Data Collection Key to Energy Program
Packard, Daniel J., Journal of Property Management
[Note: In the previous installment we reviewed the historical and economic basis behind the critical need for detailed energy consumption information by the commercial investment real estate sector. Now we look first at how these data are collected and analyzed. Then we examine how the property manager or cost administrator integrates this information with energy purchasing decisions, consumption analysis and onsite distributed generation. Therein the property manager, on behalf of the building owner, validates the proactive administration of each element of the energy-cost line items. Furthermore, delivering energy reliably and at the quality demanded by tenants in the new IT world will generate opportunities for incremental revenues for the real property asset.]
Data Collection: The Cornerstone
The data collection and information system consists of three basic components: the data-collection field unit, communications link to the central data facility and software that enables the interpretation and communication of that information back to those who need it. Data collection begins at the measurement points into the buildings. Electronic automatic measurement devices attach easily to electric, gas or water meters. The data most valuable to the energy provider are "time-tagged interval" (TTI) or "time of use" data, which represent consumption vs. time. Electric TTI data (in kW or kWh), for example, commonly is recorded at 15- and 30-minute intervals, whereas natural gas usage (in hundred or thousand cubic feet) is recorded hourly. The readings can be stored in the device's internal memory until they are communicated to a data facility at predetermined times.
The communications component includes an internal modem that connects to a standard telephone line. That line can be either a dedicated line, which supports both dial-in and dial-out capabilities, or a shared line, which usually supports only dial-out capability. Systems have been adapted for cellular and paging networks as well as RF (radio frequency) communication.
Using high-end software to communicate with the field units, the data facility receives, converts and manages the data for use by either the property manager and/or cost administrator, the utility delivering the commodity or the third-party energy provider. These facilities feature state-of-the-art security, redundant backup and data storage systems, and uninterruptible power supply. The data facility also can report an alarm for any number of "exceptions," which occur when energy usage or other monitored activity approaches a preprogrammed limit. Alarms can be forwarded from the host computer via e-mail, pager or wide-area network (WAN) for real-time response by the monitoring party.
Through a secure Web-based platform, the property manager and/or cost administrator uses the collected data to construct a profile of the property's energy usage-basically a graph of time vs. consumption for any desired intervals of time. The profile shows not only the total amount of energy being routinely used but at what times of each day (or week or month) consumption is highest and lowest and at what levels.
Cooperative Cost Administration
Demand profiles offer unobstructed and proprietary energy delivery schedules to the utility and commodity provider while benchmarking any changes in tenant use immediately. The comparative value of real-time energy profiling is as extensive as the property manager's imagination. Profiling can reveal chronic building inefficiencies, which can be evaluated for remedy by traditional means, such as retrofitting and upgrading, or by advanced control systems, systems integration or automation. Comparing prospective acquisitions and dispositions accurately predicated on energy-cost differentials with their energy-efficient assets will, in the future, mean the difference between a highly successful portfolio and a marginally performing one. …