Smart Buildings

A Reality-Driven Tech Roadmap To Decarbonization

Here's a tech roadmap you can use to integrate technology into building operations to turbocharge your sustainability efforts.
A Reality-Driven Tech Roadmap To Decarbonization

In a world confronted by the undeniable urgency of climate change, decarbonization has become an unmistakable imperative. The need to focus on sustainability is clear from governments to corporations to individuals.

While many scopes and methods detail ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the question of where to start remains.

Amidst numerous challenges, reevaluating building management emerges as a practical starting point. While physical retrofits like LED lighting, insulation, and solar panels often come to mind, they can be capital-intensive and time-consuming to yield ROI.

Embracing technology offers a faster and more profitable path to sustainable building operations. With the right solution, you can achieve immediate returns and portfolio-wide gains.

Leveraging a hierarchical strategy for carbon management

Technology has emerged as a critical catalyst for change in the pursuit of efficient energy and carbon management. James Dice's Energy Hierarchy of Needs provides a structured framework that reshapes our approach to this challenge.

By aligning our strategies with this hierarchy, we can leverage technology to simplify energy and carbon management and propel us toward long-term decarbonization progress.

The model categorizes energy and carbon management strategies into distinct layers, each building upon the one below.

This model encourages organizations to prioritize their efforts effectively, addressing foundational needs before advancing to more complex solutions. The hierarchy comprises the following layers:

  • Metering & Measurement: Accurate data collection is the foundation. Manual meter readings or spreadsheets are common starting points.
  • Automation & Control: Automate routine tasks using systems like BMS or EMS to optimize energy usage.
  • Data Analytics & Optimization: Utilize data and automation for insights. Beware of data complexity when using rudimentary tools like Excel.
  • Connectivity & Integration: Bridge systems and devices for centralized monitoring, enhancing energy management.
  • Machine Learning & AI: The pinnacle, using AI to predict, recommend, and adapt in real-time.

Traditionally, organizations often adopted point solutions or methods specific to each layer of the hierarchy. For example, they might use Excel spreadsheets for data analytics and manual control for automation.

While these solutions address individual needs, they add complexity by creating data silos and disconnected processes. This fragmented approach impedes the holistic progress needed for adequate energy and carbon management.

Shifting to platform-based digital retrofits

A platform-based approach that can serve as a digital retrofit for your buildings is indispensable to overcome these challenges and effectively align with the Energy Hierarchy of Needs.

A comprehensive digital platform acts as a trusted partner for owners/operators, regardless of their maturity level in energy management.

This approach offers several advantages:

  • Seamless Integration: They seamlessly integrate data from various sources and layers of the hierarchy, reducing complexity and providing a holistic view of energy and carbon data.
  • Scalability: It accommodates organizations' evolving needs, allowing them to start addressing foundational needs and gradually progress to higher levels of the hierarchy.
  • Real-time Insights: By leveraging advanced analytics and AI, platforms provide real-time insights that guide decision-making, leading to immediate improvements in energy efficiency.
  • Future-Proofing: Platform-based tech is designed to meet today's and future needs, ensuring long-term decarbonization progress.

A platform-based property O&M solution can be a pivotal ally in your decarbonization journey. These platforms seamlessly integrate data, scale with evolving needs, provide real-time insights, and future-proof energy management efforts.

A tiered approach to unlocking energy efficiency

To understand how organizations can systematically improve their energy management practices and sustainability efforts, let us consider each level of the pyramid.

It is vital for businesses to understand where they are in their energy management journey and to assess their energy performance and areas for improvement while strategizing on how they can move to the next level.

Step 1: Metering & Measurement - Utility Tracking and Benchmarking

As a first step to implementing an energy management program, organizations will need a mechanism for accurate data collection, which encompasses utility tracking and benchmarking.

Data Requirements at the Metering & Measurement Level:

  • Utility Bills: Organizations need access to utility bills to begin tracking and benchmarking. These bills provide historical data on their facilities' energy consumption, costs, and emissions.
  • Submetering Data: In addition to overall utility bills, submetering data can be essential. Submeters measure energy usage at a more granular level, providing insights into consumption patterns within different areas or systems within a building.
  • Interval Data: Interval data, typically collected at 15-minute, hourly, or daily intervals, offers a more detailed view of energy usage. This data can help identify peak consumption times and uncover inefficiencies.
  • Building Characteristics: Information about a building's physical characteristics, such as square footage, occupancy levels, and operating hours, is necessary for benchmarking against similar buildings.

Case study:

As the practice of measuring energy expenditure becomes a norm, you can start influencing behavioral changes within your organization. Let us take the example of Dubai World Trade Centre, a premium business center in Dubai.

When they started their decarbonization journey, their processes were siloed and time-consuming, without a centralized system to manage site assets. This ultimately led to a need for more visibility in meeting sustainability targets and untapped savings potential.

When implementing Facilio, a platform-led property operations solution, they got granular views into building performance, utility data, and energy trends.

They discovered an 8% energy wastage within three weeks of implementation.

They achieved a yearly savings potential of 40,000 kWh of Electrical energy and 800,000 TRh of Chilled water, amounting to approximately $1.3 million.
Utility tracking and benchmarking for energy management

Step 2: Measuring Asset Performance & Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD)

Building upon the foundational level of "metering and measurement," the next step in your energy management journey emphasizes optimizing asset performance and implementing Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) strategies.

This level aims to enhance the operational efficiency of critical building systems and equipment, ultimately reducing energy waste and improving sustainability.

