In 2009, Home furnishings retailer Havertys launched a sustainability program using a data-driven energy-management system to pinpoint inefficiency. After implementing a discrete energy-monitoring system, it was able to reduce overall consumption by 20 percent. Since 2011, the company has improved energy performance by 26 percent. Energy-conservation measures have become very advanced in their design and adoption and monitoring consumption continues to grow sharply and is aided by increased internet-of-things (IoT) infrastructure.


Clarifying metrics and critical data


“By establishing clear sustainability goals, clarifying metrics and gathering critical data and insight into their energy usage and costs, Havertys has been able to advance its energy-management-system strategy and monitoring efforts while helping to reduce their maintenance costs,” said Jamie Daubenspeck, director of facility technology for Ecova Inc., an energy-management company.


Companies that proactively gather, track and act on energy-consumption data are well on their way to reducing overall energy costs.


“Real-time monitoring is becoming a key part of energy conservation strategies,” said Tim Raffio, director of engineering, JadeTrack, a Columbus, Ohio-based sustainability-management software company. “Access to this kind of data provides an unprecedented ability to identify, target and eliminate issues before they become costly problems. It gives electrical contractors an opportunity to digitize their businesses and provide value-added products and services to new and existing customers.”


However, online access to the real-time information makes it easy to track and manage expenses whether you are managing one building or 100 buildings.


Connectivity convergence


More sophisticated methods of data analysis are gaining momentum.


“The commercial buildings market has been slow to adopt software, but we believe we are now past the tipping point,” said Vladi Shunturov, president and CTO, Lucid, an Oakland, Calif.-based building data and analytics platform company. “Commercial buildings represent 15 percent of [gross domestic product], yet most owners and operators still run their portfolios primarily in Excel. It’s 2017, and that would be considered absurd in any other major industry. The good news is that this is quickly changing.”


Using the IoT, more facilities can be monitored using connected technologies to improve overall efficiency.


“There is more technology going into these facilities with connected systems for individual and portfolio-wide visibility,” Daubenspeck said. “We can expect to see an expansion of these intelligent energy platforms that run analytics with advanced software algorithms and machine learning capabilities, turning data into actionable insight.”


Turning data into action


How data is turned into actionable insight is a function of the available analytics.


“Cloud-based data analytics products now offer mature out-of-the-box capabilities, which make the data immediately valuable for the end-user,” Shunturov said. “The days of 12–18-month system integration and software customization projects are over. Customers can connect a meter to a cloud-based solution in a matter of hours and start getting value immediately after the install with a very small deployment barrier.”


Cloud-based solutions offer flexibility to gather more data, particularly with the use of mobile tools. Mobile solutions in the field provide great agility to facilities managers.


“As the technology has progressed, the desire [or] demand for increased effectiveness and efficiency can be fulfilled through the use of field mobile solutions,” said Steve Smith, vice president of strategic industries for ClickSoftware, an employee scheduling and dispatching software company, Burlington, Mass.


The internet of buildings


Energy-conservation monitoring will continue to attract technology and science to make it even more effective.


“With a trend toward automation and predictive over pure reactive, developments in IoT and big data facilities that allow access to and processing of ultra-detailed asset performance will help drive this shift,” Smith said. “Virtual and augmented reality will play a significant role as service becomes more dynamic and complexities increase.”


With the IoT, connected networks and equipment, energy-conservation monitoring for buildings should take on a life of their own and play an ever-increasing role in reducing energy costs.


ECs will need to become more computer and analytics savvy in the same way auto mechanics have in recent years.


“In the future, it may be routine for electrical contractors to monitor, diagnose and adjust electrical components, voltage and environmental conditions remotely,” said Colin Gounden, CEO of Via Science, a risk-assessment software company in Cambridge, Mass. “With this increase in data from connected systems, we will start to see ‘autonomous buildings’ analogous to the autonomous vehicle revolution today with [artificial intelligence] software recommending to contractors equipment upgrades and suggestions of settings.”