How Macerich streamlined energy management with Buildings IOT

Ryan Knudson HeadShot

Ryan Knudson, Macerich

When the third largest shopping centre investor in the US decided to unify energy management systems across 17 sites, it called on Buildings IOT to integrate them without disrupting operations. Ryan Knudson, VP of corporate responsibility & sustainability at Macerich, explains how the company worked with Buildings IOT on the project it called EMS 2.0.

What problems were you looking to solve?

With our EMS 2.0 platform, Macerich was trying to build a system our facilities teams would find both engaging and functional. We viewed these objectives as key to solving the user adoption and energy savings back-sliding problems many new automation systems encounter.

Specifically, one of the key requests we would receive from our operations team was to have a platform that was mobile-friendly. The system also needed to provide new and evolving insights into our building operations, which is the driver of our savings models.

Previously we have employed fairly robust enterprise energy management systems, which gave us insight into the various settings of our properties. But we didn’t have any insight into whether these systems were performing at peak efficiency.

We view using fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) as an opportunity to enhance and modify our operating parameters to reach our energy goals. Buildings IOT married our two competing goals of an engaging mobile-forward user front-end and robust FDD back-end, leading us to the platform we use today.

What results have you had since adoption?

Since its initial implementation in 2019, the platform has been a key driver of our 9% reduction in emissions. This is significant to our goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, as we expect the flexibility of the FDD platform to provide new insights and new opportunities.

How did you choose Buildings IOT?

In partnership with multiple stakeholders, including IT and our facilities operations team, we tested and scorecarded three different products. We knew about Buildings IOT’s platform from our years of partnership, but we also wanted to make sure we selected the best-in-class for our specific use case.

As I said before, we had two competing objectives for the functionality of the system, but we also had several technological and infrastructure requirements. We already had a robust and sophisticated Niagara-based enterprise energy system, and we wanted to make sure the new platform built upon those investments. The platform from Buildings IOT was a Niagara-based system that layered advanced graphics and FDD back-end onto it to match our strategy.

Macerich Buildings IOT

Take me through the process

  • We set up a pilot group of operations managers and facilities managers to test the platform. Based on their feedback, we made modifications to the user interface to make sure it was as functional as possible

  • We set up training sessions with each property team after they moved to the platform. We focused on the new features, such as on-demand schedule grouping and mobile graphics. This gave our teams a sense of excitement and ownership of the system

  • We conducted follow-up meetings at regular intervals for the first 12 months to discuss any issues the teams had or information gaps. This feedback loop allowed us to both validate adoption and refine the platform

  • Finally, we conduct annual training for all users to help new and experienced users develop a deep understand and comfort with the system.

How long did it take to set up?

The project, which included development, testing, implementation, “burn-in,” training, and operational turnover, took about 18 months to set up across all 17 sites.

Were there any challenges along the way?

We had several challenges, which was expected given the complexity of the project.

The first challenge we had to solve was the cybersecurity of the system. This system was the first time we moved our EMS to an external cloud environment, which, as you might, expect caused some concerns with our IT partners.

We wisely brought in our IT team early on in the project and had them manage the implementation, so we were able to solve all of the security concerns before we started migrating over to the platform.

The next obstacle was how to balance standardising graphics and data tagging for benchmarking and FDD, given the disparity in our HVAC systems at our 17 different properties. We quickly learned that although we had a robust BACnet infrastructure for data collection, that data was very different property to property.

We ultimately made the decision to lean into customisation to ensure proper functionality, which did cause project delays. However, we feel this customisation increased adoption and usage.

Macerich Buildings IOT 2

How have you changed the way you operate?

We have modified some of our maintenance practices to integrate the energy insights from the FDD, which has seen almost all of the initial “high savings” opportunities resolved. This has also changed many of the discussions between our general managers and their facilities teams on the subject of energy.

Empowered with an easy-to-understand user interface along with FDD reports, our non-technical managers are now able to make better decisions on maintenance and capital investments, which has allowed Macerich to realize fairly significant energy and monetary savings.

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