Data Requirements at the Asset Monitoring & FDD Level:

  • Real-time Equipment Data: Organizations need real-time data from various building systems and equipment to monitor asset performance effectively. This includes data from HVAC, lighting, elevators, and other crucial building assets.
  • Sensor Data: Sensor data is essential for identifying deviations from normal operating conditions. Sensors can measure temperature, humidity, pressure, and occupancy, providing insights into equipment health and performance.
  • Historical Maintenance Records: Historical maintenance records are valuable for assessing the equipment's maintenance history. This information can help identify recurring issues and areas requiring attention.
  • Energy Consumption Data: Continuously monitoring energy consumption data helps identify anomalies and inefficiencies related to specific assets. It also provides a basis for measuring the impact of asset performance improvements on energy usage.
  • Weather Data: Weather data is critical for contextualizing equipment performance. Variations in weather conditions can influence the energy efficiency of HVAC systems and other equipment, making weather data an essential component for accurate analysis.

Case study

A good real-world example is Limbach, a renowned service provider offering turnkey MEP solutions. They have deployed Facilio for their customers across 813 assets, including a school, hospital, museum, and news center.

Their clients did not have access to any historical assets and building performance insights needed for strategic decisions. They relied on manual processes and data locked up in Excel sheets, which led to inefficiencies.

With Facilio acting as an overlay platform, they could integrate tools for access control, CCTV, lifts, HVAC, meters, CaFM, visitor management, etc.

They also had access to a centralized platform for portfolio-wide visibility and effective technician scheduling, streamlining maintenance and repair tasks, thereby reducing downtime.
Measuring energy consumption

Step 3: Energy and Building Performance Optimization

When you have all the data you need at hand, the next step is to use those granular insights to benchmark and enhance your buildings’ energy performance.

At this stage, organizations strive to fine-tune their energy efficiency strategies to maximize savings, reduce environmental impact, and enhance sustainability efforts. Optimization goes beyond monitoring and detecting faults; it focuses on continuously improving energy performance.

Data Requirements at the Optimization Level:

  • Historical Data: A comprehensive dataset of historical energy consumption, asset performance, and operational parameters is vital. This data provides context and a baseline for evaluating the effectiveness of optimization efforts.
  • Real-time Data: Real-time data streams from sensors and monitoring systems are essential for understanding the current state of building operations. This data includes temperature, occupancy, equipment status, and energy usage information.
  • Utility Rates: Information about utility rates, including peak demand charges, time-of-use pricing, and tiered pricing structures, is necessary for cost-effective optimization. Understanding how energy consumption patterns align with utility rates can lead to significant savings.
  • Weather Data: Weather data remains critical to account for external factors affecting building operations. It helps adjust HVAC and lighting systems based on weather forecasts, ensuring optimal energy efficiency.
  • Energy Models: Building energy models, often based on historical data and simulations, are valuable for predicting how changes in operations or equipment will impact energy consumption. These models provide a basis for making informed optimization decisions.

Case study
A case in point for optimization is British Land, a leading property company in the UK. They were facing challenges with data silos that hindered property and portfolio-level visibility.

They also lacked contextual information on how their assets could be better optimized, and delayed reporting resulted in fault detection delays and increased maintenance costs.

After leveraging Facilio’s cloud-based connected operations solution, British Land achieved an awe-inspiring milestone—within just two months, they orchestrated a substantial 50% reduction in energy consumption.

By aggregating real-time data across multiple sites, they were able to optimize factors such as the impact of IAQ when there was increased occupancy or meeting room bookings to optimize fan levels.

They also created dashboards with critical KPIs that show the real-time performance of assets and FDD insights to identify anomalies in asset performance quickly, pinpoint the root cause, and provide suggestions for remedial actions.

Energy and building performance optimization dashboard

Designing your technology roadmap for decarbonization

As you embark on your decarbonization journey, assess your position in people, process, and technology. These pillars form the foundation for effective energy management and sustainability programs.

Here's how to evaluate and align each aspect to ensure a successful decarbonization strategy:

1. People: Stakeholder Engagement

Identify and bring together stakeholders from various departments and levels of your organization who can actively contribute to and champion your energy management program. Their support and commitment are essential for success.

2. Process: Streamlined Sustainability

Simplify your sustainability program and processes to ensure that all stakeholders can actively participate and contribute to your energy initiatives, regardless of their role or expertise. Transparent, accessible processes make it easier for everyone to sit at the sustainability table.

3. Technology: Data Tracking and Behavioral Monitoring

Leverage technology to track key metrics related to energy consumption and sustainability goals. Implement systems that facilitate behavioral monitoring to help individuals and teams stay on track with sustainability objectives.

When you are on the lookout for a technology solution that can help you accelerate decarbonization, there are some key factors that you need to consider:

  • Platform-Based Approach: Choose solutions that accommodate organizations starting from any point in their decarbonization journey. A platform-based approach ensures flexibility and scalability, allowing you to tailor your strategy to your current needs.
  • IoT-Led Capabilities: Embrace IoT-led (edge) capabilities to manage and control systems and controllers across your infrastructure. Ensure your chosen solutions are vendor-agnostic, allowing seamless integration and compatibility.
  • Workflow Automation: Look for tools that offer workflow automation capabilities. These are invaluable when dealing with large portfolios, as they can streamline processes such as surveys, inspections, work order management, and approvals, facilitating the introduction of energy initiative projects.
  • Real-Time Actionable Reporting: Prioritize solutions that provide real-time actionable reporting and insights. These capabilities empower you to make a compelling case internally within your organization, estimate ROI, and track savings year over year.

Integrating technology into building operations is now essential for sustainability. Cloud-based platforms empower data-driven decisions, optimizing energy management and reducing environmental impact.

Embrace intelligent, cloud-based property management for a faster path to decarbonization and a resilient built environment.