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How higher education campuses are leading the way for advanced energy management

Image of Natalie Patton
Natalie Patton

Examining what it takes for universities to meet climate impact goals and where it makes the most sense to begin that journey.

For higher education in North America, sprawling campuses, a patchwork of building automation systems and executive-led initiatives to achieve ambitious climate impact goals keep energy and facilities management departments busy. Where does a consortium of departmental stakeholders begin in the effort of determining the work and the technologies needed to support these goals?

The complexities and contradictions of any building portfolio are on full display throughout your campus – there are older buildings with legacy systems and newer buildings with the latest and greatest tech; there are traditional facility management teams and new wave energy and sustainability departments; there are leadership-driven programs and funding challenges; there is at once too much and not enough data to really inform the decision-making process. But the goals are clear:

  • reduce emissions
  • modernize systems
  • limit labor-intensive tasks
  • gain visibility into operations so that you can achieve your goals
  • set an example for sustainability globally

Except, where do you begin?

You might start by focusing in on one or two desired outcomes. For higher education facilities that want to improve data quality, enhancing automated reporting capabilities and benchmarking consumption are a great launching point. These baseline efforts can inform broader upgrade strategies and assist in prioritizing the modernization of systems across your campus while making it possible to do your daily jobs of tenant billing, energy analysis, work order management and general operations more efficiently.

As everyone knows who works in or around building data on a higher education campus, the complexity and volume of the systems across your university can quickly lead to roadblocks that make achieving your goals difficult. If you already have an energy management system, you as a longtime user probably have a wish list of ways you would like to see it work better for you. On the off chance you don’t have an existing energy management system, you definitely need one.

In general, the most effective strategies for achieving sustainability goals include:

  • gaining access to the data you have,
  • planning for the data you want
  • and designing a solution that bridges the gap efficiently over time.

Because there is always a change-management component to any new process or system, a phased approach to building system data integration will allow you to bring your interdepartmental colleagues along incrementally, while achieving small wins in the process. Some phasing strategies could include:

  • An initial focus on meter data to solve specific problems of data quality and tenant billing;
  • Using that meter data to benchmark buildings by consumption;
  • Using consumption analysis to inform site selection for more detailed integration to HVAC system data and in turn support capital funding requests for more involved retrofit projects.

The tradition and provenance that makes your university the institutional leader that it is today was built steadily over years of dedication to breaking new ground through proven methods of research and knowledge transfer. Your sustainability goals will be achieved in the same way.

If you’re looking for a technology partner that understands building data and what it takes to make it useful to a variety of stakeholders, consider teaming up with Buildings IOT. Our innovative adaptive buildings technologies have helped universities like yours:

  • reduce the time it takes to validate meter data and bill tenants for usage,
  • manage disparate equipment via a singular interface for diverse building types across a single campus,
  • illuminate consumption and performance data using standard normalizations for weather and building size,
  • gain unified control of distributed assets,
  • save energy
  • automate workflows
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