ESG and the path to Net Zero have become firmly embedded as major players in global property discourse, with environmental rating systems useful for quantifying performance and progress. However, it would be remiss to assume that once a high rating has been achieved on a building or portfolio that owners and managers can rest on their laurels. In this article, we explore why even buildings that are highly optimised and operationally efficient can benefit greatly from the use of an analytics solution like CIM’s PEAK Platform.
To summarise, these buildings can make use of such technology in these ways:
- Prevent energy drift from pulling you backwards
- Identify additional opportunities for optimisation
- Improve the tenant experience
- Bolster collaboration and accountability
- Apply learnings to lower performing buildings
- Increase resilience to disruptions
1. Prevent energy drift from pulling you backwards
Naturally, buildings tend not to perform as well over time as they did when they were first built. This gradual loss of efficiency is known as ‘energy drift’ and can happen for a number of reasons, including mechanical wear and tear, equipment malfunction, manual control alterations, changing site conditions, and building design defects. Sustainability ratings are based on a moment in time, and high-performing buildings are not exempt from the inevitable pull of energy drift.
This pull has significant consequences, both operational and financial. Buildings can lose as much as 30% in energy efficiency every 1-2 years due to energy drift. This can translate into millions of wasted dollars, as energy and maintenance costs account for between $3.50 and $8 spent per square foot (~0.1 sqm) in annual operating costs. Drift can also raise capital expenditure, disrupt tenant comfort, and create safety risks from equipment issues left unchecked.
Real-time monitoring and data analytics are essential to counteract the backslide of energy drift. By establishing performance baselines and constantly monitoring equipment operation, onsite teams can identify and rectify failures immediately. Fast response time helps prevent common causes of drift such as overnight equipment operation, BMS or schedule overrides, or construction or fit-out activity. Setting baselines is particularly important, as plant and equipment may not have been optimised for the variable and unpredictable occupancy levels seen of late.
Analytics in action
A high-profile office tower in Adelaide’s CBD was at risk of losing its 5 Star NABERS Energy rating due to a gradual increase in monthly consumption. However, the PEAK Platform’s intelligent monitoring revealed that all fan coil units (FCU’s) on levels 1 and 2 installed as part of a tenant fit-out were attached to the base building meter. In response, the site team installed a new power board to monitor tenant usage. Monthly power consumption at the site has since decreased by 30% compared year on year, and rather than losing their 5 Star rating, the building’s NABERS rating has increased to 5.5 (or 6 with GreenPower).
2. Identify additional opportunities for optimisation
While it is true that highly rated buildings will have fewer opportunities for optimisation than buildings with sluggish efficiency, optimisation opportunities do still exist—all it takes is the real-time data to find them.
Digitisation and monitoring enables operational teams to capture opportunities as they arise, without delay. Because there are fewer tuning opportunities available in high-performing buildings, finding them without the aid of a sophisticated analytics platform is incredibly difficult.
Analytics in action:
Early results from an office tower in Brisbane offer a perfect example of the opportunity latent within high-performing buildings. Thanks in part to the 106 actions raised within the PEAK Platform, the 6 Star NABERS rated property has seen a 12% seasonal energy reduction during a 5-month period in 2022 relative to a comparable period the year prior. PEAK has also enabled less technically astute Facilities Managers (FM’s) to promptly identify faults, take swift action, and spot tuning opportunities that would otherwise be difficult to locate. In one such instance at the Brisbane site, an alert was triggered in PEAK by early morning AHU operation. The FM was able to trigger investigation by a contractor and initiate an optimum control strategy, with pre-start duration limited to less than 90 minutes. Optimum start control positively impacts both energy consumption goals and sustainability ratings, with Rated Hour a key assessment factor.
3. Improve tenant experience
Buildings with higher energy efficiency ratings yield higher rents, lease quicker, and motivate investors more effectively than their low-performing counterparts. While these statistics are encouraging to commercial property owners, they also mean that the tenants will generally have higher expectations surrounding their indoor experience.
Robust monitoring of zones via the PEAK Platform’s dedicated Indoor Environment module elevates the tenant experience by improving thermal comfort scores, while Alerts minimise tenant disruption from equipment downtime.
In addition, rating systems are complex and multi-faceted. A building may have a very high energy rating but fall behind in terms of Indoor Environment (IE). The LEED rating system, for example, has a full stream on Indoor Environmental Quality to assess how well the building is performing for occupants, with regards to indoor air quality and comfort. Many government tenants globally have strict leasing criteria, stipulating a minimum target energy rating alongside desirable IE scores. To compete for favourable leasing contracts, building owners must prioritise tenant comfort.
