With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent cautious re-entry of building occupants in places of work, study and recreation, building facility managers and engineers are having to better balance demands between energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Energy and air quality have a direct impact on each other, most notably as they intersect in relation to HVAC systems in commercial and residential buildings.
Traditionally, the data from energy meters and air quality monitors and sensors, have been housed and dealt with separately. Keeping costs down, especially in a reduced economy, is a key priority for businesses and building operators, but too is creating a healthy, safe indoor environment for occupants, tenants and staff. While these two functions have traditionally been thought to be in conflict with each other, smart building design aided by robust monitoring and analytics technology is necessary toward achieving an optimal balance between energy efficiency and air quality.
Monitoring and analysis are imperative
It goes without saying that for any optimization project, whether it be energy savings; net zero carbon emissions; reduced energy bills, improved air quality; or any combination of these objectives—energy monitoring and analysis is non-negotiable. It helps to understand:
- Energy analytics allow tracking of historical and current consumption & behavioral trends eg. the HVAC at the head office at Site C has consumed an abnormally high amount of energy i.e. 194 kWh of energy between 8.30am and 3pm for the past week and/or the TVOC level has risen above accepted levels after work hours for the past 30 days. Knowing your building/facility’s behavior will enable you to create baseline measurements for further optimization and improvements.
- Operations, processes and activities that have the greatest impact on current performance
- External variables that contribute to current trends and performance i.e. outside temperature, occupancy, working hours and so forth.
- Priority areas that present the most significant opportunities for savings
- Measurement and verification of technology upgrades; actions eg. retro-commissioning of HVAC equipment and other behaviour modifications with the highest pay-off/return-on-investment
So, when seeking to optimise facilities for both energy efficiency and air quality, we have to consider the immense value of analysing these datasets together, side by side, in order to facilitate better decision making, as to what actions will be effective toward achieving an optimal balance i.e. maintaining good quality air indoors, reduce instances of over-ventilation which could lead to higher air-conditioning costs.
Top 4 benefits: Unifying energy & air quality data
Below we list the Top 4 benefits of bringing together energy and air quality monitoring data together in a holistic strategy that improves both energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
Benefit no.1: You can achieve larger improvements with unified data
Centralising your data means that information collected from meters, sensors, applications, systems and other external sources can be better utilized. The value of combining and analysing data cannot be underestimated. Bringing together energy, air quality, environmental data; operational and business data; enables a deeper understanding of how a building as a whole, is performing. By combining data, project owners and analysts have the ability to gain additional insight into how different variables impact each other in terms of energy efficiency, improved air quality and sustainability—leading to the possibility of identifying even larger actions/areas for improvement.
Benefit no.2: Achieve bigger savings of energy consumption and better air quality
Centralising data in one system provides the opportunity for facility/energy managers and air quality managers/specialists to better understand how they can work together to achieve energy efficiency and optimum air quality. Heightened transparency and visibility over how one variable affects the other, can lead to improved decision-making and collaboration.
Benefit no.3: Achieve customer buy-in easier for suggested optimisations/improvements
With the understanding of what’s driving inefficient energy consumption and poor air quality, you can make informed decisions about how energy and air quality can be brought into balance. With the transparency afforded through data analysis, analysts and service companies can better understand the most effective actions to take, and provide data-backed projected savings and return on investment for optimisation projects.
Benefit no.4: Improve rating for building sustainability and wellness standards for your customer’s facilities
If you provide LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), WELL or RESET (Regenerative Ecological, Social, and Economic Targets) certification services, there is always potential to improve the existing performance of the buildings under your management. Under the LEED framework—based on the project type—energy and environmental quality present plenty of possibility to earn points towards certification. With visibility and insight into how energy and air quality interact, better-informed decisions can be made to improve both, which could result in additional points to move onto the next tier (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum). The RESET Standard is the world’s first sensor-based and performance-driven data standard and certification program for the built environment Under the RESET standard, buildings can be assessed and certified in a number of categories including energy, air, water, waste and materials. Similarly to LEED, is built on data and analytics to generate opportunities for improvement and optimizations. Monitoring and analysis of energy and air quality data, respectively, therefore, is key to certification.
WELL, is another performance-based rating system for buildings, where points can be earned towards certification. WELL focuses on health in the built environment awarding points for air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. More on certification with WELL for your projects, here.
Air quality: here to stay
Indoor air quality monitoring and analysis is given a new importance in the wake Covid-19 pandemic, and rightly so. The importance; and the known impact of indoor air quality on an organisation’s energy and sustainability efforts continue to progress with the aid of visibility through monitoring and analytics. So then, if indoor air quality is here to stay, it should be analysed and integrated with the long-term holistic energy and sustainability strategy, not so?
Why Wattics for energy & indoor air quality analysis?
The Wattics energy software processes energy, water, gas, environment data and indoor air quality together in one dashboard. Through our air quality and energy analytics dashboard, you can visualise multiple datasets in one view; find correlations; analyse the current performance of a single building or large portfolio of buildings.
As an enterprise software, Wattics is used by growing teams of energy service companies, green building professionals, energy consultants & analysts to manage multiple energy management, air quality and sustainability projects for commercial and industrial businesses and real estate. The Wattics energy dashboard is also offered as a white-labelled solution—leverage our expertise in analytics to refine your offering/service, strengthen your brand and customer loyalty.
WatticsAir [launching soon: 27 October] builds on the existing analysis capabilities of the Wattics software to bring together and analyse energy and air quality data toward effectively balancing energy efficiency and indoor air quality in buildings. Get the latest updates on the WatticsAir launch we will keep exclusive offers and more indoor air quality content (that you’ll actually want to read!)