Building performance measurements and what do you do with them

Most modern buildings today have elaborate building management systems, which help them keep track of the various building performance parameters such as – equipment on/off, equipment usage, energy consumption, water use, thermal comfort etc. This would be sufficient to tell us how each equipment and system is performing and raise any red flags when things are not per plan.

There are also some external platforms such as the LEED Arc platform that buildings could use to track and benchmark their performance with respect to energy, water, waste, human experience and transportation. In the U.S., there are also separate specialized programs such as the EPA Energy star that will help you benchmark your building’s energy performance with similar buildings and provide an energy score/rating for your building. There are similar such programs in many countries that help you benchmark your building’s performance with similar buildings on various sustainability parameters and ascertain where your building stands.

The key issue is not the availability of such platforms and programs that will help you to monitor, benchmark and compare your building’s performance with similar buildings. The key issue is what do you do after this monitoring and benchmarking?

Many buildings unfortunately stop at this, since they don’t know what next to do. They continue to keep records of years of data on energy consumption, water use, waste generated and recycled, even indoor air quality parameters in the files with very little action taken or improvements done. This is primarily because they don’t know what to do next.

This is where, we as an industry need to focus on developing the knowledge and expertise that can analyse these tons of data and help each building derive actionable initiatives and interventions that can help these buildings minimize their maintenance, repair, retrofit and replacements costs in the future. Unfortunately, this job today can only be done by human experts and no building management system or software or computer programs can yet do them.

So what we need essentially is experienced engineers and technical organizations that have the expertise to walk into these buildings, audit their HVAC, electrical, plumbing and other systems, take measurements and readings to understand how these systems are operating and performing. They need to have the knowledge and expertise to look at the tons of building data that these software’s and platforms are recording - analyse them, ascertain patterns and identify measures that need to be implemented to improve their functionality and the performance of the building and systems. This is the real deal! Buildings that are going to be able to do this are soon going to realize that they are spending much less in operating, maintenance and replacements costs compared to their peers and ultimately are going to be have a huge advantage in terms of not just increasing profitability but also in terms of client satisfaction and retention.

So, who are these experienced people and technical organizations that can help buildings achieve this? While conventional energy auditors and building auditors have been doing this for years now, that knowledge and expertise alone is not enough. We need more versatile firms that have both design and consulting experience in engineering systems and field experience in testing, building measurement and verification that can enable them to walk into these buildings and analyse their performance. These firms must also have a strong retro-commissioning background and capabilities to help building owners identify retrofits and enhancements that need to be done to improve building performance.