In Australia, energy efficiency has been in the spotlight for decades, particularly in regard to the operation of buildings, which today account for 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

This means facility managers are facing increasing pressures to reduce the carbon footprint of their buildings and move to a more sustainable operating model. Throw in an ageing infrastructure, reduced budgets and rising energy prices, and it’s clear facility managers are facing challenging times ahead.

Right now, many facility managers have yet to take advantage of big data in a way that can benefit them greatly. Cost effective cloud-based storage and processing power provide increasing opportunities for facility managers to leverage the big data generated by today’s building management systems for the better. Big data analytics offer a genuine opportunity to “change the game” in the way building information is managed and decisions are made. Data can be used to reduce operating and maintenance costs, improve building comfort and save energy. When fully utilised, big data offers facility managers many advantages, including intelligent information about a facility’s operational performance and energy use that can help identify root causes and correct deficiencies in buildings.

The use of big data analytics is crucial to the maintenance and cost efficiency of running a facility. Use of analytics within buildings is growing rapidly in Australia and globally across commercial property portfolios, healthcare networks, tertiary education campuses and a variety of other buildings, mainly because of the energy savings and results it is providing. For buildings that install the right big data analytics tools, it allows them to make informed decisions when it comes to addressing problems and repairing equipment before critical failure.

Right now, problems such as unnecessary equipment operation, suboptimal strategies, faulty equipment or poorly tuned loops are going undiagnosed and in turn create energy wastage and comfort issues. Using data analytics, facility managers can collect and analyse large volumes of building data and turn it into actionable information to target underlying problems, and opportunities for energy savings. This type of management can save up to 20 per cent a year on maintenance and energy costs as big data is leveraged to refine service programs and achieve optimal building performance and cost-effectiveness and can save up to a 35 to 45 per cent reduction in downtime, increasing building efficiency and productivity. By using this new technology, facility managers can proactively identify operational problems such as equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced before critical failure.

Barriers to implementation are minimal, and outweigh the benefits. The practise is also highly scalable, when using cloud-based solutions for implementation. As a result, demand for big data will only increase with many more building operations actively preparing for adoption in the next 12 to 18 months. The most important step when deciding to deploy a data analytics solution is to identify the process that will be used to act on the information. No matter how good the analytics solution, executing the findings is what drives results.

So, with all this in mind, what is the approach facility managers can take to utilise big data to benefit them and ensure energy savings?

  • Identify the deployment method that suits you and your team – customised on-site (flexible, but most expensive), SaaS (lowest cost, but requires you and your team to implement and manage), or MSaaS (low cost, with expert support).
  • Identify the process you, your team and contractors will use to take advantage of the actionable information – the analytics will identify and prioritise the most impactful things you can do, how will your team execute on those findings to drive performance?
  • Periodically check you are moving the dial – as you execute on the findings, are the severity and frequency of issues decreasing?
  • Utilise energy dashboards to allow facility managers to view a buildings performance metrics, manually spot energy usage trends, and gather insights.

With big data analytics, facility managers are in a better position than ever to achieve sustainable building operations. With knowledgeable staff and the right technology, management can make informed decisions that go beyond band-aid maintenance solutions. Too often building maintenance is reactive but big data analytics means managers can get on the front foot to both improve energy use and reduce inefficient processes. In turn, these benefits are amplified through cost savings, improved employee satisfaction, and productivity. With increased connectivity and cloud capabilities, facility managers can make better and faster decisions that affect not only isolated processes, but the building system as a whole.