Want lower building costs? Hire a data guru

How much forethought is given to all the data and information needed to manage a building? The answer many times would come from a little forethought and a lot of afterthought.

The industry as a whole has realized that building data and data analytics are major tools for improving building operations. Data applications, such as energy management and fault detection and diagnostics, are probably the best examples of the effectiveness of managing and analyzing data. The effort for many building owners to acquire and manage facility data, however, appears either ad hoc or narrowly focused on specific aspects of the building, such as energy and HVAC systems. That's where a facility data manager comes in.

A number of data "repositories" currently used in buildings provide a substantial amount of data. They include building management systems, independent control systems, facility management systems and business systems. In addition, there is the "umbrella" of Building Information Modeling, which addresses design and construction drawings, equipment and product data, as well as data in the hands of third-party contractors that install, service and maintain building equipment.

Some of this data is stored away in Excel spreadsheets, Access databases and a host of varied electronic and paper formats. The typical building has several "silos" of data scattered throughout the organization with no cohesive strategy for data management and little coordination. Also note that it's not only the data that is in silos but also the underlying technology systems for data management, different data management processes, and even the people involved.

There would seem to be a very good case for bringing all the facility data into a unified database architecture and putting into practice standard methodologies and processes to manage the data. There are several benefits to this approach:

• Building data would be more widely available and sharable: Setting aside confidential data, more data would allow for additional analytics, possibly new correlations, metrics and insights into the building's performance.

• Building data would be more easily accessible: Have you ever looked for as-built drawings or equipment spec sheets, only to discover that they are not where they should be? Without a structured approach to data management you waste time internally because of the disorganization in the data and documents; many times building operators will need to contact the original architects, engineers or contractors for the data, thus wasting more time and money. What's needed is an orderly index as part of a larger data management system. A structured approach to indexing is vital as facility data grows, which is obviously very likely.

Next page: Improving data archiving, retention

Building image by Sebastian Kaulitzki via Shutterstock.