This piece is part of a new series that was created in conjunction with The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to help educate the real estate community about the positive impacts of Real Time Energy Management.
As buildings become outfitted with sensors and smart systems, more data can be collected from every aspect of building performance and operations. A recent Deloitte survey reveals the top IoT sensor data types commercial real estate firms are currently using or plan to use in 2020; these include building temperature and air quality, building performance, occupant movement, and facilities utilization. With hundreds of these sensors sending data at regular and frequent intervals, there’s much more information available now than just a few years ago.
A major challenge with building energy data is there is so much of it. What could be insightful information hidden amongst the bytes from various sources can be initially perceived as overwhelming clutter and noise. The problem isn’t getting the data. Real time energy management (RTEM), smart building systems, and sensitive sensors make data collection much easier than just a few years ago. The difficulty is in knowing what to do with it.
The destination is simple: Reach the point where the energy data collected by a building can be reflected on a dashboard that measures progress towards predetermined valuable metrics without creating an extra burden for the user.
Like all good things, this destination isn’t easily reached. There are three main challenges: determining what metrics to focus on, getting access to and compressing relevant data, and portraying the building’s current status in a clear, concise way.
With a wide variety of data sources, from small sensors tracking occupancy and temperature to expansive building management and automation systems to track energy usage and efficiency, there are many conclusions that can be drawn. Determining the correct metrics to focus on may need to be uniquely tailored to individual buildings but should follow general and established guidelines for comparison purposes. Comparing energy usage between buildings is helpful to better identify opportunities to cut energy waste in areas that would have remained unknown without collaboration. At a higher level, sharing energy usage data can be used to make smarter investment decisions, reward efficiency, and drive widespread, continuous improvement.
Guidelines for designing a benchmarking plan from the U.S. Department of Energy include the following steps: establishing goals, getting the sign-off from leadership, building a team, identifying output metrics and data inputs through the process of data collection, analysis, and communication. Identifying the data needed to measure and communicate results is one of the first steps. Basic data helpful for comparison could include inventorying facilities and basic space characteristic information, asset information, operating characteristics, energy project timelines, cost information, and energy consumption data. The type of appropriate data can vary based on the type of building.
RTEM energy data should be collected at least monthly in accordance to your benchmarking and energy goals and include whole-building energy use data for all fuel types including, but not limited to, electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, chilled water, steam, and diesel. This information and the basic data mentioned earlier may already be in an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Account for the building. Sensors can be included for drilled down metric tracking but may not be used for later comparison with others. Reporting may be required quarterly so keeping on top of data at least monthly is a good way to maintain accuracy.
The data required to track these metrics may be in disparate sources, but it is vital that all relevant data is collected on regular and consistent intervals. Creating processes for report sharing and integrating data may be difficult to get going, but with the right teams onboard, it will be well worth the hassle in the long run.
The last challenge in reaching the destination may be the most important in keeping up with monitoring metrics and attaining lofty energy goals as it impacts the extra burden on the user. The visual summaries of the carefully chosen and sorted data need to be accessible to appropriate users, clearly defined, and shareable through reporting capabilities. Without data integration, RTEM energy sources will show their various metrics on numerous dashboards that require multiple logins and more work for everyone from the building engineers to the IT team.
An integrated dashboard via a single pane of glass, as they say, is the only way for buildings to measure and meet their energy goals in a realistic manner. Even the most complex building data can be compressed and visually shared in a simple way when metrics are well defined and data is accurate and regular. While facility managers and financial decision-makers won’t require the same information, both types can be clearly displayed on a single dashboard.
The most efficient dashboards integrate all RTEM data and are customizable to the needs and curiosities of the users. While general and common metrics are best for comparison purposes, unique characteristics of the building such as occupancy sensors, indoor air quality data like temperature and humidity, and alternative energy sources like solar panels may be more interesting to occupants.
Fortunately, there are many dashboard options available today for building teams that do exactly what they need. Due to the ease of data collection and common software API integration, sources that once operated in silos are now reachable and available for collaboration. A full list of approved NYSERDA-Qualified RTEM vendors can be found here.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, known as NYSERDA, promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. These efforts are key to developing a less polluting and more reliable and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers. Collectively, NYSERDA’s efforts aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate economic growth, and reduce customer energy bills. NYSERDA works with stakeholders throughout New York including residents, business owners, developers, community leaders, local government officials, university researchers, utility representatives, investors, and entrepreneurs.
NYSERDA offers cost-share incentives to support RTEM projects that serve customers in commercial, industrial, and multifamily sectors. Its Advanced Efficiency Solutions team evaluates and qualifies vendors to ensure high quality RTEM projects and analyzes RTEM market data to publish case studies and best practices.