Conversations With Your Building: Using Data Analytics To Improve Operations

Do you know what your building is saying? IBM recently released a report on smarter building management, highlighting the importance of collecting, analyzing, and using the data that buildings provide. The benefits are plentiful: smarter building management can lead to energy conservation, improved efficiency and utilization, and better decision-making in the future.

From elevators to occupancy sensors to security and more, buildings produce vast amounts of data every day. That data can help create a new picture of how buildings work and how to improve building—and overall—functionality and operation. Especially with the ever-present challenge of doing more with less, all areas of an organization can benefit from improved building analytics.

For most organizations, building management is the major expense after payroll. According to the Builders’ Association, operation costs are 71% of the total cost of owning a building. Through smarter building management, it is possible to collect and analyze relevant data to identify patterns and trends that help save money, increase efficiency, and develop best practices. Since maintenance and other building costs are recurring, a small improvement in analytics can rapidly provide new information and understanding that lead to significant savings.

The growth of the Internet of Things means that there are more data sources than ever before. Buildings contain countless digital services that reveal information about lighting, HVAC, electrical plug loads and more. Individually, these data points can provide interesting information, but when these disparate sources are integrated into a cohesive network of information, buildings can tell stories. The General Services Administration (GSA) collected information from 51,000 sensor points and 8,300 different pieces of equipment in 55 buildings. By using a single integration solution to gather and standardize the collected information, GSA was able to develop actionable solutions to reduce its carbon footprint and cut building costs.

Of course, there are challenges to taking advantage of a building’s data. Older buildings often have limited integration capabilities, inadequate analytics tools, and incompatible data. A complex with several buildings may have variability in purpose, equipment, and methods of data collection. Even when the data is available, it can be difficult to extract actionable opportunities out of it. For building analytics to be successful, it must analyze the data but also link the results to prioritized actions and apply to management decisions.

The results are worth the challenges, though. Information as seemingly simple as data from motion sensors can determine underutilized spaces that can be repurposed, subleased, or consolidated. Monitoring traffic in elevators or hallways can reveal patterns about space utilization and work area assignments for remote employees. Integrating, understanding, and using this data can help organizations perform their tasks with greater efficiency, eliminating unnecessary facility costs.

In addition to increased personal efficiency and savings, smarter building management can also help contribute to the planet’s environmental health. According to the U.S. National Science and Technology Council, commercial and residential buildings consume approximately one third of the world’s energy. In North America, buildings consume 72% of electricity generation, make up 12% of water use, and produce 60% of non-industrial waste. On top of that, some estimates say that up to half of all building electricity usage is wasted.

An integrated view of building data can help eliminate that waste. For example, building analytics can provide near real-time identification of equipment and system flaws that waste energy. By identifying problem areas on a regular basis instead of just during scheduled maintenance checks, the problems can be fixed more quickly, eliminating unnecessary leaks or wastage. In addition, by identifying these faults and fixes, patterns and trends emerge about equipment and contractor quality, allowing building officials to make better decisions during the acquisition process.

Smart building management benefits everyone, both now and in the future. The list of beneficiaries includes executive administrators, facility professionals, department managers, sustainability managers, capital investors, citizens and government executives, and design and construction professionals. Comprehensive building analytics programs can help organizations:

  • Optimize facility performance;
  • Reduce the risk of failure of mission-critical systems;
  • Simplify supply chain management;
  • Coordinate functional roles of facility and process management with executive initiatives;
  • Improve cost control by aligning space inventory with demand; and
  • Mitigate risk in the face of volatility and constant change.

Adopting a data-centric approach to building management provides opportunities for real and essential changes in operations, saving energy, time, and money. For more information about smarter building management, read IBM’s full report here.


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