Facilities management for cities is not unlike that of commercial companies, often dominated by tickets from occupant requests, leaving little time to be strategic. To become more sustainable requires a bit more strategic thinking, especially for the long term. This is where laying the groundwork for a digital-based data strategy is an absolute must-have for the future of how cities manage their facilities.

At Hitachi we recommend a three-step approach:

1) Understand your portfolio

Capture solid information about all the utilities consumed across the portfolio. This includes electrical, gas and water at the whole facility level for each and every building under management, whether owned or leased. This information provides the city a point of view on where they are consuming natural resources, and a starting point for bench-marking facilities to compare internally or externally, based on building type, space type and functional use. Key performance indicators can be generated using this method to determine relative carbon footprint, energy star compliance, and outliers, where buildings are just off the charts on consumption. The aggregation of this data at the portfolio level provides the insight to better understand where to look next. You would expect capturing this data to be simple, but it's not, and primarily comes from billing data, which establishes a baseline for carbon dashboarding.

2) Capture data near real-time

Once the ability to spot and identify outliers on historical billing is enabled, it's still not enough, and certainly not enough to be responsive fast enough to avoid problem consumption. This is where telemetry from sensors and meters at the facility can help enrich the overall picture with near real-time information. By enabling telemetry through an array of sensors deeper within the facility, a city can begin the journey of better understanding how their facilities are actually used. This includes isolation of key electrical consumption like lighting, heating, cooling and other aspects that put context around how the building is utilized and relating it to things like the weather, occupancy and other factors that might influence overall resource consumption.

3) Establish renewables and demand response

Sustainable approaches can also include renewable options, where solar panels, batteries and micro-grid approaches help alleviate demand and begin the process of blending the energy mix toward a lower carbon footprint. Just as important is actively working with your utility providers to secure the best rates and options. Understanding what other cities have and pay  for can be insightful, including incentives that might be offered for energy conservation measures that can bring significant energy savings. Lighting and HVAC upgrades and retrofits are prime examples of ways to extract further facility savings.

Key to accomplishing all the above is a solid strategy for telemetry that enriches the data you have on facilities operations and turns it into a true weapon that clearly raises visibility to overall performance. This allows for a much more productive discussion when budgets are involved, and gives a voice to the data that tells the real underlying story of how your buildings are performing. Powerful insights provide powerful ways to manage differently and are essential ingredients for managing buildings in the future, allowing the perfect balance between sustainability and resource consumption.