inspection costs, collect real time data, aid in preventive maintenance, and decrease accidents and subsequent insurance costs.


Robots can patrol areas at night (and day) and be able to “see” at night or in low light conditions based on infrared capabilities. A robot would be able to video and detect activities such as unauthorized intruders, fires, leaks, hazards, etc. and alert security teams, maintenance or appropriate authorities.

Benefits: Creates a consistent presence relative to security for the entire space and can reduce person power required to staff appropriately while increasing safety and reducing risk relative to damaging events such as fires and water leakage.


To be fair, we need to recognize the potential obstacles to implementing robotics in real estate. Below is a short list of the salient items that come to mind.

Setup costs including initial investment could be prohibitive and potentially difficult to calculate a return on investment (ROI). Larger companies should be able to absorb the longer investment cycle and gain the ROI.

Maintenance and repairs for the robot would be a new line item on the operating statement. The robot would decrease expenses for the property but would be a new skill set to manage if it fails to operate properly. My suggestion would be to look at ROI with a subscription service for the use of the robot that includes maintenance and replacement of the robot (…like leasing).

There will be a learning curve relative to operation and training current employees.

There are always job displacement concerns with current employees that essentially creates resistance and may need to work with labor unions.

Need to complement the robot for judgment and intervention, not replace people entirely.

Wrapping Up

There is an opportunity to begin using robots for easily understood tasks that will allow for reducing cost and risk to the real estate operator such as floor vacuuming and scrubbing. They would be easier to deploy and reduce risk relative to the pay range that has been so difficult to staff in recent years, thus mitigating FTE risk. That said, I read a book back in college (yes, in the 80’s and I read more than one book) called “The Philosophy of Science” where it highlighted the impacts of technological advances on people. I learned that we should work to understand and balance these industry advancements with the impacts on the workforce along with the need to maintain profitability for our businesses.

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