5 min read

The future of metering [Nexus Newsletter #145]

This edition of the Nexus Newsletter is brought to you by Montgomery Technologies and enVerid Systems.


Hey friends,

Before I shut down my consulting practice earlier this year, I had the opportunity to support one last building in Manhattan.

This building has more submeters per square foot, per floor, per system, and per tenant than any building I've ever seen. AND, perhaps predictably, all that data is barely being used.

We've talked before (most recently here) about how important utility data is for decarbonization and ESG goals. Figuring out how much carbon you emit today is the vital first step on the road to emitting zero.

But while whole building data (that comes from the utility) is vital, it falls short in many ways: it's delayed, it's not frequent enough, and it's not granular enough.

Enter the mighty submeter. Local energy codes have been requiring more and more submeters in new and retrofitted buildings. NYC's Local Law 88, for example, has required tenant submeters since at least 2015.

And IoT metering startups have leveraged Moore's Law to offer cheaper, more reliable, and easier to install submeters than ever before.

But just like I saw at the building in Manhattan, this combination of new tech + regulation isn't enough, is it? Pick a building from anywhere in the world, and you're still likely to find no submeters where they're needed, submeters with erroneous or missing data, submeters where no one knows what they're metering, and submeters that are siloed so you can't access the data.  

Sustainability teams around the world respond by (1) guessing, or (2) hiring huge teams of analysts to make sense of all the noise (or lack thereof). They're spending time on data and reporting, not action.  Then, reams of third-party auditors check their work and verify their assumptions. We're manipulating zeros and ones in Excel, not decarbonizing.

So what is the future of metering, given this status quo?

Trend #1: Software makes up for the lack of hardware

First, owners of existing buildings are unlikely to install submeters unless they're (a) required by code or mandated by law (such as the SEC in the United States) or (b) convinced there's an ROI on that capital cost. That means we'll continue to have a ton of buildings that are under-metered.

To combat that, software firms will develop (and are developing) ways to fill in the blanks with code instead of hardware. Take Measurabl, for example. Given a whole building utility bill and floor plan data, they can estimate tenant utility consumption with 95% confidence (according to CEO Matt Ellis).

Another example is automated meter disaggregation algorithms. Given utility data at 15-minute interals (or more frequent), these vendors can break down consumption by end use: HVAC, lighting, plug loads, etc.

Example of meter disaggregation (via Smart Grid Awareness) for a home (commercial applications are more difficult!)

Finally, a third example is WattCarbon. Given monthly utility bill data (or even an annual estimate) and NREL's calibrated energy model database, their software estimates the hourly data.  

With all of these examples, it's not about having submeters on every single building and every single load, it's about learning from the buildings that already have those meters—then applying those learnings where there aren't enough meters. If you want to call it AI and Machine Learning, be my guest.

Trend #2: The infrastructure required to make use of submeter data

For the submeters we have, we don't need an estimate. We need to use the data!

Meter data supports many different use cases, including accurate reporting, tenant billing, project development, measurement & verification, fault detection, commissioning, occupant engagement, and probably more that I haven't even heard of.

So the future of metering that enables us to use these data for all types of use cases requires a horizontal architecture. We need unsiloed devices, a robust network, and a data layer that's independent of the use case and includes a data model that fully describes what's being metered in context with the rest of the building's devices and systems.

Trend #3: Energy is important, but carbon is the future

Finally, the future of metering is one where the measurement is a means to an end: decarbonizing. That means it's not enough to know what you used at 101 Main Street at 10am on a Tuesday—you also need to know what the grid is doing at that time and whether your consumption is matched by your renewables or offset purchase.

All the technology use cases that meter data enables now need to be reimagined. Consider M&V for example: calculating "savings" are now a lot more complicated when calculation includes not only what the building is doing and would have done, but also what the grid is doing.

That's all for this week.

What metering trends are you seeing?

Let us know on LinkedIn,

—James Dice, Founder of Nexus Labs

P.S. We've made a few updates to our website, including search features, , comments, and a new sponsors page. Check it out!


A message from our partner, Montgomery Technologies:

Cybersecurity, change management, remote access, and data integrity across 8-10 siloed systems per building presents a significant challenge for CRE operations. Just knowing where everything is, how it is connected, and where it is connected can be too much for thinly-staffed corporate IT departments, whose primary function is to oversee the corporate network.

🎥 Watch this quick explainer video to learn how a converged network fills this gap, solves for all the above, and is the first step to enabling a Smart Building.


✖ At the Nexus

Here’s everything worth sharing from Nexus HQ this week:

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★ PODCAST: 🎧 #118: Simplifying decarbonization with Aaron BlockEpisode 118 is a conversation with Aaron Block, Founder and CEO of Allumia.

We talked about creating simplicity in the commercial buildings market and how that can unlock decarbonization. A huge part of that is the role of electric utilities as a vital driver of adoption, so we talked about how their role needs to evolve. Finally, we talked about how Allumia’s software platform connects the end customer, the utility, and the supply chain of implementers to get decarbonization done.

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★ MEMBERS-ONLY EVENTS THIS MONTH:

  • Subject Matter Expert Workshop: Pro Member and Building Optimisation Manager at AMP Capital, Tom Balme is our expert on Restructuring Maintenance Contracts and the Future Value of FDD. September 22nd @4pm MT
  • Member Gathering: Building Energy Engineer at Dartmouth College and Pro Member, Betsy Ricker, will lead the discussion on Dartmouth's smart buildings program. September 28th @9am MT

Join Nexus Pro now to get the invites and access to the recordings.

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★ ON LINKEDIN: 99% of smart buildings websites don’t clearly state what they do.

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★ READ OF THE WEEK: KPMG's Real Estate Innovations Overview

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★ JOBS: Are you hiring? Searching for a job in smart buildings?—We've relaunched the Nexus Labs Jobs Board and we've made job postings free.

It's got great jobs from Synchronoss, Honeywell, Aquicore, Vanti, McKinstry, GridPoint, Gridium, Buro Happold, WSP, Switch Automation, and ThoughtWire


A message from our partner, enVerid Systems:

Improving indoor air quality (IAQ) with optimized ventilation and air cleaning need not conflict with building decarbonization and climate resilience goals.

Read enVerid's new white paper, How to Achieve Sustainable Indoor Air Quality, to learn how a four-step Clean First approach can be used to design and operate low-energy, high-IAQ, climate resilient buildings of the future.


👋 That's all for this week. See you next Tuesday!

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