4 min read

Nexus #8 (2/4/2020)

Why we need digital twins, PointGuard's unique approach to O&M and CapEx analytics, a moment of reckoning for the real estate industry, inspiration from Kobe

👋 Welcome to Nexus, a newsletter for people applying analytics and other smart building technology—written by James Dice.

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This is an experiment, and I’d love your feedback. If you have thoughts, questions, ideas or tips, join the discussion on LinkedIn or hit reply.

My latest ideas

+ Why We Need Digital Twins for Buildings—this is part two of a three (or maybe more? 🤷‍♂️) part series on digital twins for buildings. Let me know what you think in the comments or on LinkedIn.

+ My recent blog post on the merits of an independent data layer has struck quite a nerve on LinkedIn. Which side are you on? Join the debate.

News worth knowing

1. Analytics

+ PointGuard’s unique approach to O&M and CapEx analyticsthis recent webinar from PointGuard features a unique approach to operations & maintenance (O&M) analytics that’s worth your time. I watched the webinar and caught up with the PointGuard team for a quick demo and Q&A.

First, a quick intro to PointGuard:

  • A spinoff of Abundant Power launched last year, they’re an analytics software and, if needed, managed-service provider

  • Their analytics stack uses SkySpark as a backbone and their own frontend user interface software to provide additional O&M-focused capabilities (workflow management, CMMS integration, reporting, etc)

  • Their approach is focused on providing a “flashlight for RCx/MBCx measures” and a 5-step process for MBCx, similar to the one I outlined in a recent blog post:

    1. Detecting faults

    2. Determining the actions needed

    3. Managing them with built-in work order management or API work order pushes

    4. Verifying the actions worked

    5. Preventing the issue from happening again

I love this approach—these guys really get MBCx. But I want to key in on something else: the creative way PointGuard is using data to make things easier for the O&M staff using three KPIs:

  1. Comfort score (1-100)—how well the system meets temperature and humidity setpoints
  2. Asset Health (1-100)—how well the system performs according to a rollup of 68 fault detection algorithms
  3. Failure Risk (1-10)—how likely the equipment is to fail, according to the comfort score, asset health, and age (compared to its useful life according to ASHRAE). This KPI is also applied to individual mechanical components, allowing an update to the risk rank if, for instance, a chiller’s compressor is replaced.

These KPIs will help promote smarter O&M decisions, such as:

  • Choosing to replace equipment based on performance data in addition to the old method: age, maintenance history, and visual inspection. In other words, based on the data, which pieces of equipment don’t need to be replaced?
  • Building short-term and long-term CapEx budgets using trends in the above KPIs
  • Deciding whether to renew HVAC service contracts. In other words, how well did the contractor improve these KPIs?

I could see this progressing to where PointGuard can predict equipment and component failures using machine learning.

What do you think?

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2. Smart Buildings

+ “One of the most significant things to happen to real estate since the internet”— A Tech Talk Radio podcast interview with proptech venture capital firm Fifth Wall, who just announced a $200m Carbon Impact Fund. Here’s a bit from Fifth Wall’s blog post announcement on how, just over the last 6 months, the wider public is waking up to the fact that the sector's contribution to carbon emissions is much greater than demonized sectors like plastics or car transport:

  1. Regulators have enacted legislation that specifically targets real estate with aggressive, near-term emissions reduction requirements.
  2. Investors have stated clear mandates to preferentially deploy capital into companies and assets with low and net-zero carbon performance.
  3. Customers (e.g., tenants) are beginning to demand low carbon performance from their landlords.

Read their post and you’ll realize that the fund is just the beginning. They’ll also form an alliance across the industry to leverage what they say has been missing: collective action.

Times they are a changin’…

3. Smart Humans

+ Last week we lost one of my childhood heroes: Kobe Bryant. Well…let’s be real: he’s as much of a hero to me today as he was I was 12 years old. I’ve never felt so deeply distraught by the death of someone I’ve never met.

How does this relate to smart buildings? A few weeks back, we talked about the daunting task we have in front of us this decade. We need to radically decarbonize the built environment. No big deal….. 😒

I think a major obstacle in this journey will be motivation. Those of us who’ve been at this for a while are getting jaded. There have been so many obstacles in our way. Not to mention the building owners, politicians, and others that just don’t get it. They’ve beaten us down.

While the tide may be changing as we saw above, there will surely be more obstacles in our path. I think one way for us to keep our mojo is to channel Kobe’s #mambamentality. Here’s one of my favorite examples of that from the outpouring of them this week:

RIP Mamba ✌️

OK, that’s all for this week—thank for reading Nexus!

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