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Considering Analytics? Start By Assessing Your Data Maturity Level
Author: John Petze, SkyFoundry

It's clear that the ability to effectively utilize the data from building systems presents the next opportunity to drive efficiency and value for facility owners. Commonly referred to as "analytics," successful results have been demonstrated across literally thousands of buildings consisting of hundreds of millions of square feet. Owners that adopt analytics would never turn back the clock -- a common message being, "I would never consider operating my portfolio without these tools again."

Operational analytics have demonstrated great results, but many owners and operators have still not embarked on the "journey" to take advantage of these tools. That word – journey – may be one of the reasons.

Applying analytics to building systems is not like simply buying new equipment with lower energy consumption. It's not possible to calculate the exact savings that will result from analytics, and perhaps even more important, it's not an "install it and forget it" solution. Analytics are a tool – one that enables us to see how our building systems are really performing – not how we hope or think they operate, but what they are actually doing. Analytics look at operational data to identify faults and deviations from expected performance, as well as other anomalies, all of which represent opportunities for energy and operational savings and greater occupant satisfaction.

Action Required
Analytics turn operational data into actionable information, but we as operators still need to act on that information. If analytics detect equipment operating outside of occupancy, or heating and cooling simultaneously, someone still needs to react to correct the issue. There's no "magic" to eliminate the need for human interaction.

It Starts With Data
Analytics act as an ever-present expert watching the operation of equipment systems, detecting failed sensors, improper control sequences, equipment overrides, declining performance – there's a near endless list of "bad things" that happen in buildings. It's impossible for humans to effectively monitor all of these systems without the aid of analytics technology.

In order to take advantage of the compelling benefits of analytics, we need access to data. The availability of data has a direct affect on the types of analytics that can be accomplished and the resulting benefits. In our experience, we see customers fall along a wide spectrum in their ability to access data. Some have virtually no available data, while others have easy access to live data from building automation and other equipment systems.

The good news is that you can get significant value from even a very limited amount of data. You don't need live, real time access to every sensor and system in your building to take advantage of analytics. In fact, many successful projects start by simply importing interval meter energy data in a CSV (comma separated variable) format. With just this minimal data building owners can identify:

- Buildings starting too early
- Buildings running too late
- Buildings that operate continuously (schedules overridden)
- Demand peaks that occur outside of occupied times
- Peak load, annual & monthly and short load durations

Could this be done manually? Yes, but the reality is that companies just don't have the resources to manually analyze all of this data. With analytics, there's no need to manually hunt through the data -- the software automatically finds issues and directly informs operators with all of the details.

All Data is Not Created Equal
Some data is harder to get than others. Some has greater value than others. When looking to get started with analytics, it makes sense to drive the greatest value with the lowest investment. So how can you get the most value? Start with easily available data.

Assess Your Available Data
Most buildings have a range of equipment systems which can be sources of data – building automation systems and meters for electricity, gas, and water can be good sources of data, but the work required to access the data can vary considerably. So the first step is to find out what data you have, where it is, how to connect to it, what format it is in, and how well it is documented. If you have thorough data on HVAC equipment operation (fan status, temperatures, set points, etc.), analytics can identify issues such as simultaneous heating and cooling, economizers open when they shouldn't be, short cycling, lack of adequate temperature drop across coils, broken sensors, etc.

Consider an Incremental Approach that Drives Value at Every Step
Unlike the installation of major capital equipment, you can start with a very limited amount data, get results that quickly drive operational savings, and then go deeper, driving financial results at every step.

Does It Have to be Live Data?
Another common misconception is that you can't derive value from data unless it's live – continuously updating in real time. This simply isn't true. Live data is great, but by no means essential to get started with analytics. You can get tremendous value using analytics on a snapshot of historical data. And, one of the benefits of starting with historical data is that you can avoid the costs and delays associated with IT approval for network access to live systems. A great example of what you can do with snapshot data is an initial portfolio assessment to identify best and worst performing buildings and the characteristics of your energy use – finding those buildings where schedules have been overridden, for example. But you can also do deep equipment analytics with only historical equipment data.

Assessing Your Data Capability
The process of assessing your data capability starts with a few essential questions:
  • What data do you have available?
  • Where is that data located?
  • How will you connect to that data to bring it in to an analytics application?
  • Is there documentation that describes the data and naming conventions?
  • Do you have modern building automation and equipment systems that support an industry standard, open protocol?
  • Do you have security policies that will affect the ability to access data from these systems?
Determining Where You Stand
Using a Capability Maturity Model approach can be an effective way to assess where you stand with data. It’s a great, low/no cost first step in the analytics journey.

Level O: No data available in electronic format. If you find yourself at this level, look at implementing meters to measure energy consumption and demand. Be sure to look for products that will provide the data in an open, standard format.

Level 1: Access to only interval meter data in CSV (or similar) file format. As we’ve discussed that there is a lot of value that can be derived from this limited type of data even without a live connection.

Level 2: Live Interval Meter Data. This might be provided via utility installed meters, a utility web site, or by meters connected to a BAS.

Note: Both Level 1 and 2 will give you what you need to assess where you stand with energy performance and your energy use profile throughout the day. These are essential steps in understanding your facility operation, comparative efficiency and opportunities for further investigation.

Level 3: Live Data from Equipment Systems. While energy-only data is a great place to start, access to equipment data takes us much farther into the benefits of analytics. With access to equipment data (sensors, control points, schedules, etc.), more sophisticated rules can look for faults and operational issues.

Level 4: Integration with BAS and Enterprise CMMS Systems. Beyond finding issues, analytics can help drive resolution by automatically generating work orders in a Computerized Maintenance Management System. While not all analytic findings can be directly connected with specific response actions, many can, and this level of integration further helps streamline facilities management to reduce costs.

Analytics is about finding out how your buildings actually perform. It’s an exploratory process and all great explorations begin with a single step. Your move into operational analytics is no different. It’s easier than you might think to get started. You just need to take that first step.

John Petze, C.E.M., is a partner at SkyFoundry, the developers of SkySpark®, analytics for building, energy and equipment data. John has over 30 years of experience in building automation, energy management and the Internet of Things, having served in senior positions for manufacturers of hardware and software products including: President & CEO of Tridium, VP Product Development for Andover Controls, and Global Director of Sales for Cisco Systems Smart and Connected Buildings group. At SkyFoundry he helps owners take advantage of advanced operational analytics to create truly intelligent buildings.

Additional information on SkyFoundry’s SkySpark®, including customer success stories, can be found at www.skyfoundry.com.

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Driving Value With Smart Building Analytics

In May 2012, the US General Services Administration (GSA) started the GSA Smart Buildings Analytics project. Today they have 55 buildings around the country receiving data from 26 different types of building automation systems, 8,330 different pieces of equipment and 49,911 sensors through an integrated platform. GSA is using real-time operational data and advanced analytics to save energy and reduce costs while improving building performance and tenant satisfaction. Frank Santella, Assistant Commissioner, and Phil Klokis, Associate CIO, will discuss the GSA business case and explain how facility management and information technology came together to deliver this first-of-a-kind project . IBM and their partner ESI, who were awarded the fulfillment contract, will join GSA to present the solution, milestones, and lessons learned from this innovative project.

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About Our Sponsor: SkyFoundry's SkySpark analytics platform automatically analyzes data from building automation systems, metering systems and other smart devices to identify issues, patterns, deviations, faults and opportunities for operational improvements and cost reduction. SkySpark is an open platform enabling data from a wide range of sources to be continuously analyzed, helping building owners and operators "find what matters" in the vast amount of data produced by their equipment systems.

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