These 4 data streams provide the key to smart buildings

In the United States, the uncertainty of climate change and energy policy from the federal government calls into question whether corporate leaders will retain their companies’ sustainability commitments. The threat may be compounded by the fallout of greenwashing and the lack of a singular definition of sustainability. Despite these challenges, there is mounting evidence that the growing adoption of intelligent building technologies, namely data analytics, is making an even stronger case for investment in corporate sustainability.

Data is golden in different dimensions 

Data is the foundation for transforming a commercial facility into an intelligent building. The connectivity and instrumentation of an intelligent building solution give stakeholders unprecedented insight into equipment, systems, facility and even employee performance.

Internet-accessible devices that monitor and control the systems within commercial buildings, campuses and portfolios create the data profile that intelligent building analytics can translate into business intelligence. As examples, many analytics solutions in the market offer metrics to track operational efficiency, energy consumption and occupant behavior. These metrics can be correlated with different dimensions of business performance, such as financial costs, and occupant experience, as well as offer a quantitative lens on sustainability.

The commitment to updating commercial buildings with connectivity and intelligence can go hand in hand with sustainability. The analytics from intelligent buildings generate insight for economic, environmental or climate change-related decisions.

The recent Navigant Research report, "Intelligent Building Technologies for Sustainability," outlines how the following four data streams support both economic and sustainability improvements:

  • Occupant data is providing insight into the people side of business — an area of increasing priority in corporate decision-making. Building owners, business leaders and employers recognize that the performance and engagement of occupants in their facilities have a direct influence on their bottom lines. Whether the occupants are employees, students, shoppers or clients, technology-enabled enhancements to the occupant experience are increasingly becoming a use case for intelligent building technologies. In terms of sustainability, data about people can be important inputs for determining Scope 3 emissions (those indirectly attributable to a company because of operations such as employee commuting) for carbon accounting. Niche vendors are introducing innovative solutions to optimize the occupant experience through data-driven solutions for comfort, wayfinding and collaboration. These tools often are offered through software as a service (SaaS) solutions.
  • Facility data is valuable to operations teams looking to maximize system performance, reduce costs and improve comfort. The data at the facility level must be complete in terms of covering all major end uses (including HVAC, lighting and plug loads) to support a sustainability strategy. Often, vendors from the building automation and controls industry segment are viable partners for building optimization solutions. As in the enterprise dimension of intelligent buildings data, there may be capital investment for infrastructure, but the analytics are frequently a part of a SaaS agreement. This data is valuable for monitoring energy and operations data for cost and systems management, and it can be inclusive of participation in energy programs such as demand response.
  • Enterprise data is information that addresses core business priorities for the C-suite by tying operational data to financial reporting and metrics. The scope of these solutions must be integrated and holistic, providing insight across disparate building systems and data sources. These solutions are often the most sophisticated, offering analytics capabilities alongside controls to optimize energy use and operations. Consulting business units and professional services firms can be viable partners for the enterprise customer to support the integration of data across facilities and data streams. The business model may require capital expense to cover infrastructure investment or retrofits such as building automation systems, sensors or controls.
  • Distributed energy resources (DER) data, in relation to the intelligent buildings market and sustainability, is important for coordinating facility operations and onsite energy resource generation and storage capacity. Data in this category also could be extended to track and monitor EV fleets and charging infrastructure. The integration of data from DER into the facility is a newer approach for the most sophisticated customers, but there are examples of how this can deliver sustainability and business benefits, particularly among high tech campuses. Specialty software applications offered as SaaS support this data layer.

The result

Leadership in sustainability can be a competitive advantage as organizations respond to shareholder, regulatory and customer demands for tackling climate change. Investment in intelligent building analytics, in particular, can lead to effective and efficient ways to track the data and metrics that determine how well these companies are doing relative to their corporate goals.

These data-driven tools make sustainability a part of running the business and tackling climate change, as they direct visible improvements in how we operate our offices and commercial buildings.

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