Show Me the Money: Leveraging Building Data for Long-Term Operational Savings

This is the third post in the Better Buildings Challenge Blog Series.

Anyone who has been involved in building a new facility or retrofitting an existing one is more than familiar with the process – no matter how thorough the initial planning, things don’t always go according to plan. Building personnel often need to revisit original plans with contractors to eliminate or reconfigure building management systems (BMS) or energy saving technologies to meet upfront construction costs.

However, a little-known fact is that construction costs only make up about a quarter of a building’s expenses. The other three-quarters come from operating and maintenance costs over a building’s lifetime. Additionally, the International Energy Agency predicts that energy demand will increase by 50 percent by 2050 – meaning that now more than ever, it’s important for organizations to ensure the proper tools are in place to manage costs long-term.

These numbers present an astronomical challenge for long-term management of building operating costs, but they also present an incontrovertible incentive for buildings to operate as efficiently as possible. Facility managers are under increased pressure to meet fiscal goals, demonstrate return on investment (ROI), and meet sustainability goals, all while managing reduced budgets. At the same time, those equipped with the proper tools to meet all of these demands can provide their organizations with the benefit of long-term energy savings that can be reinvested into other initiatives.

75 percent of a building’s cost over its lifetime will go toward maintenance and operating expenses

While equipment upgrades and maintenance present upfront costs that may cause facility decision-makers and stakeholders to balk, they present important investments to ensure a building is running efficiently. Smart maintenance can also save costs in the long-run by reducing the risk of needing major – and much costlier – infrastructure overhauls in the future.

The most important system an organization should invest in upfront is an integrated BMS that ties together all building systems and presents real-time data from a single interface. Building stakeholders should also consider systems that leverage open protocols to ensure future scalability, as well as systems that have the capabilities to offer insight into additional systems – such as power – and are suited for the size and needs of their organization. In addition, a BMS that generates reports highly relevant to each job level can also add long-term value. For example, facility staff needs data to be broken down to help them identify immediate and longer-term areas of opportunity and improvement, whereas a chief financial officer may need data to demonstrate progress toward reaching goals related to corporate social responsibility.

While the current outlook for buildings and their operating expenses can seem overwhelming, there is a significant opportunity for facility managers to make smart investments to reduce costs over the entire lifecycle of the building. Aside from regular building upkeep, investing in a BMS upfront to effectively manage energy use and produce reports relevant to each stakeholder can help an organization stay focused on energy and ROI goals, and ensure that buildings are being run in an efficient way over the long-term.

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