The importance of building analytics
By Jim Prince
“How’s my hospital running today?”
This is a fair question for the COO of a hospital to ask a member of the hospital’s facilities department. While it could be a casual greeting, if pressed, how would you answer that question? Could you answer with measurable data?
As facility managers look to the future of facility operations, it’s undeniable that the future will likely involve building analytics. Without seeing the real-time numbers of a hospital, it’s difficult to manage fully. Through building analytics, not only can energy be controlled and managed, but overall facility health can be as well.
The three C’s of facility health
When it comes to facility management, a facility’s health is top of mind in a healthcare environment. Unfortunately, when staff see energy personnel coming, they too often worry they’ll be forced to turn the lights off or turn the thermostat down and put on sweaters. However, facility health is not about energy efficiency at all costs. Rather, it is about comprehensive facility performance. Medxcel measures facility health in terms of the three C’s:
- Cost effectiveness
A healthy facility tends to be energy efficient, but not when facility compliance or comfort are compromised in the process. There are too many great opportunities to improve efficiency without doing something irresponsible or uncomfortable. The task of every facility operations professional should be to operate a healthy facility, not just to save energy, and building analytics provide a window into the operational challenges of facilities.
The importance of building analytics
Extracting digital data already present in a building automation system, building analytics platforms constantly monitor and analyze a building’s operational data, particularly looking for less-than-ideal conditions. Building analytics aim to answer the question, “Is the building doing exactly what it needs to do today?” If not, the building operator needs to know before it becomes a concern with patients or staff. When that unsatisfactory data is found, the system pushes an alert to facilities staff to prompt their attention to the matter.
The platform should constantly query the building performance to virtually ask the following:
- Cost Effectiveness and Energy: Has the building’s energy consumption somehow changed recently? If so, answers to where, how much and why can inform the corrective action process.
- Compliance: Are all operating and critical procedure rooms within acceptable range for temperature, humidity, pressure and airflow? Has one fallen out of compliance? What triggered the change?
- Comfort: Are spaces controlling temperatures at or near current setpoints? Has a space deviated more than a couple degrees from the thermostat set point? Proactively addressing underlying issues before patients or associates sense a discomfort is critical for improving patient satisfaction.
Like the much-touted “Internet of Things” in technology spaces, building analytics proactively identifies issues that pertain to building health before they become noticeable. Constantly measuring a building not only allows the facility performance to be tracked, it also provides data to track and report the savings impact of capital investments.
Today, we have three KPIs that can describe the current health of a facility from a cost effectiveness, compliance and comfort standpoint. When the COO asks, “How’s my hospital running today,” we have an answer:
“Our compliance is at 98 percent this month and we’re at 99 percent comfort, which is up 2 percent from last month. We’re saving an additional 25 cents per square foot compared to last year.” With this report card, it is easy to see how the facility is doing and the improvements that are being made.
“How’s my hospital running today” is a fair question that should be asked, not just by COOs, but anyone working to improve their facility. Building analytics help facility managers answer that question, as well as inform the daily activities of our operations. When an element of cost effectiveness, compliance or comfort is trending in a negative direction and facility staff can actively work to correct and improve it, the difference is clear from day to day. Using building analytics to actively and continuously affect overall facility health is a powerful “way of the future” to leverage technology for facility operations.
Jim Prince is Director of Energy and Facility Performance Excellence at Medxcel. Medxcel’s building analytics platform gathers HVAC operations and energy consumption data, alerting building operations staff when less-than-optimum issues arise. The platform is a cloud-based system “overlay” to existing BAS that harvests, analyzes, and presents critical operations data.