Optimisation and efficiency are the new income

By David Walsh, founder and CEO of CIM

With pressure mounting on Australia’s property sector to achieve net zero emissions, optimising building performance and finding efficiencies is key.  

In the quest to reach zero emissions and meet Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) obligations, instead of spending huge sums on new generation, carbon offset contracts and replacing older equipment, it’s possible to massively reduce emissions and reduce costs.

Every large building is a complex ballet of different plant and equipment. Just as a missed step by one dancer in a ballet can cause chaos, equipment that is not working at its peak can cause significant losses and influence decision makers to make the wrong decisions when it comes to capital investment.

For many building owners, the road to zero emissions has been paved by renewable energy. But what if energy consumption could be reduced significantly by optimising what you already have and help generate free-flowing cash savings? If energy use and emissions can be reduced, is there a need to add millions of dollars worth of solar panels – which have their own environmental cost for manufacture, transport and installation? 

Carbon offsets and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are also a potential solution although these simply move the impact of emissions. But PPAs are expensive. It is far more cost effective to reduce energy use so the need to purchase offsets or PPAs disappear.

While many people point to the construction of wind farms as a positive step, the construction of wind farms needs huge volumes of concrete to secure the foundations of those massive pylons. And the concrete industry is a massive source of carbon emissions. If it was a country, concrete production would be the world’s third largest carbon emitter behind the USA and China.

In today’s world, it is possible to collect very granular data about the operation of every piece of plant and equipment. That data can be analysed using powerful algorithms that have been developed by experts who understand the built environment intimately and how every piece of the puzzle fits together. 

Buildings can be operated far more efficiently and energy use can be drastically reduced. When the operation of an asset is optimised, it is not only more energy efficient but it can be operated for longer periods at its optimum. Assets last longer because we can better understand how they are wearing rather than simply replacing it when it’s ‘too old’. 

You see this in a large shopping centre. As you walk from one store to another, you may feel the temperature change from too hot to too cold. As facilities managers adjust settings they may end up using more power to even things out. And, if the problem is difficult to solve, they may call in external contractors for help and, in some cases, decide that the answer is to replace an expensive piece of hardware. The problem is that often these decisions are made with only a very limited set of data and may lead to unnecessary expense.

Analytics is the answer. In the past, the equipment in large buildings produced data that was locked into proprietary systems and could only be looked at in isolation. But it’s possible to now take the data from hundreds of different types of equipment and build a complete picture of what is happening. Just as an MRI machine allows physicians to see the underlying root cause of the symptoms presented by a patient, building analytics allow building owners and managers to understand why a fault occurred.  

The cheapest power you can buy is the power you don’t use. And the most p assets you can operate are those that are operating at their peak. The key to achieving peak performance and reducing emissions is to get the greatest possible value from the assets you already have. And that means using data and analytics to understand the operations of built assets.

About the author:
David Walsh is the founder of CIM, a world leader in building analytics software, making it easy to operate large buildings at their peak operational performance and deliver economic and environmental benefits.

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