Building Analytics ROI | BuildingFit

ROI on Building Analytics — Part 2




Facility management teams really start to pay attention once building analytics and KPIs that focus on maintaining and improving comfort are deployed. Counterintuitive as it may seem (especially from an energy efficiency engineer’s perspective), energy savings are not a large driving factor in facility management (FM), but cold calls are.  They’re a significant pain point.  Building analytics that allow FM teams to solve problems in their buildings that lead to cold calls make their lives easier.  It also allows FM teams to start being proactive in terms of how they address cold calls, instead of reactive.  Reactive maintenance usually involves responding to complaints from unhappy tenants.

Pinning down the return on investment associated with maintaining higher levels of comfort, reducing cold calls, and generally increasing occupant satisfaction, is not easy – mainly because the benefits are not direct, like energy savings, rather they are indirect, things like better lease renewals rates, higher patient satisfaction scores in hospitals, or increases is productivity.

Losing a tenant can be expensive and just downright painful. What are the costs exactly? – using a  20,000 sf space in a 200,000 sf building as an example.  At $30/sf, lost rent alone is significant at $50,000 month. Realtor fees to find that new tenant let’s say 6% of the total lease value – so if it’s a 3 year deal that’s a $108,000 fee.  Vacant space can also negatively impact the overall property value. Clearly as a building owner anything that can be done to keep a tenant happy, and profitable, aligns with their best interests.  The cost of a building analytics deployment on a property of that size, is about $40,000-$60,000.  Costs from not keeping tenants happy and not keeping spaces leased can quickly escalate, dwarfing the cost of building analytics.

A major revenue driver in healthcare is patient satisfaction scores.  Higher patient satisfaction scores result in higher reimbursement payments (more revenue) not to mention a better reputation.  There’s a lot more to the patient satisfaction scores than patient comfort, things like quality of care, cleanliness, and responsiveness.  Since Medicare and Medicaid account for roughly 1/3 of a hospital’s annual revenue, anything that can be done to drive higher patient satisfaction scores leads to increased revenues and really drives a quick return on investment in building analytics.

Keeping tenants (employees) happy and productive, can really help drive business results.  The 3-30-300 rule, $3/sf for utilities, $30/sf for rent, and $300/sf for payroll, illustrates this best.  Let’s look at what we get from a 1% improvement in the 200,000 sf building we were talking about before.  Some quick math gets us to 1% reduction in utilities = $6,000/year, 1% lower rent cost = $60,000/year, but a 1% improvement in productivity can yield a $600,000/year benefit.  Clearly if you believe that comfort = improvements in productivity, then the investment in building analytics will have a fast payback.

The challenge is that the major benefits from improving comfort in buildings, longer leases, higher patient satisfaction scores, and increases in employee productivity are not directly measurable. While tracking cold calls and closely monitoring comfort related key performance indicators is easily achievable, correlating improvements that directly have a positive impact on the bottom line is difficult.  One could argue the benefits are real but the leap is, is it really driving value for your organization? Given the amount of value it could be driving – it’s probably worth the risk.

Building Analytics ROI | BuildingFit

ROI on Building Analytics — Part 1

What’s and expected Return on Investment from Building Analytics or a Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) Deployment?

For those of you who are new to the industry, here’s a quick summary of what exactly I mean by building analytics or FDD.  First off, consider the two terms, buildings analytics and FDD, to essentially be the same, so I’m going to stick with building analytics going forward.

Modern commercial buildings contain a number of complex systems, things like lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), security, vertical transport (elevators), and fire alarm.  And this is just for your typical office building.  Hospitals, laboratories, manufacturing, and industrial facilities will have even more systems than that.  Each of these systems has the capability to create an enormous amount of data describing how the building is running.  If used, or even stored, this data is very valuable for many of us in the building industry. Unfortunately, in most cases, the data is not created, meaning it’s not captured, recorded, stored and analyzed.

This is where building analytics come in.  Building analytics have at least 3 components:  data connection, analytics engine, visualization layer.    The data connection, or data pipe as I like to call it, is really two pieces.  A connection to the building from the outside world that navigates through the building’s firewall. The second piece is the connector that connects the building analytics database to the building system.  Once the data pipe is connected and data is flowing, we can start driving value from the information.

This happens in the analytics engine.  The analytics engine includes a database that stores time series data that describe how a building and its components are running through the day, week, month and year (s).  Just having access to this data is valuable, but the analytics engine takes it step further by continuously applying a set of rules to the data, looking for problems with system operation or opportunities to improve performance.

