Key performance indicators create transparency and boost building performance

October 24, 2018 by Winfried Wirth, head of digitalization architecture and tools, Siemens Building Technologies
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Key performance indicators create transparency and boost building performance

Where increasing performance and especially energy efficiency of professionally managed commercial properties is concerned, factors such as building equipment and energy supply were once the main focus. Yet an approach based on key performance indicators (KPIs), which has long been the norm in other industries, can provide so much more information. KPIs offer commercial property operators and institutional portfolio holders valuable guidance for planning and managing their portfolios in terms of energy consumption, costs, utilization and ultimately performance.

A KPI-based increase in building performance is based on the consolidation and analysis of heterogeneous data streams of the IT infrastructure and their aggregation into defined performance indicators. Stakeholders at all levels of property management thus receive valid operational data against which to gauge business success parameters such as energy behavior, occupancy and
performance intensity of their investment properties.

If the analytical findings and derived improvement potential are fully utilized, further measures to optimize the property can be initiated, implemented and tracked. This typically leads to lower costs over the building's entire life
cycle, greater comfort, sustained value development of the portfolio and lasting competitive advantages.

Buildings and their essential factor: energy efficiency

Buildings consume about 40 percent of energy worldwide. Furthermore, 25 percent of global water consumption and 33 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from building operations. The efficiency and savings potential in this area is correspondingly high. The innovations in construction and building technology over recent years are equally important.

By far the biggest energy drain in most standard commercial buildings is for heating, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of total costs. But at 13 to 18 percent, lighting is hardly trivial. In different usage scenarios, other
factors can also play a major role, such as process heat needed for steam disinfection, which accounts for 18 percent of energy consumption in hospitals (source: dena 2018).

The technology needed for energy-efficient building operation has been around for some time now. In contrast, strictly data-based approaches and services to improve
building performance are less prevalent.

New options for data analytics and connectivity

Systematic energy management opens up a pathway to advanced data analyses that point to measuresthat make building operation more economical, efficient and reliable. Consumption data on electricity, heat, cooling and water are collected via measuring points or data loggers, which also take into account parameters such as valve positions, as well as heating, cooling and air conditioning temperatures.

The energy consumption and measurement data are combined with additional information, including the prices for electricity, water, gas and oil. Consumption budgets to monitor savings are also taken into account, along with weather data.

Data becomes actionable information

Advances in building technology digitalization have also brought about new data analytics and connectivity options. Now entire building technology systems can be interconnected and aligned with one another. In addition to energy demand and supply, data on building automation, lighting, fire protection, building security and indoor positioning are also collected. Structural data in accordance with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and data on building occupancy and use are also recorded and can be used over the entire life cycle of the building.

For the first time, the analyses extracted from static and dynamic data deliver complete and highly granular transparency on energy consumption in the building. These analyses help identify major consumers as well as data collection gaps. Various energy efficiency services rely on the collected data. Recommendations can be made regarding energy purchasing, such as through cost-efficient load shifting or optimization of building operations through technical upgrades. The use of space can also be optimized.

Which KPIs are the best for measuring the performance of commercial buildings?

Key performance indicators are used to reflect complex processes as simply as possible and to carry out control tasks as quickly as possible. They must be quantifiable and render measurable the most critical relationships and central success factors. They must also be able to depict complex structures and processes in a relatively simple form and to create transparency. For energy efficiency, the most straightforward method is a consumption analysis of energy used and its costs in relation to a defined output or target values in the core or support processes of a business or production operation.

KPIs observed in isolation are only of limited value because they do not necessarily reveal causal economic or technical relationships. What is important is to illustrate mutual dependencies and thus increase their actionable m their actionable  value. To capture building performance in its entirety requires data other than energy use. Possible high-level data categories include:

  • Space (e.g., building type, age and location, vacancy rate, tenant structure),
  • Financials (e.g., investment, operating costs, revenue and profitability),
  • Environment(e.g., consumption of gas, water, electricity, oil and corresponding
  • emissions), and
  • Performance (e.g., revenue per square meter, cost per workstation, new leasing rate, utilization, reliability of technical equipment, efficiency level of facility management organization).

Yet the data collected and the measurements taken are not the complete picture. Energy engineers and building automation specialists need to take the data and information and develop a holistic energy concept. The final energy concept then details what changes can be made to heating, hot water, air conditioning, ventilation, building automation, energy production, building management, etc. and what effect those changes will have on comfort, costs and market value. The concept should also indicate how long it will take to amortize the individual measures.

It makes sense, especially for commercial buildings, to pay particular attention to the energy supply side as part of any energy management scheme. It is this area that often yields dramatic improvements with relatively little effort. Using the predicted energy requirements of individual buildings or building complexes as the basis, it then becomes possible to analyze the economic viability, sustainability and security of alternative energy supply options.

Practical examples from around the globe

The Sello Shopping Center in Helsinki, for example, clearly illustrates the possibilities that a KPI-based increase in building performance via networked systems offers. The shopping center features 170 shops, a concert hall, a library and a hotel. The operators turned to Siemens Building Technologies for a complete upgrade of the building complex. They wanted the most modern shopping center in Finland, and it needed to meet the highest sustainability standards. Theresult:
Heating and energy costs fell significantly, yielding cost savings of approximately 19 percent or 437,000 euros over four years. The air quality and building temperature, which can now be precisely controlled, have noticeably raised customer satisfaction.

The Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia –the largest museum organization in the southern hemisphere at 80,000 m2 over six locations –also hired Siemens to convert the building management, lighting, water and cooling systems for KPI-based operation. The result: 31 percent lower operating costs, which means that the investment completely paid for itself after seven years. The optimizations also cut CO2and other greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent.

Even within the company itself, Siemens relies on appropriate solutions, such as in the newly built headquarters in Munich. Greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 90 percent there. Furthermore, the building management system makes precise use of solar energy, daylight, geothermal energy and rainwater. Thirty thousand sensors were installed, and the solar modules on the roof cover one third of the energy needs. Automatic LED lighting cuts the energy cost of lighting by 90 percent. The outstanding conformity with numerous sustainability criteria earned it a LEED Platinum certification, among others.


In light of its demonstrable success, the KPI approach to boost building performance is being used more and more –with good reason. Digitalization will change the entire life cycle of buildings in the future – from planning and construction to use and management – and hence the possibilities for the intelligent use of data.

In efficient, intelligently networked and communicating buildings, smart data techniques will reveal precisely quantifiable relationships between the current state of the building technology and energy consumption. It will be possible to make energy prognoses that, when compared with the measurement data, can point to problems.

Automatic benchmarking –the comparison between similarly structured building complexes – will also contribute to optimizing building operation in the future.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) already makes possible the design of intelligent, interactive 3D models of buildings. Using BIM-supported models, any changes in the building plan can be immediately applied and the corresponding parameters updated. Going forward, BIM models will function as digital twins of buildings. The holistic optimization of energy efficiency of existing or new buildings will be plannable virtually. What is especially interesting to building operators: The savings results and future energy consumption can be retrieved even before measures are implemented, with cost transparency and scalability.



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