As the amount of data available to the facility manager continues to increase, it is important that tools to help manage and effectively use this data are evaluated and implemented as standard practice within facility management organizations. As a recent article in Inc. magazine points out, "analytics are becoming a central hub across companies where everything is being measured and each decision is supported by data." Thus, in addition to having analytics tools, it will be equally important for facility management staff to know how to use the tools effectively.
Analytics act as funnels to increase the granularity of the data — as the data becomes more granular, it may become more relevant to different roles within the facility management organization. For example, facility management executives may be most interested in high level metrics, while technicians may be more interested in the energy consumption of a specific system or sub-system.
"The largest benefit of utilizing energy analytics is to benchmark and monitor utility consumption and quantify cost savings that result from understanding how utilities are used," says Sean Delehanty, sustainability manager for BAE Systems. "The resulting benchmarks can also be used to make decisions to positively effect change where necessary."
Delehanty says BAE Systems selected an energy analytics tool largely based on "the ability of the tool to provide a comprehensive span of control, broad visibility about energy efficiency, and most importantly, ease of use by qualified individuals. Our decision was reinforced when we began to realize our significant utility cost savings."
A new category of product entering the market supports benchmarking, dashboards and analytics in existing buildings. These are electrical outlets and light switches that allow data collection down to the receptacle level, opposed to the breaker level. These outlets and switches can replace or plug into the existing outlets and send data across the electrical wire or wirelessly. Although the concept of sending both data and electricity across a single wire is not currently very common in existing commercial buildings, the concept, multiplexing, is used commonly in the utility sector.
Before determining what tool to use, a facility manager should carefully evaluate the needs and goals of the facility management organization. Use the needs and goals to develop a strategic plan that will be used to drive the selection of the type of tool, and eventually the specific tool that will be procured. As is the case with the procurement of other facility management software systems, the selection of benchmarking software, energy dashboards and energy analytics should not be based on flashy software features.
As technology continues to change, it is important to be aware of current trends, including tools and processes. Although it takes time to keep up on the trends, in the long run, the time spent will prevent a facility management organization from using obsolete technologies supported by inefficient processes. And remember, a tool is only as good as the plan and process in place to use it.
Angela Lewis, P.E., LEED AP, is a project professional at Facility Engineering Associates in Fairfax, Va. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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