The analytics engine is going to do a very thorough job of data analysis and will provide a long list of items that someone is going to need to address.  This is where the visualization layer comes in.  The visualization layer takes the results from the analytics engine and brings it forward in a way that helps engineers, energy managers, facility managers, directors, and the C-suite take advantage of the data.  This will usually include key performance indicators, tailored to specific user needs as well as prioritization tools to help end users find what’s important to them.  From here, the end user takes action and drives the ROI.

ROI from a building analytics deployment comes from three major areas:  Energy, Comfort, and Maintenance.


Energy efficiency is the first place most people look to drive value from building analytics and it makes sense.  Energy efficiency improvement are quantifiable, many times by the analytics engine itself, and the savings can be verified easier than ever before though utility bill automation or direct measurement of meters or key data points.

A typical energy efficiency ROI from a building analytics deployment ranges from immediate to 3 years.  Here are a few examples of what is typically uncovered:

  • Scheduling:  Its always amazing how often a building’s HVAC schedule is not adjusted or maintained to match occupancy.  Mainly because it’s really “invisible” and can be easily forgotten about.  Scheduling does take some up-front work to really figure out the operating schedules in a building, but once you have that upfront work done, building analytics can really help maintain that schedule.  This is a great place to start and a real low cost opportunity to save some energy and money.
  • Setpoint adjustments:  Less obvious than scheduling, usually for this you’ll need an experienced consultant to advise you on how to adjust the setpoints so that savings persist and you don’t end up with unhappy tenants and reverting back.  These setpoint range from space temperature setpoints – making sure that there’s enough “space” between heating and cooling setpoints, reducing airflow at night when buildings are not occupied, to air handling unit temperature setpoints and reset strategies (how buildings change setpoints to react to different indoor and outdoor conditions), to specific control setpoints in in your chilled water and hot water plants.  Often, we find key set points at the plant level overridden to band aid issues at the space level, overrides get forgotten and end up causing huge inefficiencies throughout the building.  Buildings analytics can both help you identify where there are opportunities to adjust setpoints, and after you do analytics will help you maintain the setpoint adjustments.
  • Minimizing simultaneous heating and cooling:  As counterintuitive as it may seem, most buildings are designed to take warm air (for example from your office area), filter it, cool it down, and then heat it back up.  This is the phenomena known as simultaneous heating and cooling.  There are a number of reasons why this occurs and even more strategies to minimize it.  Building analytics will help you identify when its occurring but to really solve the issue you’ll likely need to adjust the control strategies in your building which will involve consultants and control contractors.  The good news is the savings are typically significant.
  • Control sequence optimization:  I hit on one target above, minimizing simultaneous heating and cooling, but there’s more opportunities out there than just that.  In fact there’s a good chance that from the thermostat to the central plant, there will be new control strategies that will allow your building to more efficiently keeps its occupants happy.  Building analytics constantly reviews how your building is operating and will flag when sequences are not optimized and there’s an opportunity for improvement, but in this scenario just having access to data is enough for an experienced operator or consultant to identify optimization opportunities.
  • Minor capital projects:  These projects vary greatly, from installing occupancy or CO2 sensors and taking your scheduling work to the next level and implementing a sensor-based scheduling program.  From experience its amazing to see how underutilized most buildings really are when they are “occupied”.  The other end of the spectrum could be something like installing the hardware required to install deep chilled water plants analytics in your central plant allowing you to really understand, optimize, and maintain (we’ll get to that later) one of the largest energy users in a building.

There is a common theme in all of the above points.  Data and building analytics will help identify opportunities and maintain the savings, but they will not drive the value for you.  You will need experienced and engaged facility management staff, who embrace technology and the value it can bring, and consultants that are used to working with data/buildings analytics to identify issues, determine the root cause analysis and implement the solutions.

Bringing IT and OT together with BuildingFit

Bringing IT and OT Together


Most people are familiar with the term Information Technology (IT).  However, over the past few years we have seen Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) become increasingly intertwined, where in the past, these two technologies were kept separate.

What is Operational Technology?
Operational technology (OT) refers to the hardware and software used to change, monitor, or control physical devices, processes, and events within a company or organization.  The devices this technology refers to typically have more autonomy than information technology devices or programs.

What is Information Technology?
Information technology (IT) refers to anything related to computer technology, including hardware and software. Your email, for example, falls under the IT umbrella. This form of often constitutes the technological backbone of most organizations and companies. These devices and programs have little autonomy and are updated frequently.  Access to IT programs and connected devices are typically less restricted than to OT devices, and many, if not all, employees at a given organization may be granted access.

The main difference between OT and IT devices is that OT devices control the physical world, while IT systems manage data.

Operational & Information Technology Coming Together

From the overview above, IT and OT may not seem compatible. OT systems are isolated and self-contained, designed to run autonomously, and rely on proprietary software. On the other hand, IT systems are connected by nature, have little autonomy, and generally run using readily available operating systems.

