Scott Beauman, Senior Mechanical Engineer
As an engineer who spent the better part of a decade working as a building services engineer before realising the power of building analytics, I have two pieces of advice to the next generation of engineers: pay attention in your statistics class, and be open-minded to how data analytics can make your day-to-day life as a building services engineer much easier!
Building services engineers by nature have analytical and problem-solving minds, but on a day-to-day basis, find ourselves too time poor to apply this way of thinking to each issue. This is where data analytics can really step in to support us. Data analytics enables you to take an in-depth look at complex issues much faster and with minimal effort. Given the vast quantities of data buildings produce on a daily basis, I’d encourage every engineer to find out how and why they should leverage data analytics for faster problem solving.
Providing a holistic view of complex systems
The variety and velocity of data that is available to analyse, from room temperature data to pumps speeds, chiller loadings, and operational hours, can give us a holistic view of the dynamic and complicated systems we work with daily and help us focus attention where it is most required.
I was recently interviewed for CIM’s Building Peak Performance Podcast about how fast access to lots of data is changing the way we as building engineers approach our work. The episode is called New Age Engineers, and it explores how engineers can leverage data analytics alongside our expertise and experience to make better decisions, faster, with more certainty and less intuition.
I’ve had first-hand experience with facility managers as well as building and HVAC engineers who push back at the idea of incorporating data analytics into their building operations out of fear it will replace them. It’s time to debunk this myth. Our human experience and engineering expertise will remain a crucially important element of successful day-to-day building operations. Data analytics simply eliminates the guesswork.
Inform where engineers need to spend their time and effort
Here’s an example for you. A commercial building in Macquarie Park, Sydney was having issues with its chiller, the main source of cooling in a building, causing the building to overheat which resulted in daily complaints from uncomfortable tenants. The facilities manager (FM) was struggling to resolve this problem for his customers as his controls and mechanical contractors, who he was paying to come in every other day, continued to make the same recommendations while offering no real solutions.
By implementing PEAK into the building, we were able to extract all of the building’s data for the onsite FM and contractors in real-time. Analysis of this data enabled quick identification of the root cause of the issue—the condenser water pump flow control —enabling the FM and his contractors to fix the problem by providing the right solution rather than resorting to trial and error.
An FM’s role is very broad and the mechanical HVAC aspect is only a part of it. As was the case above, in the absence of data, FMs are reliant on the information provided to them by external technical experts or contractors and trust in them to know what they are talking about.
The PEAK platform provides an extra layer of validation and technical support, empowering onsite teams to make quicker and more informed decisions about where they need to spend their time and effort. PEAK gives building operators visibility and control over their assets through continuous performance monitoring and contractor accountability for the resolution of issues. As I said in my podcast discussion with Anthony, it’s one thing to throw targeted action plans at something, but actually following through with resolution and continuous performance monitoring is just as important.