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Four simple steps to improve sustainability and tenant comfort

Analysing a shopping centre’s temperature, air quality, ventilation and overall shopper and tenant comfort, is a difficult exercise if the equipment that controls such factors is not digitised.

The comfort of tenants and customers in large retail precincts and shopping centres is an important factor in their success. When a shopper enters the centre, the temperature needs to be just right, allowing for the external conditions and thermal load created by people and equipment in the building. With the cost of energy high, both in terms of dollars and carbon footprint, better managing the operation of building equipment is important. Tenants are the people who pay the bills and ensuring the building isn’t too hot or too cold for staff and customers is essential.

There are many moving parts to running shopping centres and large retail precincts, and one big, complex chunk of that is running the equipment that is critical for maintaining the building’s temperature, air quality, ventilation and overall tenant comfort.

Because most retail buildings in Australia are not digitised, running them still involves a lot of manual data flowing around the building, but it is very hard to access it, understand it and make data-based decisions.

Without advanced building analytics, owners and managers don’t have the ability to collect and analyse the right data quickly and accurately, nor pinpoint and fix problems or proactively identify improvements. Whether it is intentional or not, vendors and service companies are currently benefiting from this lack of visibility, and owners, operators, tenants and their customers are often being disadvantaged financially and in terms of comfort and environmental performance.

Retail building owners need more visibility and control when it comes to managing their operations and only smart, independent data analytics can provide this. So, here are four simple steps you can take to reduce your capital and running costs, enhance efficiency, reduce environmental impacts and improve tenant and customer comfort.

1. Digitise and make your building performance visible with data analytics
Digitising a building turns data into actionable insights. Taking the data and turning it into usable information means you can easily identify how to take steps to reduce electricity costs and optimise machinery function. Every retail building generates enormous amounts of data every day but most is discarded and never analysed. So the first step to getting your building in top shape is gaining an ability to understand what’s happening on the inside. That means gathering and analysing existing real-time mechanical equipment data and measuring it historically and against the building design and best practice. Investing in data analytics will help you easily identify trends, highlight issues and understand the source of inefficiencies.

2. Baseline and benchmark to set realistic site-specific goals
Once you have accessed and analysed your retail building data, set a benchmark and goal for how your building could and should be operating against what is actually happening. Like every human body, every retail building is different and it operates uniquely. Depending on the way it faces, energy sources, age and structural design make a big difference on each building’s potential to reduce energy, operational costs and CO2 emissions. Data analytics is critical to set an achievable target for each particular site.

3. Investigate and improve
Once a retail building is connected to real-time data analytics in the cloud, the site managers, facility managers or contractors can quickly and easily understand faults and find opportunities for improving the way building equipment performs. By leveraging automation and virtual engineering expertise, there is transparency about the root cause and impact of operational and mechanical faults. Building fault identification and diagnosis tools can help you pinpoint the location, exact cause, cost impact and optimal solution for every fault. There’s no longer any need to wait for onsite human expertise to diagnose problems or identify improvements.

4. Continuously monitor
Once your retail building’s short-term performance improvements have been achieved, it is important to continuously monitor performance and use data analytics to stay in good shape.

Continuous intelligence monitoring means you will know that everything you identified has been fixed the way you intended, with the results you envisaged, and that new problems have not emerged. Automating your equipment maintenance enables you to become data-driven rather than relying on scheduled maintenance and varying individual contractors’ level of expertise. You can have confidence that every fix and improvement you make is genuinely adding value to your business, and that each one will be done in a way that doesn’t break other parts of your complex building ecosystem.

Retail is almost like the forgotten child of the built environment. To have a highly rated building that your tenants want to invest in and customers can feel good about shopping in, you need to proactively take steps to measure and reduce your carbon intensity to remain competitive.

About the author

David Walsh

Before founding CIM Enviro in 2013 David worked as a commercial manager in environmental hardware, software, consulting services, and was inspired to create his company because of the ’black hole’ he observed in the way energy data was being used within buildings. Companies were data-rich but information poor, and there was no focus on finding or fixing the root cause of wastage. Leveraging his combined experience in computer science, energy efficiency and the property industry, David built an innovative solution to capture and analyse existing building data from plants and equipment.

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