Jamie Cameron, director of digital solutions at Johnson Controls looks at the ongoing issue of data efficiency.

The energy industry is putting the UK under increasing pressure, which is affecting homes and businesses nationwide. Less petrol is available, prices are skyrocketing, and more than 1 million small businesses in the UK are locked into expensive energy contracts. The emphasis on the nation's reliance on fossil fuels and our urgent need to transition to renewable, more efficient energy usage are both obvious given how frequently the subject of sustainability comes up.

However, it is not only the government's responsibility to reduce our energy usage. Making the buildings we live in more efficient depends on business executives, facilities managers, and people like us. Commercial buildings use about 40% of all energy consumed globally and produce close to a third of all greenhouse gases. Businesses may be at a disadvantage in terms of talent, incentives, and profits if they fail to make their buildings more efficient because sustainability commitments are supported by both public policy and public opinion. Thus, the question arises: How can businesses increase efficiency without spending millions of dollars or jeopardising worker productivity?

Energy-efficient technology – an oxymoron, or the future?

At first glance, ‘energy-efficient technology’ might seem like an oxymoron. After all, when we think of the relationship between technology and energy, we often picture large commercial city landscapes fully illuminated deep into the night, or rows of office PCs and screens consuming power for up to 12 hours a day. But in recent years, technology that is truly energy-efficient has advanced far beyond incremental changes.

Now, businesses can employ various optimisation software platforms to predict and directly monitor workplace energy costs, and automatically optimise cooling, heating, and power generation. They can use AI-powered data analytics to monitor building performance, enhance tenant experience, and meet sustainability goals. Building managers may still assume that the implementation of such powerful, energy-efficient technologies would be a long, costly process. But the truth is they can be installed into buildings quickly and efficiently, and managers can start seeing results and returns immediately.

Predicting the future to preserve energy

What if you could predict the future? And better yet, what if your central plant could automatically adjust your energy usage and costs to prepare for that future? Meet central plant optimisation software. Central utility plant (CUP) technology uses predictive algorithms to maximise buildings’ energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions while delivering reliable utility services. And it dispatches decisions every 15 minutes based on a myriad of ever-changing inputs.

First, it looks at equipment performance models. Every major piece of building equipment, such as chillers, boilers, and cooling towers, is tuned into the system to monitor performance and cost, and optimise efficiency under operating conditions. Next, it pulls seven-day local weather forecasts for temperature, humidity, and cloudiness to predict loads, equipment performance and ambient conditions. For example, if a particularly mild Wednesday was predicted, CUP technology would prepare to reduce the building’s heating output, ensuring the central plant runs at the lowest possible cost, and far more sustainably, too.

Then, the software combines the forecasts with existing data on historical loads, days of the week, time of day, building schedules, maintenance calendars, and special events to adjust operations and automatically make decisions that guarantee the reliable delivery of workplace utility services. CUP software can also model the simplest flat rates to the most complex real-time pricing and market-based incentive programmes. So, even in the event of high demand, such as the current UK energy crisis, buildings and occupants using CUP technology enjoy lower tariffs, optimised efficiency, and retain a much larger utility budget.

Improving building management through the use of AI platforms and data analytics

Businesses can also increase their energy efficiency by installing thorough building management systems. These AI platforms provide managers with a simulated bird's-eye view of the buildings and assist in decision-making that results in stronger sustainability practises. They continuously inspect workplaces, identifying inefficiencies, identifying equipment issues, and recommending the corrective action required to fix them. They also give managers the ability to monitor not only energy consumption but also asset, space, health, and occupant comfort parameters, all in an effort to increase Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scores.

Many platforms even provide an ecosystem of cloud-based apps that let managers and tenants instantly change the temperature, water supply, HVAC systems, and more in various parts of a building. Managers can now track real-time spending, efficiency insights, and progress directly from their smartphone, which makes it easier to regularly update stakeholders on sustainability results. Therefore, they are not just gathering data; they can also share it.

Smart, interconnected management platforms have already been installed in thousands of buildings worldwide. By monitoring and enhancing energy efficiency, tenant satisfaction, asset performance, maintenance operations, and space performance, these enterprise management tools are used to improve the comfort of all occupants. They are made for places like business offices, hospitals, luxury mixed-use buildings, transportation, shops, and educational institutions.

Businesses can complete their individual journeys to net-zero carbon emissions while assisting the environment overall if best practises are adopted globally. Businesses must look to technology for a vastly improved way of managing utilities as costs rise yearly and government regulations are constantly changing. Without intelligent technology, they will never be able to affect meaningful change for themselves, the environment, or our health.