Beyond Energy Dashboards & Data Analytics with Energy Simulation Models

This post also appeared as a Realcomm Advisory Topic

Are you maximizing the value of your assets? If you’re investing in efficiency, are you confident you’ll get the returns you expect? Technology is changing the world as we know it, disrupting industries from healthcare, to manufacturing, to real estate. But the Internet of Things and Big Data haven’t transformed the area of energy efficiency yet. Many commercial buildings are missing out on net positive gains, despite the extensive data on energy consumption and the analysis tools that we now have access to.

I’m probably not the first person who’s told you that there are opportunities to increase the value of your assets through more efficient operations. If your building said, “Give me one dollar, and I’ll give you five,” why would you not do it? So the opportunity is what? Energy analytics? You can’t open a newsletter or attend a show these days without vendors claiming to change the world with energy analytics. Put submeters on all your equipment. Load up a usage dashboard with energy analytics. But how’s that Big Data and IoT revolution providing actual value to your organization? 

If your building said, “Give me one dollar, and I’ll give you five,” why would you not do it?

Granted, using data analytics to analyze your energy consumption is a great first step. You’re capturing data and attempting to interpret it to improve your building’s performance. As the old adage goes: “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” 

But how do you know if that data can or will be converted into actionable information with true, verified ROI insights? How do you know that the patterns and correlations that you’re seeing are actually valuable to your bottom line? 

That gray area is one of the main shortcomings of data analytics. It’s also why commercial real estate owners are currently underinvesting in a significant opportunity. Some have spent years investing in energy consumption data collection systems, gathering information about their usage patterns in hopes of uncovering potential areas for savings. But the connections between theory and action haven’t been strong enough, and the industry has yet to massively reap the benefits of energy efficiency gains. 


True Building Intelligence Powered by Energy Simulations

What we need then, is a comprehensive energy consumption analytics solution that’s capable of bridging the gap that currently exists between data collection and systems optimization. We need an easier way to turn information into action, allowing building owners to quickly and easily optimize their structures, with automated tools to maintain and monitor those efficiency gains down the road.

Bractlet has developed such a solution, bringing granular, equipment level data together with Building Energy Simulation Models to offer our users comprehensive energy transparency and true building intelligence. Our Energy to Profits™ platform takes the usage data that is collected via IoT sensors on site and use it to calibrate a dynamic, physics-based building energy simulation model, leveraging the model as a virtual testbed for efficiency improvement.

While expert engineers possess tremendous knowledge about their craft, even the best cannot discern the millions of dynamic interactions that occur in a building minute by minute. While we have access to more data than ever before, and more and more companies claim “analytics” as part of their solution, they fall short. The necessary analytical solution is one that cannot only collect information and do basic statistical analysis – not just when is an air handling unit turning on and off, but also how that air handling “should be” performing based on occupancy, time of day, weather, thermostat readings, and many other variables. With a full understanding of what the data is saying and what it means on a real-time basis, we can then discern the underlying inefficiencies in a system, the actions that need to be taken, how much they will save, and how much they will cost. 

Our predictive consumption models are 98% accurate and can forecast the impact of everything from detailed HVAC optimization procedures, to retrofits, even occupancy variances. With an Energy Saving Measure (ESM) database being continuously updated, any technology can be applied to the simulation model to determine the effects on a building. The information is delivered through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) interface that is always on and can be accessed at any time, allowing stakeholders to monitor and verify their savings measures in real time thanks to continuous, automated data analysis and ongoing ESM identification.

For building owners and operators, this means they can now know their true energy consumption before they make any investments and have confidence in the ROI of any energy efficiency upgrade. Further, the system can be scaled as needed with the installation and integration of additional sensors, across multiple properties and structures, eliminating the limiting factors of traditional energy efficiency analysis. Best of all, owners can now create accurate energy budgets based on detailed energy consumption forecasts, planning out their spending in advance with a full understanding on their true needs and limits.

It Works

This comprehensive analysis method has already been implemented in over 30 buildings and shown to be effective in office buildings, healthcare facilities, and universities. Recently, we completed a project for a commercial office building in our own backyard of Austin, Texas. The owner had recently acquired the building with the intention of upgrading in order to attract tenants and have the opportunity to increase rent. The customer wanted to know where its investment capital should be spent in order to get the best ROI.

The customer wanted to know where its investment capital should be spent in order to get the best ROI

We onboarded the client’s building onto the Energy to Profits™ platform, and provided the customer with full insight into energy savings measures complete with cost, savings and payback numbers to guide the investment decision process. The customer then had the option to choose between saving 32% of their energy spend with an investment payback of only 1.7 years or saving 45% with a payback of 4.6 years. With a 7% cap rate, the building has the opportunity to add $794,000 to its value through the Bractlet Energy to Profits™ platform.

Building added $794,000 to it’s value with the Bractlet platform

And energy efficiency is just the beginning. Building managers that have access to continuous data analytics and a dynamic energy simulation model can use the platform as a daily interface, watching how their building is performing with confidence that their building will stay continuously optimized. 

Recently named one of Forbes 30 under 30 in energy, Alec Manfre is passionate about reducing the energy consumption of buildings using scalable technology. Since graduating from Georgia Tech with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, Alec has led the execution of Bractlet's vision and strategy as the CEO and Co-founder.