Gillan Taddune 2017-11-20 21:03:20
adding data to water management to anticipate, conserve and identify Fifteen years ago, the energy sector experienced an innovation boom that ushered a wave of change into how utilities, energy companies, facility managers and individual residents monitor and consume energy. At the time, most utility companies made business decisions based on a single data point every month around energy usage, read by an inspector running around neighborhoods looking at individual meters. As better technology became cheaper and more pervasive, the addition of a few additional data points gave greater transparency into how energy was being consumed on a property. Today, anyone with a smartphone and an Amazon app can purchase smart lights, a smart refrigerator or a smart air conditioner and can monitor energy use from a half a world away. Water, an equally important resource to monitor and manage, has traditionally lagged behind the energy sector. Ten years ago, most of the water management processes in commercial office spaces, apartment complexes or hotels lacked the flow data and information necessary to track and monitor water use, leaving facility managers and their bosses with little more than sometimes astronomical monthly water bills. Today, with the advent of advanced data analytics and visualization tools — and the proliferation of the Internet of Things, or IoT — facility managers have the capacity to gain unprecedented transparency into how water is being used on a property, whether that’s for irrigation, cooling towers or indoor flow monitoring. THE RISING COST OF WATER The average monthly cost for a family of four using 150 gallons of water per day has risen 52 percent since 2010, according to Circle of Blue, a water resource website, with an average annual percentage increase of 6.17 percent. That’s more than triple the average annual inflation rate of 1.62 percent since 2010 and, according to a May 2016 study on water and wastewater hikes relative to the Consumer Price Index, significantly “outpace(es) other utilities like telephone services, electricity, natural gas and postage.” For perspective, the average retail price of electricity since 2010 has risen from 9.28 cents per kilowatt-hour to 10.87 cents per kilowatt-hour — a 1.71 percent increase — according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The resulting impact to people’s pocketbooks has spawned a growing interest around the need for greater transparency in how water is distributed. That’s especially true for portfolio managers at commercial properties, where infrastructure costs for indoor facilities, outdoor irrigation, pools and other water features can skyrocket and create myriad other problems that require additional capital improvements and expenditures. Until a few years ago, however, those decisions were being made with little to no insight into what improvements were even required. Facility managers were unable to locate the exact source of a water leak, monitor flow use or identify efficiency-performance issues. DETERIORATING INFRASTRUCTURE The lack of investment in infrastructure and water conservation technologies is not limited to the commercial sector. The network of 1 million miles of pipe systems delivering water throughout the U.S. is about a century old and nearing the end of its lifespan, and that’s having a significant impact on businesses. A 2011 report from the American Society of Civil Engineers called “The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure” examined the negative economic impact of current water delivery infrastructure. The report found that “negative impacts on the U.S. economy are a result of businesses and households managing unreliable water delivery and wastewater treatment services, which in turn result from a lack of investment in the national water network. Strategies such as relocation, investment in conservation technologies and self-supplying services can create costs that reduce business income (and, as a consequence, productivity and wages). Costs associated with water-borne illnesses and higher utility rates divert income from other uses.” According to the same report, if the status quo is maintained and no additional investment is made in infrastructure or conservation technology, the cumulative incurred losses in business sales between 2011 and 2040 are estimated at US$7.5 trillion, with a GDP loss of US$4.1 trillion in the same time span. The American Society of Civil Engineers similarly estimated that, “given current levels of investment, capital investment needs and demand trends, along with the deterioration of the water delivery and wastewater treatment infrastructure, this scenario could cost the U.S. nearly 700,000 jobs in 2020 and 1.4 million jobs of what is otherwise forecast for 2040.” Unemployment impact will be felt most in the retail sector, which the ASCE estimates will incur job losses of 425,000 through 2040. Restaurants, bars and hotels will also feel the sting, with losses of 175,000 in the same time period. A NEW SYSTEM Though the adoption of data-driven water monitoring technology has been slow, facility managers who have embraced it are gaining unparalleled insight into how water is being distributed on their properties. The biggest shift is in mentality, moving from a reactive model predicated on retroactively fixing leaks and problems to proactively monitoring how water is used to cut down on property expenses. Without data that provides transparency into leak detection, flow rates, weather patterns, cycles of concentration, stuck valves and other efficiency issues, all a facility manager can do is guess at what needs to be fixed and attempt to prevent additional damage in the future. If that knowledge is readily available through a combination of modern hardware and analytics, however, suddenly a facility manager can make a number of key decisions about a property he or she simply would have been unable to make before. No longer are facility managers relying on their own analytical skills — proficient though they may be — to identify usage patterns, anomalies and trends or incremental increases to water bills. Data can help a facility manager identify the exact location of a leak in an underground pipe supplying water to a fountain or pool, determine that one side of a property’s lawn is consuming a disproportionate amount of water compared to the other, or to notice that flow rates for a hotel’s sinks, toilets and showers are incurring a massive and unnecessary business expense. Those insights can then be elevated to regional managers or directors, boards or the C-suite to provide even more clarity in the decision-making process around capital improvements and property expenditures. The result is a significant reduction in property expenses, a corresponding increase in asset value and, in many cases, can recoup more than 50 percent savings in water usage across the entire property or portfolio. The paradigm shift around capital improvements will progress slowly. Property owners are still the ones writing the checks after all, and the adoption of data-driven water conservation technology has been anything but rapid. But ROI will become more demonstrable over time. Facility managers using IoT hardware and data analytics will gain more and more visibility into properties’ water rates before and after the technology’s implementation and can accurately benchmark increased efficiencies in water usage month after month and year after year. As results become more clearly defined, and as the startup cost for this type of technology declines and demand increases, adoption rates will start to increase and decision makers will come to rely more and more on the data their facility managers provide them. FM OF THE FUTURE One of the most crucial aspects of implementing data-driven water management solutions is the visualization of millions of complex data points. Information around leaks, flow rates, tracking, historical water use and more does a facility manager no good if it means he or she has to spend hours a day attempting to analyze an Excel spreadsheet with thousands of columns. Analyzing current usage and planning for the future requires that the data be centralized in a single, easy-to-understand and intuitive dashboard. As smartphones become one of the dominant means of consuming information, features like push notifications and email updates will become a bigger part of the facility manager’s day-to-day. Alerts announcing leaks or malfunctions in real time will provide not just more transparency, but more actionable intelligence concerning hyperlocal issues regarding a particular pipe, valve or other piece of equipment. Facility managers won’t have to rely on someone haphazardly stumbling across malfunctions, potentially weeks or even months after the issue’s onset. They won’t have to explain to their regional managers or directors that there was simply no way to detect the underground pipe that had been leaking hundreds of thousands of gallons of water for a month before the water bill indicated an abnormality. They will begin to shift their concerns less toward retroactively fixing problems and attempting to prevent leaks and other issues, and more toward reallocating earth’s most precious resource toward accomplishing business objectives and saving money, time and water. REFERENCES 1) American Society of Engineers wastewater report: http://www.asce.org/uploadedFiles/Issues_and_Advocacy/Our_Initiatives/Infrastructure/Content_Pieces/failure-to-act-water-wastewaterreport.pdf 2) Circle of Blue water pricing: http://www.circleofblue.org/waterpricing/ 3). Consumer Price Index 2016 water study: https://eta.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/publications/lbnl-1005705.pdf GILLAN TADDUNE is the CEO of Banyan Water, the leading provider of data-driven water conservation for enterprises. She believes that technology solutions are the most effective way to address critical natural resource issues and has dedicated her career to realizing that vision.
Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.
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