Technology enables facility managers to measure and collect extensive amounts of data. However, being able to access data is only part of the puzzle for building operators who want to fully recognize the potential of smart buildings. Facility managers must also know what are the most important categories of information to collect and how to manage that data to yield meaningful operational and financial gains. These five essential smart building metrics will reveal how a smart building is performing.

What Are Smart Buildings?

Smart buildings have some form of automation that aids the people who manage or operate the buildings. With commonplace increases in building technology, such as smart thermostats, many buildings have at least one smart component. However, what truly distinguishes smart buildings from traditional construction is the full integration of technology, systems and structure. Smart buildings can also control and regulate their own environment through technology and developed building systems. A true smart building shouldn’t just collect data, but data should also drive the adaptation of the building’s functions.

Metric #1: Utility Usage

With the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimating a 48 percent increase in global energy consumption by 2040, facilities managers will soon demand the ability to track energy usage, consumption habits and related data as an effective cost-saving measure. Utility companies already use smart devices to track energy consumption, and they’ll save an estimated $157 billion by 2035 just by using smart meters.

Tracking water consumption, quality, pressure, temperature and other data also lets facility managers quickly identify trends or potential problems and make any necessary adjustments. Smart water leak detectors can identify a trickle before it becomes a flood without relying on excessive water consumption or visual inspections to spot the problem. Smart meters can also detect a leak in a gas line, which could prevent a significant safety liability.

Metric #2: Operational Metrics

Utility usage is a small subset of operational metrics that facility managers use to track the day-to-day functioning of their buildings. Space usage, HVAC functioning, lighting systems and communications frameworks all significantly impact the usefulness of a building. Smart meters can provide data on any mechanical system and document many behavioral changes among a building’s occupants.

Through the use of smart meters, commonly quantified metrics can be tracked by a floor, room or other specified section, allowing for a detailed understanding of a building’s function. Building operators can also compare their buildings to similar structures using collected data. This operational metric data also helps facility managers make asset optimization decisions to boost efficiency.

Metric #3: Security and Safety

In a 2015 survey by Honeywell, 51 percent of building operators prized safety and security over any other advantage offered by smart buildings. Smart buildings can feature superior fire system and emergency communication control, and they also offer health and life safety systems, along with the ability to monitor them. Surveillance and intrusion tracking can also help building operators detect unusual activity that could indicate a threat to personnel or information.

Metric #4: Occupant Comfort and Productivity Measures

Research links occupant satisfaction and comfort to productivity. One study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that productivity went up 1 percent for every 10-percent increase in air quality satisfaction. Office performance also increased due to better temperature control, superior ventilation and reduced air pollutants, according to related LBNL research.

A study published in the June 2016 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that a reduction in volatile organic compound and carbon dioxide exposures, combined with better ventilation, resulted in an improvement in cognitive scores of 61 percent. In particular, participants in the study had significant increases in strategy, crisis response and information usage when moved to buildings that meet green criteria for air quality.

Other smart building features that increase productivity include communications frameworks that allow for wireless internet and wired networks, dynamic lighting systems, and electricity systems that provide backup power. Smart building metrics can track the usage of these systems and help building operators place the benefits in context.

Metric #5: Financial Metrics

Most smart building data has financial implications. Some ramifications are obvious: Being able to track utility usage can lead to simple cost saving measures through conservation. Smart buildings also allow for dynamic power consumption based on peak energy times and ventilation, and cooling optimization based on occupancy and load variations – all of which lead to financial savings. Smart building metrics may also identify problems before they lead to expensive outages or equipment failures.

Building operators may have more difficulty quantifying other financial consequences, but they are no less important. For example, improving ventilation and temperature for building occupants results in quantifiable increases in productivity. The LBNL translates these increases as financial gains, which demonstrates that a more comfortable building can save thousands of dollars per year.

The Future of Smart Building Performance Metrics

By collecting the right information, building operators are able to make judgments based on sound data instead of theoretical estimates or trial and error. Even facility managers with older building automation systems can track data and manage operations through retrofitting or upgrading. You can find out more about combating building automation obsolescence here.

Tracking building performance metrics can lead to thousands of dollars of savings each month while creating additional safety and operational gains. These potential gains will drive most building operators to make smart building performance tracking a mandatory activity, rather than an optional capability, within the next few years.

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