29 January 2020

What can data tell you about your building?

As technologies shift to enable increasingly connected buildings and facilities, data is more important than ever before. Cloud data processing offers the opportunity to further improve the efficiency and quality of traditional building performance services. But what does data tell us about a building, and crucially, how can you get the most value from it?

What kind of data are we talking about?

Firstly, let’s establish the types of data that can be found in buildings.

  • The most common type is operational data from the building management system (BMS), that relates to the equipment, such as temperatures, commands, status etc.
  • Data about technical equipment, such as data sheets, plans, maintenance data and so on;
  • Security and safety data;
  • User data, for example meeting room occupancy, production, hotel bedroom usage, car parking spaces and many more.

Okay, you’ve got the data. Now what?

We’ve established that it’s possible to collect many different types of data from a building, but what is it useful for? There is no point in gathering data unless it is valuable to the customer. And because you cannot compare buildings as no two buildings are exactly the same, scalability is a real challenge. To show how data brings more value to energy and asset performance services, uses cases are invaluable.

Use cases

  • Enhancing traditional services with analytics

With big data, we can improve the value, the quality and the scalability of existing services. Data collection gives us the information to make traditional services more efficient by processing more data, more quickly. The continual monitoring of everything in a room—rather than just monitoring it on a monthly basis, for example—allows for rules-based analytics to do the work for us. This close monitoring also helps reduce reaction times, by tracking performance and highlighting any issues.

  • Combining data sources to create new services

Interoperability is the ability for different systems to communicate using a standard communication protocol. This open system allows different platforms to communicate and share data. For example, combining the operational data from the BMS with maintenance data from the computer-aided facility management (CAFM), or combining the condition monitoring of a room with the equipment performance.

How can you make the data machine-readable?

Making data interoperable and machine-readable is what makes it valuable. By adding further information to data, we can analyze it and use it more effectively. For example, if a piece of data is collected and only gives the information ‘12’, no conclusions can be drawn, and no action taken. By adding more advanced information, such as a unit (degrees), a location (room), a medium (air), we can understand that there is a room in the building that is 12° and action can be taken. This can be taken further, by adding which equipment is linked to that room, the status of the room and so on. This can be taken a step further still by combining analytics with a customer’s CAFM; meaning work orders can be automatically generated, for example, automatically ordering a spare part.

Making data interoperable and machine-readable is what makes it valuable.

Is building data everything?

In short, no! Data is a tool, not the goal; it is important, but not everything. A qualitative structured data set, as well as a standardized data exchange protocol are required to ensure interoperability and open new doors for innovative building performance services.  But even the most powerful tools in the world cannot provide a qualitative service on their own. Good collaboration between the chosen building performance experts and the FM company is critically important in ensuring optimal building performance.

What should you be looking for in a building performance partner?

Humans remain at the centre
of revolutionizing facility optimization and helping buildings succeed, whether that be the FMs, performance engineers or customers.

With all this talk of digitalization and data, it is easy to forget that we’re dealing with people in buildings, whose behaviour might not always be rational or understood by a machine. Humans remain at the centre of revolutionizing facility optimization and helping buildings succeed, whether that be the FMs, performance engineers or customers.

A good partner will work closely with all parties to ensure that buildings operate smoothly and stay on budget. A strong relationship will get the most out your assets and ultimately improve cost structures and save time, by lowering energy consumption and enabling proactive and smarter maintenance. Good collaboration between all parties and technology is key, as ultimately it is experienced field experts that will get the most out of a building’s assets.

Antoine Vandyck is a predictive maintenance expert, which sees him develop and deliver energy and asset performance services, at Siemens Smart Infrastructure.

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