Analytics in action:
At Burlington’s Dublin Landings, CIM’s real-time monitoring has enabled a near-perfect thermal comfort score. After deploying PEAK, occupant comfort levels increased from an already impressive 91% to 97%. Dublin Landings achieved this level of comfort with over 200 sensors that feed a steady stream of data from their BMS to the PEAK Platform for constant monitoring. The site’s FM and appointed contractors can quickly check the current thermal comfort rating via the platform’s Indoor Environment tab, leaving no lag time between sub-optimal performance and prompt resolution.
“Many factors determine the ideal temperature for a commercial building. Poor thermal comfort caused by faulty equipment can be a major source of inefficiency. The PEAK Platform empowers our team to monitor zones and quickly resolve any issues that may arise. When building occupants are comfortable and satisfied, they are more productive, happier, and healthier. This is the best possible outcome and a key focus for our team.” — Seamus Carr, Director of Projects, Burlington
4. Bolster collaboration and accountability
Even high-performing buildings can benefit from boosted site team productivity, supercharged collaboration, and a means of keeping contractors accountable. Within PEAK’s centralised workflow, property teams can assign alerts to the right team member for action with a single tap. Once assigned, all team members can collaborate in real time to quickly and efficiently resolve issues.
While this may not sound like a huge shift to existing workflows that revolve around monthly meetings, emails, and text follow-ups, studies have shown that when enterprises promote a culture of tech-enabled collaboration, they are 50% more effective at completing tasks.
Contractor accountability is one of the benefits we hear about most from our customers. Keeping contractors accountable ensures they do the most important work in a building at the right times and maintain a record for maximum clarity.
Analytics in action:
In a recent story on the impact of PEAK on an HVAC technician’s workflow, we gathered information from technician David about how PEAK supports his daily tasks. Within a single platform, technicians like David can capture photos, comments and information pertaining to an issue, creating a complete digital history of their work and informing future decision-making.
Before PEAK, David needed input from multiple stakeholders before issues could be fully resolved. This level of input required a stream of emails, calls, and text messages to manage. Not only did this slow progress; it also blurred the lines of accountability and facilitated finger-pointing. By capturing and communicating task data within PEAK, the whole team has real-time visibility over where issues stand, who is currently doing what, and what must be done prior to issue resolution.
5. Apply learnings to lower-performing buildings
We’ve already discussed the merits of establishing a baseline for building performance, an initiative typically done at the building level. Analytics becomes even more powerful when applied across an entire portfolio, at which point it can be used to compare and cross-pollinate learnings.
In addition, a streamlined portfolio-level view clarifies which buildings sit at the top of the pile in terms of consumption, thermal comfort, team performance and more. With the combined benefit of a bird’s-eye view and insight into site-level performance, building owners can quickly identify top performers and leverage insights to drive improvements at their low-performing counterparts
Analytics in action:
Charter Hall is one CIM partner with visibility across a vast Australian office portfolio. Their analytics track data from 58 sites, totalling 1.45 million sqm (15.6 million square feet). By implementing CIM, they consolidated data from 13 different providers into a single platform. PEAK has simplified access and illuminated insights once obscured by multiple data sources and reports. Today, Charter Hall’s portfolio-level perspective gives them improved oversight. Thanks in part to their ability to leverage learnings across sites, they have recorded a 19% drop in energy consumption since 2019 without compromising tenant experience.
6. Increase resilience to disruptions
Disruptions are an inevitable aspect of building ownership. From variable occupancy (as highlighted by COVID-19) to temperature swings in the surrounding environment and macroeconomic uncertainty, the only constant is change. Building analytics provides a buffer against disruptions like these by identifying opportunities for peak operational efficiency in real-time rather than relying on lagging metrics like energy bills to understand when variables have changed.
With the predictive ability of machine learning and AI-enabled analysis, CIM’s PEAK Platform provides an added layer of protection and security against the buffeting forces of disruption.
Analytics in action:
At Charter Hall, rolling annual base electricity consumption dropped significantly during the low office occupancy of 2020 and 2021. Reduced consumption during those years is to be expected thanks to remote work requirements—but PEAK has helped to maintain low consumption through platform-led operational efficiencies, while offering solutions for varying occupancy.
Whether your building portfolio is already high-performing or badly in need of a boost, the PEAK Platform can optimise efficiency, centralise workflows, and empower operations teams. Watch a demo to learn how PEAK can benefit your commercial property building or portfolio.