Cara Ryan on analytics and big data

There are myriad challenges facing the buildings sector in Australia and across the globe. Energy prices are rising, assets are ageing, budgets are shrinking, technology choices are increasing and the pressure to be sustainable and green is higher than ever.

To compete in this rapidly changing and competitive environment, organisations need better performance outcomes. But achieving great performance isn’t just about maintenance; it’s about efficiency and using technology to help get those results. By installing modern building management systems and big data analytics tools, there is the opportunity to cut energy costs dramatically, monitor ageing assets and be informed prior to making decisions that could affect a building’s bottom line.

Big Data Analytics

Use of analytics within buildings is growing rapidly.  It is now used widely in Australia and globally across commercial property portfolios, healthcare networks, tertiary education campuses and a variety of other buildings, mainly because it is easy to use.  Using big data analytics like automated fault detection and diagnostics helps to identify and prioritise underlying problems and provide easy to understand information to drive day-to-day activity and planning.

AFDD recognises undiagnosed problems such as unnecessary equipment operation, suboptimal strategies, faulty equipment or poorly tuned loops that result in energy wastage, comfort issues or operational inefficiencies. This allows facility managers to make informed decisions in addressing problems and repairing equipment before critical failure.

Generally speaking, barriers to implementation are minimal as all buildings can benefit from analytics as it is a highly scalable solution, particularly when a cloud-based solution is implemented.

As a result, demand for big data will only increase with many more organisations actively preparing for adoption in the next 12-18 months. The most important step when deciding to deploy an analytics solution is to identify the process that will be used to act on the information.

No matter how good the analytics solution, executing on the findings is what drives results.

Energy Dashboards – can be part of the story

Another option to drive building efficiency is using tools like energy dashboards to allow facility managers to view a building’s performance metrics, manually spot energy usage trends, and gather insights. Dashboards can also generate reports and provide data for public kiosks that share information about the building’s performance.

Typically public kiosks are large screens mounted in a high pedestrian traffic location. They can be interactive, using a touchscreen, to enable users to switch between things such as different energy sources, areas of the building or time intervals, or can be set to scroll through selected pages.

They are frequently used to promote awareness of progress against set targets and encourage building occupants to take steps to reduce their personal energy consumption within the building. Dashboards can be useful in understanding building behavior, but the data can be complex and challenging to understand and use. In fact, even if building staff have the time and skills to review and understand the data, dashboards only tell part of the story about how a building is performing. Facility managers can identify where inefficiencies exist but usually not why, which requires additional troubleshooting and investigation.

The “why” emerges through a comprehensive view including snapshots of current operations, outlines of energy trending, alerts through the application of rules and algorithms, detailed diagnostic reports and more. Through proactively identifying operational problems that would not otherwise be detected, data analytics helps building managers gain a deeper understanding of the “why,” which in turn leads to more permanent and effective solutions.

By better harnessing and analysing building data, owners and operators can understand and realise the full return on their investment by saving energy, improving conditions and reducing maintenance issues.

Emerging technologies such as big data analytics allow building owners and facility managers to take this next step. Big data ensures effort and funds are invested on the issues that have the most impact on the building because it provides information to calculate a return on investment for fault rectification or sustainability improvements. It has been shown that predictive maintenance can extend the lifetime of a building by several years.

Other benefits of analytics include increased safety from properly maintained equipment, greater comfort and productivity for occupants, and better compliance with efficiency requirements.

Ultimately, analytics allows building owners and operators to reach and maintain a higher level of building intelligence and performance by providing a baseline, and prioritised actions to improve performance, which impacts the bottom line.

Cara Ryan is offer manager, Building Performance Centre, Schneider Electric

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