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Why Data is So Important for Sustainable Buildings to Thrive

By Bright Power
sustainable buildings

It’s no secret that buildings produce a massive amount of carbon emissions. In 2018, commercial and residential buildings accounted for approximately 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. While this issue persists, it’s important to take action and identify ways we can achieve carbon neutrality to mitigate building-related carbon emissions. In fact, over 70 cities across the world have accepted the challenge to become completely carbon neutral by 2050.

For sustainable buildings, compliance and data go hand-in-hand

To comply with local laws in states and municipalities across the United States, real estate developers, owners, and property managers are adopting practices that keep in line with this trend. It’s imperative to keep building operations efficient while implementing cost-effective, yet impactful upgrades that reduce building emissions. With real-time energy management, managing a property and achieving sustainability goals doesn’t have to be so overwhelming.

Through the use of an ongoing energy management service, operations and maintenance staff can leverage data to identify opportunities that can reduce energy waste and maximize the performance of each piece of equipment. Many successful building operators of newly constructed and older buildings depend on the use of state-of-the-art data analysis and expert technical support to turn that data into action. Without this, building operators may simply waste time and money on equipment that doesn’t run properly. An ongoing, real-time energy management service can help buildings meet their sustainability goals by:

Three keys for optimizing the performance of sustainable buildings

Optimizing All Equipment. To ensure optimal equipment efficiency, it’s important to know a building’s equipment schedule. Fans, valves, and compressors could be operating 24/7, even when a building is closed, or the space is not in use. It’s important for building managers to re-program and evaluate equipment based on the goals of the spaces they serve. Not only does unnecessarily running equipment waste energy, but it also decreases the life of the equipment – leading to more money spent in the long-run.

The good news is that equipment optimization is easy to do when the systems are connected to a building management system (BMS) and an expert is analyzing the data in real time. For example, if an office space is closed from 10 pm to 7 am, it would be wise to create a schedule on the BMS that would shut off air handler units during those hours. An expert would then monitor the data after the change to ensure the new schedule had the desired effect.

Strengthening Building Performance. To increase the overall performance of a building and achieve peak efficiency, we must understand each building’s specific needs. Instead of overriding equipment into manual operations at the first sight of a miniscule problem or a complaint, a plan should be implemented by the operations team. Having a plan in place, especially if there is site team turnover or new equipment that requires training to operate, is crucial to ensuring effective systems-level operation.

And when an urgent issue does arise, the plan will provide clear instructions on how to respond, allowing the building operator to quickly solve the problem with confidence, or know whom to contact from their energy management team for guidance. This type of plan can be created with guidance from an energy management professional who understands the goals of the building, the needs of its occupants, and the sustainability goals of the building owner.

Streamlining Operations. When it comes to implementing a BMS to enable more effective real-time energy management, it’s important for all staff members to be trained quickly and effectively for optimal efficiency. After all, a piece of equipment is only effective if you know how to properly use it! Training could include shedding light on how to holistically navigate the system, how to change set points and manage schedules, the importance of moving away from changing set points locally on each piece of equipment to changing set points in the BMS, and explaining how each of the systems interact.

Perhaps the most essential piece of training is to explain why. By articulating the impact on cost, equipment function, and ease of management for the team, the message will mean more than instructions in a manual. The team will understand the influence of their actions and how they affect the entire building and its occupants.

With the increase of emerging laws and regulations, we’re seeing more of a global commitment to achieve carbon neutrality. In order to do so, we must take the necessary steps to keep our buildings sustainable. Real-time energy management has a myriad of benefits, allowing a building to ensure optimal systems performance, reduce operating costs, and improve occupant comfort – all while making the world a better place!

Written by Samantha Pearce, Director of Energy Management Services at Bright Power and Kevin Connolly, Energy Engineer at Bright Power.

Image credit: Scott Webb/Pexels

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Bright Power's mission is threefold: increase the performance and value of buildings; improve the comfort, health, and productivity of occupants; and eliminate negative impacts on the planet.

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