In recent years, what was known as “traditional OT” has started to change, since the rise of the fourth industrial revolution, also known as “Industry 4.0”. Companies taking part in this change have begun implementing new digital solutions in their networks looking to stay ahead of their competition. These solutions aim to increase automation, add “smart” devices, make data more efficient and available, and interconnect networks for convenience.

As part of the interconnection, and to make OT components more accessible while being able to collect and analyze data about them, IT and OT networks are also becoming interconnected. This movement is referred to as IT-OT Convergence.

Industry experts predict that IT-OT will only continue to converge. This means that OT administrators should do their best to understand the IT environment, and vice versa – the sooner the better. Organizations should begin to align their standards, policies, tools, processes, and staff between the IT and the business to the changing OT systems. The approach to dealing with the organizational changes in response to IT/OT convergence is called IT/OT alignment.

In order to help the industry adopt IT-OT convergence, BuildingFit will be doing a series that will cover several aspects of the movement, including how to deal with cyber security.

Building Energy Efficiency New Technologies

Building Energy Management Methods Advancing with Technology

Some time ago JLL popularized the 3:30:300 rule of thumb for the typical order of magnitude between a company’s utilities, rent, and payroll. That $3 for utilities may look small as an overall component of the cost ratio, however energy managers with a large facility or portfolio of buildings manage multimillion-dollar budgets and will tell you that unexpected volatility and utility spend overrun keeps them up at night. The good news, however, is that with even small investments in technology, building operators are gaining a lot of insight into how their buildings perform day to day and are controlling costs with much more certainty.

For a lot of energy managers, the task of energy management is still very much a reactive process and viewed as a liability for cost overrun. In the old way of doing things, energy managers pay utility bills for each facility, compare last month’s usage to historical to see if it is in line with budget, perhaps run a comparison of monthly usage across the portfolio to identify outliers and locations for improvement, and respond to alarms in the BAS or the seemingly never-ending stream of hot/cold calls.

Luckily, technology is enabling a new way to manage energy in buildings. Energy managers need no longer just wait for the utility bill to take reactive action. From enhanced utility bill and real-time interval data analysis, through to the use of on-site generation and demand management strategies to reduce energy spend while enabling new revenue streams, energy managers can mitigate risks that historically were much harder to address.

Unpacking the benefits of the new methods of energy management.

Fundamentally, enhanced energy management strategies enable energy managers to reduce energy spend volatility while uncovering high ROI opportunities to reduce overall opex—with the secondary benefits of driving environmental benefits and employee satisfaction.

Since there is a lot to review here, we’ll cover the extent of the new way of managing energy over the course of two posts.

Conduct a continuous Ashrae Level 1 audit with utility bills and interval meter data. 

If we talk about energy management as a journey let’s start with the base case—automated collection of utility billing information and access to real-time interval meter data.

Ashrae level 1 audits can be used as a means to level set about a building’s performance and to identify basic energy efficiency opportunities to bring a building up to a “good” performance level. With automated collection and analysis of utility bill information, BuildingFit provides dashboards that can:

  • Review individual building performance—in a single month or compared to past usage
  • Benchmark performance across a portfolio or publicly available information for an entire industry
  • Normalize any of the above for building area, weather, or a custom metric most important to a business (from commonly used factors like weather or revenue, or industry specific metrics like number of hospital beds for healthcare or widgets produced in manufacturing).

Going a step further towards displaying actionable information, interval meter data provides a real-time view of building (or sub-meter if available) level consumption and historical trends over time.

Energy managers can display interval data in a number of ways for different purposes – from monitoring hourly consumption trends with daily overlay curves to better managing peak demand with load duration curves.

With daily overaly charts specifically, we overlay each day’s interval demand on a 24 hour x-axis. These charts can reveal high return on investment changes (ie scheduling and sequence rewriting) that can lead to reduced demand and consumption charges as well as extend equipment life. The below chart shows an example of all three:

Even a quick glance demonstrates a faulty startup sequence likely stressing equipment and causing 30% excess demand charges, which in many markets could mean 10% savings on electric bills if mitigated.

Utility bill and interval meter data analysis represent the lowest hanging fruit and a valuable first step for energy managers to level set the performance of their buildings. In our next post we’ll go further down the line of optimization to evaluate emerging opportunities from the intersection of on-site generation and demand-side management.

BuildingFit Constructor

Introducing Constructor—BuildingFit’s Newest SkySpark Application



Point. Click. Build


BuildingFit would like to announce our new SkySpark app, Constructor.  The Constructor application is designed to automate the project build process — driving site build times down by roughly 70% while increasing accuracy dramatically, all without the need for axon or fantom programming expertise. Click here for more information.

BuildingFit Constructor Dashboard


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