May 2016

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Leon WurfelINTERVIEWLeon Wurfel

BUENO Systems Managing Director, Leon Wurfel.

Leon Wurfel has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Young Achiever Award at the biannual ARBS Awards, a nationally recognised collaborative awards initiative endorsed by Australia’s five major HVAC&R and Building Services industry associations.

The awards recognise a range of high-level achievements in the air-conditioning, refrigeration and building services industry.

The Young Achiever Award specifically recognises individuals that demonstrate outstanding achievements in the industry with a focus on future leadership, enterprise, drive and commitment.

“It is a huge honour to be named finalist for this award, it is a testament to the entire BUENO team and what we have achieved since our inception in 2013,” said Wurfel.

BUENO are leaders in data and information driven operational property services, delivering data related and technology driven services based on fault detection, optimisation and business intelligence that simplify our building operations and enhance effectiveness across all building sectors and building information systems.

Big data: How analytics are impacting the HVAC&R world

This year’s buzzword, “big data” comes with the promise of business transformation – from restaurants who want to better know their client preferences, to building owners seeking to minimise operating costs. Sean McGowan gets the low-down on what big data means for our industry as he sits down with Leon Wurfel.

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Big data is regularly described as a fast-flowing river of unstructured data and information. What is your definition of the term?

Wurfel:  Big data is a relative term. If you imagine a data tap and data sink, then big data is whenever historically, the data tap has been on but there has been no plug in the sink. Whatever data has been going down the drain in our industries is because it has been too hard to extract value from it – due to silo-ing or ability to process. That is big data. It’s relative because big data in the technology space is really orders of magnitude bigger than what we typically talk about in buildings. So the big part is relative for sure, but the framework is the same no matter what.

Touching on all the hype around the subject, does big data represent a revolution or an evolution?

Wurfel:  Big data is both an evolution and a revolution. The thing is the term is getting thrown around as the holy grail of business solutions just like cloud computing was five years ago, and M2M was before that. In reality, big data is a tool, and it’s going to be incorporated into “business as usual” for most businesses. The people that don’t figure out how to make it work for their businesses are going to be playing catch-up when everyone else turns it into a competitive advantage.

From an HVAC perspective, what can big data reveal that we don’t already know?

Wurfel:  Big data techniques like analytics can be an MRI for your building. If done well, they can tell you every single issue with the operation of your building. The hard part is then having the domain experts that are familiar with analytics who can provide the pathway to actually doing something with all this information. This is a key part of the equation that is missed by most big data and analytics companies. Providing the tech is only half of the solution – the MRI is no good without the prescription. Analytics need to be supported with talented domain expertise to get the value and the outcomes for the clients, owners and FMs. If you give someone technology, you’ve added to their to-do list. But if you give them technology and services you take things off their to-do list, and probably get a better outcome.

What is the business case for big data, particularly in HVAC? Do the rewards outweigh the costs?

Wurfel:  If executed well the rewards will definitely outweigh the costs. The “general business case” takes into account improved energy efficiency, improved maintenance efficiency through automated maintenance tasking and reductions in repair and maintenance costs over time – after an initial spike to fix all the important latent issues. There is also the benefit of improved tenant comfort. But then there can be project-specific drivers for an application of analytics, like getting the best value out of a DLP (defects liability period) or some specific operational issue with a building.

What are some of the challenges around the integration of big data analytics in the HVAC field?

Wurfel:  For BUENO, we have solved a lot of the technical problems around integration, curating the data and doing something meaningful with it. But the real issues are around stakeholder education and engagement in operation. Some people we talk to just get it immediately, but with others it doesn’t matter how many hours you spend explaining it or showing them examples, they just don’t understand what they’re missing by not using their data better. Then whenever we get started with a site, an interesting dynamic plays out where the FMs might think that we’re there to make them look bad, or the controls contractor feels like we are there to take their work. We haven’t figured out the magic ingredient to get things up and running from day one without this feeling-out period.

contemporary How will access to external data sources influence the future of HVAC design and analytics? Will it force the industry to be more outward looking?

Wurfel:  The first frontier is just for businesses to access their own data first. There are so many areas where the data tap is on and it’s all just going down the drain. Once that is set up then we can start using the data to close loops in design where specifications are rarely field tested, or in operation where blind benchmarking could be used to understand where the broader issues are with sites relative to the rest of the market.

How should readers prepare for the big data revolution?

Wurfel:  Recognise that while it doesn’t happen often to the property industry, a real paradigm shift or disruption is coming. A lot of manual hours are going to be replaced with automation. This mean that the quality of people’s lives will improve because they can just worry about solving problems (fun stuff) rather than looking for them in the first place (dumb stuff). However, for business models that rely on labour hire to do the dumb stuff, this is going to be a challenge. These businesses will need to find a way to evolve to start delivering on quality rather than just selling dumb hours.


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