How Data Enables Sustainable Practices

The ability to “think green” continues be an ever-growing part of real estate management. Your occupants want it. Your stakeholders want it. The industry wants it. There is mounting research supporting the cost benefits of sustainable energy use. So how does one move from only “thinking green” to “acting green”?

The answer is in the data.

Progressive real estate managers understand the power of big data in tracking energy use and consumption in commercial buildings, as well as being able to implement and monitor asset and portfolio-level sustainability practices. Without detailed building and infrastructure-level data, monitoring energy performance can be an elusive, cost-prohibitive process. Here are four ways big data can save money so you can invest in more sustainable practices:

Setting the Benchmark

Benchmarking continues to be a vital aspect of energy management, allowing a building manager the ability to compare an asset’s energy performance over time and relative to a larger portfolio or industry standard. Data analytics are vital to the benchmarking process, and as third party rating systems such as BOMA BEST, LEED, Green Globes and GRESB advance the rigor of their certification standards and become must-haves for large owners, organizations without a sound data strategy will face mounting pressure to catch up to meet basic energy information requirements. Those ahead of the curve will be able to react to changing market demands as big data allows for flexibility of end-user reporting and deciding which energy metrics are the most critical to measure.

Detailed, Real-Time Data

Building automation systems (BAS) technology, when combined with big data analytics, provides a significant opportunity to understand component-level operating performance and optimization. Monitoring energy-use continues to be increasingly more detailed, as individual sections of a building or certain infrastructure are now able to provide information at continuous intervals throughout the day. Building automation system data can pinpoint specific weaknesses in a building’s energy use, such as HVAC inefficiencies, occupancy impacts by floor/unit through sub-metering, and total water use.

Capital and Lifecycle Planning

Implementing a major capital program or building retrofit can be a complex, difficult process, especially if you are unclear about the current weaknesses in the operating performance of a building. Having energy use data at the component level greatly reduces the guessing by allowing a greater level of detail in cost-planning and forecasting future energy savings. The ability to combine lifecycle building envelope and building system information with detailed energy usage data enables effective capital planning.  The ability to leverage energy savings opportunities back into capital investment strategies maximizes return on investments.

Sustainability Programs

Portfolio-wide sustainability programs continue to become a popular way to connect building-level operations with metrics on larger organizational key performance indicators. The qualitative nature of building sustainability programs, however, has always made it difficult to maintain and monitor them. Big data allows for more quantitative analysis and deeper detail in conducting energy and sustainability audits—but with significantly less resources and time. This allows organizations to develop customized sustainability programs that will have more impact than generic energy conservation initiatives.

By implementing big data strategies into energy use and sustainability, real estate organizations are able to reduce operating costs and optimize the performance of their buildings and portfolios. Sustainability, accordingly, becomes something with measurable fiscal impact.

Photo: Snapographic