Harness Facility Data Toward Energy And Sustainability Goals

Facilities teams are prioritizing infrastructure and asset upgrades while also future-proofing for long-term sustainability.

By Dan Arant

Over the past year, facility managers needed to prioritize urgent infrastructure and asset upgrades while also future-proofing their facilities with long-term sustainability in mind. According to Johnson Controls, one of the top priorities for facility investments was increasing sustainability and energy efficiency. This will likely continue to be a top priority, especially with the ongoing pandemic placing heightened awareness on improving ventilation and HVAC systems — a significant energy driver for facilities — and President Biden’s recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill calling for more sustainability-focused initiatives. Boosting a facility’s ability to respond to emergency situations and protecting the health and safety of occupants will continue to be top of mind for facility managers in 2022 and beyond.

facility data
Photo: Adobe Stock/Robert Kneschke

Effectively and equally prioritizing these initiatives, both in the short term and long term, can be a daunting task, but it’s imperative that today’s facilities are safe for occupants and focused on lowering emissions. To achieve this, facility leaders need to not only ensure they’re being strategic in their approach to addressing these concerns but also effectively communicating and ensuring transparency with occupants and other stakeholders.

Facility managers have tackled the challenge by adopting a data-first mindset to develop strategic asset management (SAM) plans, which involve leveraging data to inform proactive maintenance and operational plans. With SAM, facility management can more effectively direct both infrastructure and sustainability projects while ensuring funds are being spent wisely.

Energy Management

The environment is a leading priority across the board, and it’s important that as facility managers prepare for the future, they do so with energy efficiency in mind. Adopting an enterprise asset management system (EAMS) is a great place to start. This technology enables facility managers to collect data that guide smarter energy decisions and inform their SAM plans. By tracking data with an EAMS, facility managers can recognize the “bad actors” and identify pattern changes when it comes to energy consumption to make the necessary adjustments.

A key area of focus for SAM plans should be a facility’s air filtration systems — which are costly to maintain and increase emissions when energy usage is high. Data is key to ensuring HVAC upgrades and maintenance are done so affordably and sustainably. Being able to track the HVAC assets’ maintenance histories and identifying where they are high in consumption allows facility leaders to manage their maintenance efforts more effectively. This results in more operationally-efficient buildings that use less utilities overall — saving costs and reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, with energy data easily accessible, facility leaders can more easily communicate the success of their sustainability efforts through frequent reports.

Facility Safety & Disaster Preparedness

President Biden’s recently passed infrastructure bill allocates $47 billion to ensuring our infrastructure is climate resilient. With an increased government focus on how extreme weather patterns are wearing down our infrastructure, facility managers need to look at following suit and ensure their planning is creating safe and secure building environments that can withstand the increasingly severe weather.

The best way to stretch this funding further and ensure alignment with this climate initiative is to leverage data to determine asset conditions and develop a thorough disaster preparedness plan that can be quickly communicated to occupants and stakeholders. With an EAMS, facility managers can start tracking information about their facilities including asset condition and maintenance history. With visibility into a facility’s collective infrastructure and asset condition, managers can identify and anticipate vulnerabilities ahead of a disaster. This foresight enables facilities to inform disaster preparedness plans, prepare accordingly, and ensure everyone can react in the necessary manner before and after a disaster.

It’s also important to efficiently collect data after a disaster event. Adopting mobile technology that allows maintenance professionals to manage work orders from their mobile device after a disaster streamlines workflow and documentation processes. This can also be especially beneficial if a facility needs to provide documentation to insurance companies.

Benefits Of Transparency With Data

By harnessing data, facility leaders can visualize the current and future state of their assets, determine where proactive maintenance is needed, and ensure funds are allocated effectively. Additionally, with increased transparency and the ability to develop proof points that communicate how a building is achieving its sustainability or infrastructure goals, managers will see more efficiency among their workforce, happier occupants, and a greater chance at receiving additional funding in the future. As a result, facilities can not only drive profitability, but ensure that facilities are operating in a safe and sustainable way.

Arant is a solutions consultant manager of energy at Dude Solutions, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of operations management solutions. A Certified Energy Manager through both the Association of Energy Engineers and the Institute of Energy Professionals, he joined the company in 2013. Arant graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of North Alabama in 2010. He is passionate about empowering the public and private sectors to reduce utility waste in their facilities and operations.

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