Why real data on real buildings makes the case to get efficiency retrofits going fast

With the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris over, attention turns to action. Let's start with two facts:

First, commercial buildings and industrial facilities emit 45% of all greenhouse gases. Second, thirty percent of energy they consume is wasted.

According US Department of Energy Better Buildings Program, if the energy efficiency of this group improved by 10 percent, then collected savings would be $40 billion. A staggeringly large opportunity for building owners and property managers, as well as energy service providers.

Legacy approaches fail to get more efficiency projects started

The most common is a field visit to “scout” the building. Known as an energy audit, this process is expensive and time consuming. Even the task of scheduling the visit is a nuisance. Inspection may need to take place after business hours. Next, an engineer evaluates the building for efficiency improvement potential. A report is written, typically aligned to an ASHRAE Level I or II standard.

This process is repeated again, and again, across multiple buildings in a portfolio. Yuck.

Anecdotally, up to 90 percent of audits fail to become approved projects. Double yuck.

An alternative, less-common approach is the so-called remote energy audit. Several software vendors offer this service. Model-based output is rendered using utility bill data. This yields "likely culprit" answers to target retrofits for savings. But this doesn't incorporate key attributes like building type, square footage, location, and other details such as weather normalization. Utility meter or bill data does not contain this information.

So the building owner, property manager, energy services leader or sustainability professional knows nothing about what the real building is drawing from the meter. This injects uncertainty into analysis. For example, presence of a data center inside an office building will skew remote audit results significantly.

As a result, remote output analysis lacks critical context, even validity. Metrics like energy use intensity and cost per square foot, as well as improvement suggestions, lack credibility.

Recommendations can’t withstand scrutiny from decision-makers. Either results are difficult to interpret accurately, or viewed skeptically because they are not specific to the building. I along with others at my company, Building Energy, hear these objections frequently.

Holistic approach delivers believable results

Unlike other approaches, Building Energy normalizes data using building attributes like property details, equipment information and many, many others. More than 2,000 fields in all. Meter data of all kinds - utility, natural gas, water, and sewer, as well as sub-meter reads, gets accurately mapped to actual buildings - automatically.

Benefits are significant.

For the first time, any building can be benchmarked against a peer group of real buildings based on real data. Peer group can be configured using standardized criteria like building type, usage, size, or geography in order to produce a relevant performance benchmark.

Perhaps more significant is believability. Although based on large-scale data, benchmark results are easy to understand. Business and financial decision-makers are able to make rapid, informed decisions. And expensive and time-consuming energy audits across every building in a portfolio become obsolete. So does remote “black box” analytics.

For more information on the value of Building Energy data transformation, I encourage you to read Why disorderly data slows energy efficiency projects in commercial buildings

Now meaningful analysis can catalyze quick action. So more efficiency projects that save money can get done faster.

Interested in starting a conversation? Contact me at chris.preston@buildingenergy.com.

About Building Energy Inc.

Building Energy Inc. is a technology company that combines cleantech, fintech, and information technology to transform the way building owners and service providers generate successful energy and water efficiency projects. Building Energy’s cloud-based software is used to design, implement, and finance energy and resource projects by building owners and managers, energy management companies, and sustainability professionals.