Dissecting the Data Revolution

dataEnergy and building managers are living in the age of data. They need more and therefore spend a lot of time and effort trying to get it.

That’s a very high level view. Digging a bit deeper suggests that there are at least three drivers behind the increased use of data in building management. Beyond that, there are several steps on the journey from not leveraging data at all to fully utilizing the resource, according to Vladi Shunturov, the President and Co-Founder of Lucid Design Group.

The first driver is regulatory. Local and state authorities and the federal government are demanding compliance on an ever-widening array of energy-related issues. Proving to these entities that they have fulfilled the mandates – as well as assuring bosses that there are no unpleasant hidden surprises – generally falls to the energy managers. Today, they often find that they lack the data to keep all of these very important people happy. It is a challenge an increasing number of energy managers are trying to meet.

A second driver is that aggressive reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are very public. Indeed, they have moved to the center of how an organization presents itself. The ability to  effectively access and use data is vital to the organization’s image in addition to keeping it out of trouble. “Communicating and goal setting is really, really important now because goals are being made public,” Shunturov said. “It’s not just kilowatt hours. It about keeping people appraised of the progress and how we are getting there.”

Once the need for data is accept, the question becomes how to move forward. At the highest level, there are two choices: Install new equipment or increase the efficiency of what already is in place. Of course, it is possible to mix the two.

Shunturov suggests that a process be used to structure the use of data. Though each organization is different, the keys can be similar.

Important early steps are to centralize available data from utility bills and leverage interval data from submeters or utility-provided smart meters. These, in essence, are the raw data materials from which subsequent decisions will flow. That data can helpthe organization to determine goals, objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). The goal, according to Shunturov, is the mapping of data to desired business outcomes.

The next logical step is to determine actual steps that will enable those goals and objectives to be realized. Is new equipment needed? is the smart approach to update what already is deployed? Are there changes to processes and procedures that can do the trick? Is the best approach a mix of these and other steps?

The organization then is in position to execute on the resulting plan and validate (what presumably will be) success. It is important to “celebrate the success,” Shunturov says. Energy managers, like the rest of us, no longer live in an age when it is prudent to quietly do a job. Good jobs must be done loudly. Energy managers must let folks know that the goals are being met. “That will get the blessing of the finance department and you’ll get more money,” he said.

For instance, a government mandate that energy be saved could be approached in a number of ways. Input from meters may point to HVAC changes as the most prudent choice. From there, the data will help determine if new equipment is required or if changes to what already is in the field will suffice. Methodical planning would result in determination of specific goals and how progress will be measured. The data also would help in creating the timeline for implementation. When the task is complete, the success of the progress would be noted and made available to both C-level executives and the corporate communications department, which will disseminate the news to the public.

Last month, Lucid introduced BuildingOS Dashboards. It is meant for use across portfolios of buildings, Shunturov said. “It centralizes the data across all buildings and systems, it provides the discovery tools for opportunities, it provides compliance automation tools to cut down the time spent doing that, it provides the reporting and collaboration tools so it can align finance, stakeholders and the public and it provides the important tools the analysts to help improve the performance of buildings.”

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