In our previous blog, ‘Building Buildings with BIM’, we looked at the value of creating a model to analyse your building and choose an optimum solution to improve energy performance. A great way to approach a problem building, but what if you had a couple of problem buildings? What if all your buildings were different? What if you had a portfolio of buildings? It’s becoming increasingly apparent that any business owning or leasing multiple buildings needs to consider the impact their fuel bills are having on their bottom line. So let’s take a look at how we energise our building portfolios.
The first thing that’s important to note is the approach you take should reflect entirely on the scale of both your portfolio and your ambitions. Needless to say if you have three small leased offices you may not want to commission three full-scale laser scanning audits. However, it is a too common practice for those at the other end of the scale with multiple buildings, leased or owned, to not even keep an accurate up-to-date asset register.
Therefore to appeal to as much of the scale as possible let’s split our pragmatic approach to managing a portfolio into three sizeable chunks:
1 – Find your hippo a home
2 – Play hungry data hippos
3 – Show me the kilowatts.
Step 1 – Find your hippo a home
“Fail to plan, plan to fail” is quite frankly the most fitting phrase when it comes to energy in buildings. And what we’re planning for is to collect data – a lot of data. Buildings are full to the rafters (excuse the pun) with data – consumption data, construction data, performance data, and operational data. Finding a home for your data will ensure that it is not lost and can be used to inform future decisions.
A suitable home will depend on the scale and complexity of your incoming data – you may have meter readings, AMR (automatic meter readings), dimensions, heating systems, insulation levels, cooling systems and more. On a basic level you will need a ‘home’ that allows you to record consumption figures however the more data you collect the more value you can extract.
In industry, a ‘home’ is energy management software, a storage database for all your portfolio needs. There are many software providers in the market, it is worth spending the time reviewing each to find the best fit with your needs.
Step 2 – Play hungry data hippos
Hungry data hippos is exactly what it sounds like but for one difference – it doesn’t have to be frantic, it should be systematic. From your planning, you should have a good idea of your ambitions and the data you want to collect. It is possible that you will want to collect different levels of data depending on the building, therefore round one of hungry data hippos is likely to be a consumption data roundup. This will enable you to prioritise your ‘problem’ or ‘opportunity’ buildings.
Regardless, your ambitions should dictate your data collection efforts, and this is where foresight is invaluable. With evolving compliance requirements (EPCs, DECs, ESOS) and random funding opportunities (FiT, RHI) one well designed data collection exercise can drastically improve resource efficiencies. What we tell our clients is, you don’t know the true value of data until you collect it, and once you have it, it can be the most valuable asset you have.
So, what types of data is your hippo eating? It could be manual data input, data collection forms, AMR data upload, desktop research and site visits. Each is targeted at collecting different datasets and each with different levels of cost.
The result is a full hippo safe and sound in their home that is a complete data record for every property in your portfolio.
Step 3 – Show me the kilowatts
Step 1 and 2 have shown us how we design and execute a plan to build a system that enables us to go on and manage our buildings portfolio; this step is where we really energise. Using varying degrees of modelling techniques you can now begin to run what we call ‘scenarios’, which is where you make theoretical improvements to the buildings and measure the energy savings potential.
Modelling techniques – BIM – as discussed in a previous blog is an exemplar way of modelling scenarios on your buildings. Less intensive techniques include u-value improvements, system efficiency improvements and renewable technology calculators. There are calculator and software designated for all these techniques. If you have collected consumption data with limited construction data you can estimate KWh savings based on u-value improvements and increased system efficiencies. However, our favourite approach is ‘archetyping’, conducting robust BIM compliant analysis on archetypes to estimate savings, and attributing these savings across other buildings within your portfolio that fit that archetype. This will give you modelled estimates based on the best available data for your portfolio.
We will constantly be challenged by the performance of our buildings, what we’ve intended to do is provide some insight and provoke some thoughts about how data can be used to your advantage when managing energy consumption. What we take away from this discussion is one thing, you put energy into the process, you’ll take energy out of your buildings, and that energy sits as cash in your bank. In the next blog in the series we’ll discuss how you can future proof your building and maintain a highly efficient building portfolio.
Author: Stuart Gray – Associate, Sustain Ltd