Energy Dashboards: Criteria for Selection for Facility Managers

By Angela Lewis  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Energy Benchmarking Software Tools Help Reduce Energy UsePt. 2: This PagePt. 3: Energy Analytics Crunch Large Amounts of Data to Help Reduce Energy Costs

The use of dashboards in facility management is not new. However, the number of ways data can be collected and displayed is increasing. Energy dashboards can display a wide range of information, including whole building energy consumption, energy consumption per subsystem, energy cost, and various metrics, such as kilowatts of electricity consumption per square foot. Often the data is displayed using line, bar and pie charts. Maps, weather data, and metrics that translate energy saved or consumption into units that the general public can relate to can also be displayed. Some examples used on actual dashboards that the general public can relate to include number of miles driven, the number of light bulbs of a specific wattage and the energy within a given quantity of hamburgers.

It is important that dashboards be developed to meet the needs of the user. The metrics and graphics selected must align with the type of decisions users need to make and their level of comfort with various types of graphs. To determine what should be displayed for different user groups, determine what decisions each user group wants to make using the dashboard and what time intervals the information must be viewed to support effective decision making. As the data are displayed in real-time, dashboards can include a combination of operating parameters, historical trends and performance data that compares current operating conditions to historical performance. These comparisons allow dashboards to help users make decisions quickly and support continuous commissioning efforts.

Interoperability of dashboards is also important. Although it may be possible to have a separate dashboard for energy, work orders, and other facility management functions, having too many dashboards on different screens can be overwhelming. Instead, determine how multiple software products can be used together with a single software front end. To integrate multiple software products successfully, it may be necessary to use a middleware platform to normalize and standardize the data.

It is important to remember that dashboards do not make decisions — people do. A dashboard is only one tool, or in some cases, an integrated set of tools. When determining what graphs and graphics should look like, it is important to remember that just because multiple parameters, data sets or trend lines can be shown on one graph does not mean that this is the best way to convey information. In some cases, simple graphs can be the most effective.

Before You Buy

Although the tool selected is important, the processes that drive the use of the tool are perhaps even more important. A large part of this process is determining what data to collect and what metrics will most effectively support decision-making. Start by identifying about five metrics and collecting the data needed to quantify those metrics. If the facility team seeks to collect too much data or identify too many metrics too early, it there is a risk of being overwhelmed with the amount of data.

The goal is to transition to using the metrics as part of day-to-day decision making. For example, a college campus laboratory building was used as a pilot to test an energy dashboard with five metrics: whole building energy consumption (BTU/SF/year); energy consumption per source, electricity (kW/SF) and natural gas (BTU/SF); overall building cooling (kW/ton), limited to chillers only; overall ventilation (CFM); and peak electrical demand (kW). After the dashboard was successfully implemented in one building, it was deployed to several other buildings on the campus.

To determine what metrics to select, identify the most frequent or largest decisions that are made. When considering energy consumption, metrics that compare total building energy consumption at the whole building level can be very helpful for a campus with multiple buildings to determine which buildings is the most energy intensive. However, to determine how to reduce the energy consumption, more detailed information is needed, such as energy consumption of lighting and cooling per square foot. Metrics that quantify energy costs are also important. Regardless of the metrics selected, it is important that meters with the appropriate level of accuracy are installed and that meters are properly calibrated.

— Angela Lewis

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  posted on 5/11/2012   Article Use Policy

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