Smart Control

by Katie Lee

Mastering the art of problem-solving: Turn HVAC and facility equipment data into knowledge.

By Robert W. Martin, CEM, CPMM

Every day, Energy Management Systems (EMS) around the country collect hundreds of thousands of data points in 15-minute increments. These data points provide insight into how well a facility is operating, how efficient its HVAC equipment is, and whether it is maintaining pre-determined temperature set-points and operating schedules. But because of the enormous amount of telemetry collected, the potential positive impact of EMS is often not fully realized. How can retailers keep up with all of this information on a daily basis, across thousands of sites within their enterprise?

The most advanced EMS platforms leverage an analytics engine that automatically scrubs system energy and performance data multiple times per day and “does the heavy lifting” for various sites, using very complex algorithms. These platforms allow retailers to see both positive and negative trends in their facilities and provide actionable information. Additionally, EMS platforms can help reduce energy costs and also allow companies to create more efficiency in HVAC maintenance management and even capital allocation processes.

HVAC Analytics

During the third quarter of every year, HVAC health reports should be used to help customers assess end-of-useful life replacement of their critical assets. By tracking the Repairs and Maintenance spend against every asset and comparing that to EMS health reports, facility managers can more accurately prioritize requested capital dollars for the new upcoming year.

Just as importantly, these EMS will also rank each site and provide a score that can be used to see how well providers are performing. This can also be included in annual contract reviews.

For instance, we offer our customers multiple strategies to help them manage their enterprises. Building owners and operators can leverage the EMS data and analytics in many ways to create tangible value.

• Advanced Analytics: Can provide a better understanding of building and equipment performance, and allow historical trending, pattern recognition and correlation between cause and effect of issues and events occurring in the various building and HVAC subsystems.

• Automated Benchmarking: Enables benchmarking of a building’s HVAC system performance against industry standards or benchmarks. Owners and operators alike can monitor their HVAC system energy usage and compare it to their peers’ usage.

• Preventive Maintenance: Future potential maintenance issues can be identified through simulation and predictive technologies that will look at past performance during different weather conditions, as well as at data and issue trends. Such actions will help extend asset and equipment life and reduce operating costs.  They will also help customers schedule regular maintenance, minimizing business disruption.

• Right-sizing HVAC Capacity: By leveraging data and analytics, building facility managers can also model their future energy requirements across multiple ASHRAE zones and simulate their future operating budgets by division. With the ability to easily tally unit run-time and performance across a broad temperature range, retailers can ensure they buy the right amount of energy.

• Connecting Communities: Multiple departments within each corporation are interested in the energy data and analytics that EMS platforms provide. Various decision-makers can access whichever type of data they need, without having to request it from a single user. This keeps everyone on a level playing field and makes the system more valuable in terms of what it can do for each user, on a real-time basis.

Expanding the Reach

The HVAC service network and the manufacturer community can also benefit from the data and analytics that advanced platforms provide to:

• Improve future design by understanding how their equipment and systems are used by customers, facilitating the alignment between product development and customer needs;

• Anticipate future repair and replacement needs, thus improving service quality and planning;

• Increase service productivity by allowing schedulers to plan and execute routine and service maintenance with more accurate targeting of current and future issues identified by using the data and analytics that the EMS provides; and

• Differentiate their relationship and service offerings from organizations that are not leveraging EMS data and analytics, thereby distinguishing themselves from their competitors and creating new business models.

The data and analytics help providers and end-users understand what is going on with buildings and the HVAC systems within them, the implications of this data, and recommended actions for improving building performance. This is achieved as data is collected, analyzed and understood.

As retailers get better at moving from data to analytics, they will become more proactive in managing their HVAC fleet. This shift in focus has important ramifications and delivers meaningful impact to the organization’s financial budget.

Future Challenges

Data analytics have matured in certain industry domains such as banking, financial services, defense and security. However, in the HVAC and buildings industry, it is still in its early stages but evolving rapidly. Customers in the retail, fitness, grocery and manufacturing sectors have invested in advanced platforms that provide data and analytics and address several challenges, including:

• Organization of building data to enable analytics and advisory services is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in this industry.

• We are also exploring more effective solutions to store and manage the huge volumes of data that are collected from customers’ day-to-day operations.

• Variations of scope, design, ASHRAE zones and configuration lead to differences in HVAC systems that increase the challenges of data normalization.

• After capturing and curating the data, the next challenge of developing flexible platforms is to create visualization reports and dashboards instantaneously to meet individual customer needs. Finally, deploy robust analytical platforms for predictive modeling, fault detection and diagnostics, and creation of economic value from the EMS data and analytics.

The core technology for HVAC systems has been stable for many years, but EMS data analytics is poised to bring the HVAC industry through a paradigm shift, especially with respect to how buildings are viewed, operated, managed and serviced. This constantly evolving area needs to be understood well and acted upon quickly as every day affords a new opportunity for EMS data collection and analysis.




Addressing opportunities and challenges around data and analytics in retail spaces and HVAC systems requires a systematic approach. Some key steps include:

• Capture it: Collect information from different sensor points on HVAC equipment and building sub-systems.

• Scrub it: Select, analyze and organize collected information.

• Manage it: Store and correlate information to derive knowledge and wisdom from it.

• Process it: Analyze and present information in an actionable format with economic impact indicators.


— Robert W. Martin, CEM, CPMM, is a field operations manager with Siemens’ Building Technologies Division. He is responsible for the execution and quality of Site Controls Energy Management platform installations in North America. Based in Austin, Texas, Martin can be reached at [email protected].

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