August 2011

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“Would you run your business without financial analysis tools?”

Analytics do not have to be complicated to deliver valuable, actionable results that save facility operators real dollars.

 John Petze

John Petze, C.E.M.,


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Would you, could you, operate a successful business without the ability to track revenue against costs, performance of business units, productivity of salespeople, return on investment of new initiatives? Would you manufacture a product without looking at the costs of its components and opportunities to reduce those costs?

It pretty clear none of us would do that if we wanted to stay employed and have a successful business. Yet in many cases these fundamental techniques are not effectively used to manage the costs associated with the operation of our facilities.

Buildings consume 30% of the total world energy consumption and we routinely accept their energy costs without knowing where those costs go and whether they could be reduced.

In essence it all comes down to the question “Do you actually know how your systems operate?”

With the huge volume of data that modern building automation systems and equipment systems produce we “should” know everything about the operation of our facilities. Interestingly, however, too much data looks surprisingly like no data at all. If I can’t find essential information then I might as well not have it.

This isn’t a new problem for business, however. Financial managers long ago learned the necessity of using software to assist in managing and analyzing the vast quantities of data produced by business operations. Business intelligence and analytics software automatically identifies important trends, issues and potential problems, bringing them to the attention of busy managers who can then take necessary action.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Today, specialized analytics tools are being applied to analyze the operation of equipment systems, energy consumption and costs, and facility operations activities as a whole. The result is the ability to move to data driven management of our building equipment systems and physical assets. 

Where does analytics fit in delivering tangible business value to an organization?

An example in energy management – Automatically identifying deviation from baseline energy consumption
Establishing a desired baseline or target for energy consumption is a key part of most energy efficiency projects, whether it is a lighting retrofit or replacement of HVAC equipment. We expect the project to result in a new lower energy consumption profile for the facility. This target is typically expressed as a design baseline. An important part of verifying the results of such a project is to track actual performance against this baseline. This can be done manually, but what if you had the ability to automatically compare energy consumption after the project against that desired operating baseline and be informed of all of the periods of time when electrical demand (or consumption) went above the baseline by more than 3% (or any amount of your choosing).

An analytics system can do this for you. It will find periods of time that deviate from desired operation and automatically inform you of the issue, delivering a clear, understandable display showing just when and where deviations have been found. No hunting for data – the system can tell you that the condition has been found. A simple mouse click takes you to a detailed view of the issue, the time of occurrence, the duration and which sites or meters were found to be deviating from the desired baseline, and, the actual cost of those deviations.  Electricity Screenshot

Example of Equipment Operation: How frequently and how long do buildings run in emergency override?
Exceptions happen. Building systems need to be put into emergency override mode for a variety of reasons. But how long do they stay overridden and how much does it cost?

The Solution – A rule or algorithm can automatically track the number of hours that sites are in override mode. A report then provides managers with a clear view of the number of hours of override operation by site and across the portfolio. The impact can be significant.

The Result – Actionable information that can be used to drive reductions in energy costs.

Lighting Screenshot 

These are two simple but real examples, which brings out another key point – analytics do not have to be complicated to deliver valuable, actionable results that save facility operators real dollars.

As they say, information is power. In facility management actionable information produced by a new generation of analytic software is the key to lower energy and operating costs and better building performance.

About the Author

John Petze, C.E.M., is a partner in SkyFoundry, the developers of SkySpark™, an analytics platform for building, energy and equipment data. John has over 25 years of experience in building automation, energy management and M2M, having served in senior level positions for manufacturers of hardware and software products including Andover Controls, Tridium, and Cisco Systems. At SkyFoundry he rejoins Brian Frank, co-founder and chief architect of Tridium’s Niagara Framework, as they look to bring the next generation of information analytics to the “Internet of Things”.


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