August 2013

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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Big Buildings meet Big Data

At the end of the day “data is data” and whether it comes from a building system or the sales information of a large retailer the same tools and techniques can readily be applied.

Paul Ehrlich, Ira Goldschmidt & Angela Lewis
Building Intelligence Group

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Engineered Systems 
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Recently there has been a lot in the press about “big data”.  Big data is government and business servers that are collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data on everything from weather to web browsing, shopping habits to e-mails, and phone calls. While there are some very valid concerns about data privacy, in general the use of big data has resulted in big benefits.  Results include improved storm forecasts, tailored web searches and shopping, and improvements in national security.  Businesses are using these tools to better understand their customers and to make decisions on products and services.

In buildings we also have a large amount of data available.  Within the BAS we have data such as temperatures, humidity and CO2 levels, pressures, power usage, schedules and alarms.  Other information such as energy usage and weather may also be in the BAS, but more likely exists in spreadsheets or on web sites.  Just think about the “other information” that exists in a commercial building.  This may include information about lease terms, recommended maintenance practices, information on the use of elevators and parking garages, and a trove of other valuable data.  Today the only place that this data comes together is with the building engineer.  Their ability to find, much less process this information is limited to their available time and energy as they deal with the many challenges of operating a large building. 

contemporary It would make sense that the tools and methods used for the analysis of other big data could be applied to the information available in commercial buildings.  We have seen a broad variety of vendors starting to introduce products and services to do this type of analysis with the introduction of tools or services that are called energy information, analytics, fault detection and diagnostics or continuous commissioning.  By our count there are well over forty such products on the market today being offered from a broad range of suppliers from new startups to large control companies. 

One that is of particular interest is a new solution from Atlanta based McKenney’s.  They have introduced a new solution called  “BDOC Business Intelligence for Buildings”.  What is most interesting about this new solution is the approach that they have used.  Instead of designing their own analytic engine they have chosen to use a “big data” tool provided by Splunk.  Splunk is one of a number of software providers (including SAS, SAP, Oracle, and many others) that are focused on building tools for analyzing big data.  Bringing tools to bear that are developed for other markets has great benefits in terms of speed to market, and scalability.  After all at the end of the day “data is data” and whether it comes from a building system or the sales information of a large retailer the same tools and techniques can readily be applied.

About the Authors

Paul and IraPaul and Ira first worked together on a series of ASHRAE projects including the BACnet committee and Guideline 13 – Specifying DDC Controls. The formation of Building Intelligence Group provided them the ability to work together professionally providing assistance to owners with the planning, design and development of Intelligent Building Systems. Building Intelligence Group provides services for clients worldwide including leading Universities, Corporations, and Developers. More information can be found at  We also invite you to contact us directly at or


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