Building owners and facility managers are often perplexed by the amount of data collected from utilities, maintenance and building management systems (BMS).
This data arises from the need to lower maintenance costs, increase their Return on Investment on energy management systems and decrease energy bills.
This data comes from sensors installed to detect movement of occupants and ambient conditions. It also arises from energy meters and sub-meters, building management systems, benchmarking information, enterprise applications etc. Add to this the data from Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) or Computer-aided Facility Management (CAFM) that provides floor plans, occupancy, heat maps etc.
Today, this data typically resides on servers in your IT department of the building.
Imagine a world where you don’t need to invest time, money and resources in running the IT servers. This would help you focus on your core function of realizing your energy savings goals.
If you thought your energy data is staggering and requires a lot of IT staff to maintain it. You are not alone. More and more facilities are adopting a cloud solution to manage their data and increase their energy efficiency.
Here, we will take a look at how Cloud can enable you to do that.
What is Cloud Computing?
You can think of cloud computing as a way to gain new IT capabilities without investing in new hardware or software or a team to run it. Instead, you can pay for a monthly or yearly subscription service fee. You can access your data on the cloud anytime with just an Internet connection and a browser.
The most common examples of cloud computing are applications you are already familiar with – Email, iCloud that serves as a backup for your photos on your phone or even Netflix, which runs it’s video streaming services via the Cloud.
More and more software companies are offering their services on the cloud due to the advantages of business agility, lower cost of IT and enables you to focus on your business goals – energy efficiency. You will no longer buy servers, maintain them or even update the applications. You will also not have to worry about disposing the hardware or software during the end of life cycle for the technology infrastructure of software. Lower costs of hosting data on the cloud means increased savings to invest on your energy efficiency strategies.
In fact cloud computing is growing exponentially and according to Gartner, will reach $260 Billion in 2018. Almost all building software applications are now on the cloud and offer powerful analytics, reports, automated notifications and workflows as well as integrate with your other applications to source data from various systems.
Cloud systems provide a way to digitize your electric and mechanical infrastructure and behind the meter energy management systems.
Now let us take a look at how cloud computing enables you to achieve your energy efficiency goals for your building:
By consolidating all your information on the cloud, you and your executive team will have increased visibility into information from various sources. Answers to questions about which equipment is consuming maximum electricity, when are most rooms occupied, is there a pipe leakage on the first floor and many others is available at your fingertips on your mobile phone.
This also has the most reliable and accurate data compared to the manual data entry by personnel moving from facility to facility.
You can also closely monitor your data based on rules that you can define. For example, if you would like to control the electricity spend of a large conference room, you can define your upper limits and schedule notifications if that limit is crossed. You can also monitor various kinds of data associated with individual units like HVAC systems, water meters, electric meters and sub-meters.
Real-time data from utilities enable building and facility managers to control their energy consumption during peak and off-peak periods and take advantage of lower utility rates and credits.
You can also look at the inefficient systems through the console and enable proactive maintenance saving hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairs, or replacements as well as preventing loss of productivity.
2. Improve tenant satisfaction:
According to the Hartford’s “The future of leadership by numbers” survey, millennials prioritize worklife/balance, training, technology and innovation.
They are also actively involved in creating sustainable environments and issues like pay equity. Hence, it is important for building owners to think about modernizing their buildings in anticipation of the new generation’s definition of comfort since they are the future business leaders.
Using a cloud-enabled system is one of the crucial factors of a smart building.
Facilities that use information stored on the cloud have access to real-time data that enables them to take action on any tenant queries. They can adjust the heating and cooling of specific areas based on occupants’ preferences. There is tremendous opportunity to control the equipment like HVAC, lighting according to the occupancy levels.
By viewing the data on the cloud, you can easily convey messages or notifications to tenants about maintenance issues at their specific location as well as emergency alerts.
Many Americans today are increasingly conscious about health and wellness and they understand that the building they work in has a huge impact on them. Research on effects of the air quality clearly indicates that good air quality increases productivity by about 8%. Add to it, factors such as heating, cooling, daylight, natural light, ambient temperature that affect the well-being as well as social ability of the occupants.
Having the data on the cloud gives you the ability to ensure that the tenant’s needs are met in a timely and customer-friendly manner. Cloud also provides the ability of granularity of data at an individual level as well as sub-metered data. This increases the transparency of the energy consumption between tenants and hence will lead to an increase in loyal tenants and reduction in lease terminations.
3. Energy Analysis and faster decision-making
One of the biggest advantages of storing data on the cloud is the access to building intelligence. This is especially feasible since data on the cloud is a central point of consolidation of the building data regardless of the location of the system, the source of the information or the type of data.
This provides a sophisticated view of data for both the owners as well as the operators of the building. There is also the ability to upload historical data as well as access to real-time data.
Well-designed dashboards can be derived from this data that enables users across the organization to gain visibility into the data according to their needs. For example, a C-suite executive can look into the overall energy performance across their portfolio and make fast decisions as to where to invest their budget and where to cut costs.
This presents a uniform platform to get data according to an individual’s needs. The data is also represented from both views – top down and bottoms up. In the event of an emergency, real-time data can be tracked and can be “drilled-down” to the root cause of the issue and get additional information.
This visualization and reporting can help with benchmarking data, creating heat maps to see where the majority of activity resides and to create powerful forecasting and financial modeling scenarios.
By modeling facility energy needs along with weather and utility rate data you can optimize energy purchasing, enable participation in a demand response program, or decide on the best times of day to consume onsite renewables. The risk of failure can be predicted for critical equipment to enable proactive servicing or replacement to avoid expensive downtime and losses.
In conclusion, for building owners, facility managers and operators it is becoming increasingly important to enable and adopt systems on the cloud for managing their energy efficiency goals. Cloud is the foundational step to adopting newer technologies like smart and connected buildings.
Some of the huge benefits of adopting a cloud based system is reducing the cost of maintenance of the building, increasing tenants’ satisfaction and making quicker decision using advanced analytics and dashboards.
We are headed to a future where modern buildings is an expected norm and those that adopt now will have the distinct competitive advantage and meet their energy efficiency goals.
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