4 Prerequisites to Implementing a Data-Driven Approach to Building Operations


Building monitoring system for data driven building operations

Perhaps more than any other function, building operations in commercial real estate (CRE) is primed to reap the benefits of advances in Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

However, to date, systems have been deployed piecemeal to address specific problems. Solutions have typically been implemented as siloed, expert-oriented tools lacking the ability to communicate or share data with other integral systems.

With CRE data siloed in an ecosystem of point solutions, disparate groups with unrelated responsibilities must analyze specific information and lack incentive for unification or collaboration. Fragmentation can also lead to duplicative analyses and non-standardized data. Ultimately, this lack of interconnectivity has hurt accuracy, completeness, and usefulness of data.

While widespread, this situation is not universal. Some real estate companies are transitioning to using data to make better operational and capital expenditure decisions.

Driving this data-driven approach is a range of meters and sensors that generate information every second and can cover every critical equipment system, tenant space and environmental indoor condition.

IoT is not a specific device or technology - it is the concept of embedding connectivity and intelligence into physical assets. It can be thought of as overlaying a network that tracks all operational conditions without the intervention of humans.

Advances in meters and sensors capable of continuous data collection would be nothing without the infrastructure provided by the internet. Combined, these technologies tie physical objects together, allowing mechanical and electrical systems to be tracked remotely and create opportunities for improved efficiency and profitability.

The first step in implementing a data-driven approach to building operations is assessing your current data collection process and needs. After that, there are a few common areas to address to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by IoT technology.

Granular and Building-level Data Collection

The first hurdle to overcome in implementing a robust system is collecting both granular data of individual pieces of equipment and/or tenant spaces as well as data from the master meter. While it is not very difficult to collect data for an entire building, it is not so simple to do so for individual equipment systems (at an affordable price). From boilers in the basement, to exhaust fans on the roof and lighting on each floor, it is simply not realistic to attach sensors to each of the hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of inaccessible end points in a building.

At Enertiv, the solution has been to develop a meter that connects to the circuit panel to track up to 42 pieces of equipment in a way that can be analyzed by a building monitoring system.

Using this device allows us to connect to main feeds to track total building consumption, distribution panels to track critical equipment systems and individual subpanels to track tenant consumption and smaller end points.

This level of granularity is impossible with manual readings and greatly increases the insights that can be derived from data.

Granular data for building monitoring system

Cloud Connectivity for Data Streams

Granular data is important, but quality data is only useful if it can be instantly transmitted outside the building and continuously analyzed. The second hurdle in implementing a robust system is guaranteeing reliable connection to the cloud.

To ensure reliability, Enertiv’s meters both store data locally and upload the encrypted data to the cloud in real time. Usually, this connection is to a dedicated cellular network, which also eliminates the need to wait on IT departments for access to the internal network.

There are several advantages to uploading data to the cloud in real time.

First, this eliminates the issues with version control that arise when different individuals make changes to the same set of data, as often happens in the hand-off between departments.

Second, when data is stored in the cloud, it becomes accessible from anywhere in the world. While this sounds obvious and trivial, a lot of CRE processes are still performed with pen and paper, meaning that accessing current or historical data requires physically looking through reports to find it.

Lastly, cloud connectivity is essential to overcome the next hurdle – connecting disparate data streams and layering analytics to provide performance reports.

Connecting Disparate Data Streams

Real-time, cloud-accessible data is a big step forward. But it does not address the issue of data silos. To solve this issue, it is crucial that different systems can “talk” to each other and share data.

At Enertiv, sharing data is handled with an Application Programming Interface (API). Although it may sound complicated, it is a very common protocol for data sharing and enables automatic combinations of data across various systems.

APIs allow for disparate data streams to pull relevant data and reports together to discover insights that would have previously been impossible. APIs also provides additional inputs, such as weather data, for improved predictive analytics for operations and maintenance.

While many vendors continue to sell closed systems that are not able to share information, customers are demanding greater collaboration across vendors, and the market is responding.

Cost Effectiveness & Return on Investment

With the value of Big Data and the IoT demonstrated at scale, the next question inevitably points to the cost of the upgrade and the expected return on investment.

In the world of building management, most owners and operators are most familiar with complex building management systems (BMS) that only a few engineers have the technical capabilities to operate and require a significant cost outlay. However, most IoT-based solutions are more cost effective than initially assumed. In fact, implementation is a small fraction of that of a BMS, while still being able to track orders of magnitude more endpoints than previously possible.

Another cost to consider is that of disrupting normal business operations during the installation process. A full power shutdown or major infrastructure changes are unacceptable in most CRE properties.

The EnertivTwo was designed to avoid these issues. Installation of a device module takes about an hour and does not require rewiring or power shutdowns. It is also powered directly from the electrical panel so that no additional infrastructure is necessary.

Enertiv's Operations Performance System covers all of these prerequisites. Schedule a demo today to see how!