Building owners and managers are always looking for ways to improve both the performance and sustainability of their properties. Data tracking is a great tool to achieve these goals. By regularly monitoring certain aspects of their buildings, owners can ensure that their buildings are performing at the highest level.
Data tracking refers to the process of collecting information about various aspects of a building to improve its efficiency and performance. Records are kept using software such as Energy Star, and these data are analyzed and used to identify and diagnose performance issues. In commercial buildings, data tracked includes information about energy, water, waste, recyclables, among others.
Property managers can use these records to compare their building’s performance to other similar properties, to their other properties, as well as to itself over time. With these data, you can evaluate and alter your building’s performance with more precision.
There are two primary categories of data tracking: energy and systems. Energy refers to performance data for the whole building and is accessed through monthly utility bills and given context through benchmarking. Energy is typically tracked using the gas and electric meters.
Systems refer to the performance data such as supply air temperature and pressure, outside air ventilation rate, variable frequency drive speed, and zone temperatures. This information is generally tracked through the building automation system (BAS).
The process of data tracking consists of four basic steps:
By following these steps, property managers can ensure that occupants are comfortable with the least amount of energy consumption.
By keeping records of your energy, water, waste, recyclables and more, you can enhance the performance of your building and determine realistic sustainability goals. Data tracking offers the following benefits as well.
Reduced energy consumption. Tracking energy usage allows you to see where you can cut back on wasteful energy consumption. In fact, it was found that buildings that used data tracking were able to reduce their energy consumption by 2.4% per year on average.1
Financial gains. Data tracking allows property managers to view the details of their energy usage, and thus determine where they can feasibly make changes to cut costs. These changes then result in electric and gas cost savings. Additionally, buildings that use data tracking often have high higher net operating income (NOI), profit, and asset value.
Maintain occupant satisfaction. By tracking data, building owners and managers can also maintain and improve occupant satisfaction. The detailed data allow operators to identify changes or problems in the building more quickly. These can even preempt comfort complaints, and greater comfort means greater tenant retention.
Be positioned as an industry leader. Property managers can improve their credibility as leaders in sustainability through certification programs like LEED (Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design) and Energy Star ratings.
Protect against liability. Data tracking can help detect problems — such as gas leaks or poor indoor air quality — more quickly, before they become liability issues, enabling property owners to make changes before problems arise.
If you’re ready to take steps to better monitor your building performance through data tracking, the following tips will help you get started.
Create a management plan. As with most projects, the first step in data tracking is to create a management plan. Many different people and processes are involved, so creating a plan can help everyone stay on a track. The ideal management plan consists of the following: carving out resources, identifying team members, setting quantifiable performance and sustainability goals, considering incentives, determining accountability, and including performance tracking language in contracts.
Get an initial benchmark. One of the first things you should do after creating a management plan is to get an initial benchmark as a starting point. These initial data will give you a point of comparison for future evaluations. In addition to collecting information about the particular subject of interest — water, energy, or what have you — you should also obtain information about the general building characteristics. This report should include information about location and size of the building, what it’s used for, its size, and its age. These data will enable you to compare it to similar buildings and help you evaluate how your property stacks up.
Select which tools you will use. The basic tools used for energy and systems data tracking are utility bill analysis, the building automation system (BAS), and energy tracking software like Energy Star. Owners should start with these basic tools before moving onto more advanced programs.
Aim for monthly reports. While there is a tendency to conduct quarterly report, best practice is to collect monthly data. This will allow your evaluations to be more precise.
While many commercial buildings collect data on systems, energy, water, and the like, the future of data tracking will move towards tracking data relating to the building’s environmental impact and green initiatives. For instance, carbon dioxide, particulates, and air quality may be monitored. The WELL Building Standard — a performance-based system for monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing — is leading a movement towards this type of tracking, and those who monitor these data can gain additional LEED credits.2
Check out The Building Performance Tracking Handbook for more information on how you can use data tracking to improve the performance of your building.
1 – Energy Data and Benchmarking
2 – Charlie Cichetti, WELL AP
CEO + Co-Founder | SIG
3 – The Building Performance Tracking Handbook