Creating a sustainable future for Australia's buildings

Schneider Electric Energy
By Cara Ryan
Thursday, 22 January, 2015

Across Australia and the globe, buildings account for up to 40% of energy use, and I believe they continue to be a prime target for achieving energy efficiency. Many people don’t realise that the majority of buildings that will be occupied in 2050 are already built and are up and running today. To drive building sustainability, it is vital that we focus on creating greater efficiencies in our existing buildings throughout 2015 and beyond.

However, the concerns and challenges I often hear from customers fall around an ageing infrastructure and how can they reduce their building’s carbon footprint, as well as improve their bottom line.

There are a number of steps that building owners and managers can take to tackle these challenges. Using technology and software to gain an understanding of buildings’ energy use and identifying how operations can be improved to operate more efficiently is a key consideration.

Energy and resource dashboards as part of building management systems (BMSs) are an increasingly useful tool in understanding building behaviour. The implementation of these solutions identifies where shortcomings in energy efficiency in day-to-day building operations are occurring.

However, emerging technologies such as big data analytics take it one step further. Data analytics help to understand not only how a building is operating and where there may be inefficiencies, but why. The ‘why’ emerges through a comprehensive view including snapshots of current operations, outlines of energy trending, alerts through the application of simplistic rules or algorithms, detailed diagnostic reports and more. Through proactively identifying operational problems that would not otherwise be detected, data analytics helps building managers gain a deeper understanding of the why, which in turn leads to more permanent and effective solutions.

Data analytics is one of the most effective tools that building managers can use to improve a facility’s efficiencies. By collecting data and effectively analysing it in buildings, operators can reduce equipment and energy costs by up to 30%.

When building owners and managers gain an in-depth understanding of how buildings operate and the potential problem areas, retrofitting existing systems within a building to make the most effective improvements is a growing trend and something that needs to continue if we are to take advantage of our existing buildings. The refurbishment of current buildings and improving energy management are useful steps in reducing emissions caused by electrical consumption. Inefficient lighting alone can account for 40% of a typical commercial enterprise’s electricity consumption, and when combined with other areas such as heating, ventilation and cooling, it can start to seriously drive up energy use and building management costs.

Building analytics data can also be used to further validate and verify improvements or upgrades through retrofitting. Data extracted and analysed from equipment that has been upgraded or improved can easily provide building managers with a clear ROI on investments they’ve made to their systems and equipment. This data can also be used to help support the business case for future improvements and upgrades to drive additional savings. This assists in the ongoing concerns around improving an ageing infrastructure and utilising the buildings we already have to drive sustainability.

Operating buildings at a high-performing level should be a key focus for building owners and managers this year. Aside from implementing technology and software, it is important to continue to communicate clearly ‘green’ building targets as well as results in a visual way to occupants, tenants and stakeholders, encouraging them to further drive efficiency in their building through their own actions.

Education and messaging around sustainability, teamed with ongoing assessments on how technology and software solutions are performing, will set building owners and managers on the right path to building a greener future.

Cara Ryan is General Manager Client Services, Australia, for the  EcoBuildings Division of Schneider Electric. She has been with the company for six years. With 15 years’ experience in the Building Efficiency industry, Cara has led the development of service delivery utilising digital and analytics technology to help customers visualise, analyse and optimise their building performance. Cara holds an honours degree in Engineering from Monash University.

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