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|Best Practices for Building Analytics
If your analytics engine is built correctly now, it will enhance workflows and support cost savings while being able to expand quickly as Responsive Analytics takes over in the not-so-distant future.
Director, Energy and Analytics,
term “analytics” is thrown around a lot these days. From enhanced
visualization to fault detection and diagnostics, analytics can be used
to describe it all. And it’s all progress in our quest to make use of
the data we collect from modern buildings. However, our ultimate goal
is to generate the correct response from the data we’ve analyzed.
Analytics that either inform an action of trained operators or
automatically improve a system’s operation are called Responsive
Analytics, and they’re the end game we’re all working toward.
Responsive Analytics are those solutions that drive positive,
productive change in our facilities. We use the following best
practices to make our analytics more responsive.
Find what matters most to you, quickly and easily
needs for each company, institution or municipality can vary. Even
individual stakeholders may require different information or hold
certain findings of higher importance than others. While some may focus
entirely on energy usage, others are driven by occupant comfort or
equipment reliability. Analytics can certainly provide insight for all,
but weeding through what doesn’t interest you should not be a chore.
The first step in a successful analytics approach is a carefully
thought-out organization of the rules and reports that are actually
needed so each company or stakeholder can quickly and easily find what
matters most to them.
Beyond a classification of rules, there must also be a way to prioritize the findings of your analytics engine. Ideally, priority would be a proxy for the financial impact of the issue, but that’s not always possible. What’s the cost of uncomfortable tenants? And what is more important, the financial impact of a past event or the future impact if it isn’t resolved? However you evaluate priority, simply assigning a High, Medium and Low value to your rules will not suffice.
this: You log in to your alarm console and look back at the past seven
days. You see that a “Medium” priority issue has been happening 24
hours a day for the whole week. During that same week, your “High”
priority issue occurred for only one hour. Which issue from that week
would be your real highest priority?
Limit nuisance and false alarms
is better to identify five issues conclusively than to report 10 issues
where two are false. Why? Because it is difficult to regain the trust
of your facility staff once they’ve spent time investigating a false
The job of limiting nuisance and false alarms is not an easy one. In some cases, it’s a larger task than identifying the issue, to begin with. Poor data quality, communication problems, faulty sensors, data modeling errors, and controller failure can easily manifest themselves as some unrelated issue, sending your facility staff off on a wild goose chase. If your analytics provider hasn’t explained how they are going to address these concerns, it’s time to ask a few key questions:
Send the right message
crucial step towards responsive analytics is providing a clear and
useful message to the user. This starts with a succinct description of
the observed conditions which resulted in the fault detection, followed
by a list of possible causes and the recommended next steps to solve
the problem. These messages should be as detailed as possible without
drawing false conclusions. Here are some examples of the full spectrum:
analytics community strives to create rules and algorithms that
pinpoint the root cause of every issue, but in practice, the cause is
not always so clear cut. Our last example is an illustration of how two
analytics – one for unnecessary cooling and one for an incorrect
setpoint – can be combined to get us closer to a root cause. But even
with those two analytic points, we require confirmation of the real
issue before a solution can be complete. Those who claim their
analytics can nail the root cause in all circumstances probably do not
have the experience to know why that’s not possible. Instead, your
analytics should lead people toward the solution by telling them what
additional information must be confirmed.
Don’t try to drink from the firehose
your analytics engine is worth its weight, it is likely going to
produce a lot of findings, especially when you first turn it on. It is
easy to be overwhelmed with a seemingly never ending list of action
items and problems to investigate. A good system should throttle what
is provided to the end user. Whether this comes in the form of targeted
reports, advanced issue filtering, or user-defined views the action
items for your team should be easy to find and limited to only what can
be realistically accomplished. The prioritization mentioned above is a
prerequisite for this type of reporting. It’s important to remember
that our goal is to solve problems, not just to identify them, so a
to-do list of 20 items when you only have time for five isn’t helpful.
Especially when the list changes every week.
Beware of cookie-cutter analytics
be cost effective, analytics are developed in broad strokes so they can
apply to many different systems, equipment types, and buildings. That
doesn’t mean there isn’t a need to develop algorithms and rules that
address the unique issues of your facility. A flexible platform that
allows for customization provides the most assurance that you will get
what you need from your analytics engine.
Be ready for what’s next
analytics packages on the market today are passive, rule-based engines
that identify issues and propose solutions. There is significant
momentum now for both real-time optimization and machine-learning that
will change the way we think about analytics and FDD in the coming
years. We’ve all got our eyes on the Responsive Analytics prize, but to
get there, we need to establish a strong foundation for analytic
understanding with a focus on the usability of the products as they
stand now. The information needs to be relevant and readily available.
Operators need to see the information improving work flow while
managers need to see it impacting the bottom line, all without
overloading anyone with information that’s not crucial to meeting those
objectives. If your analytics engine is built correctly now, it will
enhance workflows and support cost savings while being able to expand
quickly as Responsive Analytics takes over in the not-so-distant
About the Author
Schoenfeld is Director of Energy and Analytics at Kodaro. He applies
his deep technical knowledge of building system design, engineering and
operation to Kodaro's growing list of analytics products and services.
Schoenfeld has been an engineer in the renewable energy and energy
efficiency fields for more than 15 years.
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