How Ecolibrium helps JLL spot ‘junk’ data in buildings
Major organisations recognise that operations systems, whether building management systems or factory assembly lines, aren’t necessarily fully optimised just because they work, writes Chintan Soni.
JLL got in touch with us at Ecolibrium on behalf of their client Cognizant, requiring us to assess their building management system and find a way to save at least 5% on their energy consumption. However, the pandemic had other plans, which led to unexpected bounties.
JLL invited us to help them achieve operational excellence at the Cognizant office complex in Chennai. The complex already had a total of 1,693 sensors connected to the local energy management system — 574 energy meters, electrical panels, and sensors on the generator and transformer equipment, 24 in the chillers and cooling towers, 1004 in HVAC units, and 91 in other systems like elevators, overhead tank, and weather station.
However, the monitoring system at the complex was local-only, with no networking outside the facility. So not only was all the data it was generating daily useless to other complexes, but it was also incapable of running machine learning algorithms.
Building a framework
Cognizant had all the necessary monitoring infrastructure, just with no way to properly digitalise it, so we added a layer on top of their existing systems. We began acquiring data from the monitoring systems and routing it to our proprietary SmartSense program to work its magic. This allowed us to obtain a bird’s-eye view of the energy usage patterns and offer solutions.
The first thing we noticed was the frequent junk values the building management system was outputting, so step one became to clean up all this incoming data. That meant tracking systems in real-time and benchmarking values, before we could clean up the data using SmartSense. In the process, we identified multiple sensor issues causing the errors and fixed them.
Evolving and adapting
But there was another issue. When we signed the agreement with JLL pre-pandemic, it included helping them achieve 5% energy savings. When the lockdown was initiated, occupancy in the complex was down to just 4%, a negligible amount that did not warrant energy saving measures.
Instead, we focused our attention wholly on digitalisation. Though JLL already had energy data gathering in play, it was all being monitored manually. Our syncing of these systems with IoT gateways allowed us to capture this data without expending manpower, while generating 14 automated reports in the process. It also allowed us to put into place preventive plan maintenance (PPM), offering early warning signs of wear and tear, indicating that a piece of equipment would need to be serviced soon.
Beginning a net zero journey
At JLL’s behest, we also used the newly rectified and verified data to help them track their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions on-site and identify their carbon footprint. This is especially important now that occupancy is going up again, since Cognizant is committed to achieving net zero carbon by 2040.
One instance where this was crucial was in the case of their diesel generator (DG) energy consumption. Our reports showed that it was throwing up random spikes, indicating junk values. On investigating further, we found that the Scope 1 emissions arising from the DG were extremely high. We replaced the energy meter for the DG, and the system has shown no junk values since.
We are also now in a position to provide them with a sustainability dashboard to track their carbon footprint, and a tool to build their own net zero carbon strategy. In fact, in the future this dashboard could be synced to any JLL property worldwide integrated with SmartSense, even as JLL spoke of partnering with Ecolibrium for other facilities across India.
As part of our monitoring systems, we were able to accurately benchmark the facility’s energy usage at both peak operations and at minimal strength during the lockdown. In this way, we now have an accurate estimate of the site’s monthly energy usage. This allows JLL to change its agreement with its utilities provider, saving budgets in the long term.
The energy performance index (EPI) we built also allowed our real-time monitoring systems to better pinpoint anomalies. This lets JLL zero in on problems as they occur, fixing issues before they cause a long-term spike in energy consumption. This is something the company couldn’t do with their old infrastructure.
Adding a SmartSense analytical layer on top of the existing building management system empowered JLL to gain crucial insight into the facility’s energy usage. Our IoT integration and report automation also allows JLL to both save on manpower previously used to track this data, as well as monitor asset health for early warning signs they require maintenance.
And thanks to the addition of our EPI and an additional support provider, the company can use our insights to continuously improve operations in the future.
All of this allows both JLL and Cognizant to make huge strides towards their commitments to net zero emissions by 2040.
Chintan Soni is CEO of Ecolibrium.