The Very Different Job of Managing Energy Across a Building Portfolio

May 16, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

skylineManagers charged with overseeing energy requirements across a portfolio of buildings face a very different challenge than those responsible for a single structure.

A manager of a single building is laser-focused on the energy management of that structure. A portfolio manager, however, must see the big picture to assess trends and keep an eye on the corporate bottom line.

It is a far higher perspective. “It zooms out a bit to do peer-to-peer benchmarking,” said Logan Soya, the CEO and Founder of Aquicore. “You see which are the leaders and laggards across the portfolio. You don’t need to be the first to be aware of every alert on ground, but you must have the ability to have issues escalate when they are not resolved in a reasonable time frame or are at a certain level of severity. You also want to see how a building is tracking on actual budget versus its projected budget.”

Earlier this month, Aquicore was selected by Lincoln Property Company to provide energy analytics and utility billing. The company’s platform will be used in 45 of its buildings by July and 100 by the end of the year. Aquicore’s software has been used in LPC’s buildings in Washington, D.C., since last September.

There was never much doubt that such technologies are valuable. Now, however, the large scale portfolio management platforms are being deployed in greater number. There are multiple drivers for the growth, Soya said.

The first is that emerging wireless technology is enabling real estate companies to deploy the systems quickly and with relatively little expense. “It used to take a half a year to integrate the systems on site,” Soya said. “Now we can get the client the data they need much quicker.”

The goal is to use wireless technology to gather data from any number of systems and devices in the building and send it to the cloud. There, it is analyzed for both immediate needs — if, for instance, a mission-critical system is about to go down — and to better manage use across the organization’s buildings.

A second reason is that the systems have passed muster, and are increasingly seen as needed. “The real estate market always is bottom line-focused,” Soya said. “We have gone through the transition – the early adopters of real estate organizations that did energy management 10 to 15 years ago — to mass adoption. Now it is being viewed as a requirement.”

A related reason is that the people with the money — limited partners, investors and others — are increasingly likely to demand sustainability and social responsibility to be part of their reporting. Platforms such as Aquicore’s are necessary to create such reports, Soya said. “Energy management software and platforms now are viewed as a requirement in these large portfolios,” he said. “We are seeing large organizations that never bid or released RFIs before are starting to do that. They are allocating at the highest levels of their organization budgets for this type of technology.”

Aquicore’s system can be an overlay on existing building management and energy management systems. Going forward, he said, it is likely that the innovative and entrepreneurial techniques introduced in the building management realm will work together. There will be a lot from which to choose. For instance, Verdigris uses machine learning to analyze the electrical signal in a structure to create baselines for the equipment in a building and track use. ABB Motors and Generators relies on IoT-based patches that are put on motors. The status and health of the device is assessed by an analysis of the motor’s vibrations.

The point is that these systems overlap. Eventually, modular systems with a wide variety of functionality will emerge. “We are moving away from a single vendor provider that promises everything and the kitchen sink,” Soya said. “We are in a multivendor environment and must collaborate.”

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