Driving home the power of data to make better buildings

Published:  06 February, 2018

BCIA, 'Big Data', Malcolm Anson
Malcolm Anson

The internet has affected almost every aspect of our lives. Malcolm Anson investigates how web-based services such as energy management and data analysis are already changing how buildings are controlled and managed for efficiency and comfort.

Every year, there are new trends, some are just hype, others have a sig- nificant and meaningful impact on the world we live in. Take for example, the terms “Big Data” and “Smart Data”. Yes, these are two of the latest buzz words in the controls sector, but they are also transforming the way in which commercial build-ings evolve.

Let’s think about your digital footprint for a moment. This is information which you personally generate on a daily basis; it could be making a transaction online or your smart phone tracking your GPS. In a nutshell, this is what big data is.

As technology continues to become more sophisticated, the amount of data we all generate on a daily basis will also increase. Therefore, in some cases, we have vast amounts of data which has no real purpose and doesn’t provide a benefit to anyone.

Think smart

There is power in data, but only if you use it

But how can we turn this data into something practical and useful? The answer is making big data into smart data and this is key when it comes to building optimisation; something business owners must take seriously when it comes to managing the lifecycle and performance of their building.

Most commercial buildings have a Building Management System (BMS) in place which generates large volumes of data, but is that data always used and if so, is it used correctly? Collecting data can be complex and often it can be difficult to know how to interpret it to make positive changes.

The Internet of Things (IoT) also plays a pivotal role in this, as it allows buildings to network with other devices and subsequently collect and exchange data.

It’s no secret that we are all striving to reduce energy usage, even more so as a result of the Europe 2020 plan which aims to increase energy efficiency by 20% and lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth.

Statistics show that 40% of a commercial building’s energy spend is on HVAC and approximately 20% of this could be easily saved. I’m sure you’ll all agree that is something you simply can’t ignore, as you could potentially save your client £1,000’s.

But how do we achieve this and unlock potential savings? The first step is by ensuring that all of the data is centralised in the BMS by integrating building systems such as HVAC and lighting with the information which is available from on-site meters.

While real-time data is collected in the BMS, it isn’t analysed, so through the use of an interface which links the BMS to a data analytics partner. By doing so, peaks and troughs in energy usage can be identified, such as pinpointing office lights which are left on after 5pm, or a room sensor set high for the heating, with the windows open every lunch hour.

Following analysis, new strategies and rules can be implemented which automatically send smart data back via the interface to be uploaded into the building’s BMS. This is critical as by interpreting big data and turning it into useful smart data, this makes a substantial difference in energy management and lowering costs.

As I’ve said many times before, no two buildings are the same and there is no one-size fits all solution. But by analysing and interpreting the data you are able to introduce an energy saving solution which works for your building.

Make big data into smart data for better results

iStock.com/teekid

Human error

As I see it, automated processes are now vital in optimising building performance. Moving away from the historical manual operation, now we can run a two-part process which uses simple, data analytics to achieve optimal occupant comfort within a building, with the minimum energy used. An automated process also rules out the risk of human error when monitoring and adjusting the BMS, which previously has been a time- consuming task.

Additionally, thanks to a wide variety of intelligent building controls, occupants and building users can manage their own comfort levels. Wellbeing is incredibly important in today’s workplace and due to the sophisticated controls available, occupants can dictate their own personal preferences, in an energy-efficient manner.

Furthermore, the use of data analytics provides a means for building owners and occupants to access their data via energy dashboards and as a result take responsibility for their actions. This can only encourage behaviour change.

Ask yourself, are you really extracting the full potential from your building? The rewards can be huge. But real changes will only happen by switching your engine on.

Malcolm Anson is president of the Building Controls Industry Associ- ation (BCIA) and managing director of Clarkson Controls.



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