In recent months there has been a wave of attention around the so-called “virtual building audit.” Companies promise to solve the energy efficiency woes of building operators with just a few pieces of information. In truth, this tactic is a brilliant innovation: the ability to get a high-level view of your portfolio’s performance quickly and inexpensively. But in practice, it’s not all that it seems.
It’s worth exploring why.
The virtual audit typically uses two pieces of customer-supplied information: the addresses and utility data from a portfolio of buildings. In some cases, just the monthly kilowatt usage will suffice; in others an incremental breakdown is required, sometimes as detailed as hourly electricity consumption over a year. The supplier of the audit then plugs this information into some type of modeler, whether that be a fully automated analytics engine or a souped-up spreadsheet. In the better models, the data is married with weather, utility cost, and building operation data from the corresponding time frame and injected with a little expertise from energy analysts. This system spits out a sky-high view of how those buildings have been performing compared to one another, national averages, or similar buildings in the same region. That’s the brilliant part.
With very little investment of resources, customers receive a map of their entire portfolio’s performance. For holders of diverse or far-reaching building portfolios, this is an invaluable advantage. This audit affords them the opportunity to compare apples to apples, placing buildings of varying sizes and uses, from across a region, country, or around the world, onto a relative scale. This level of visibility makes it possible for a property manager to see that her data center in Boston is actually performing relatively well compared to her high-rise office building in Denver. Or on a slightly smaller scale, a facility manager in the D.C. area can now see that his company’s newly acquired office space is performing far below its headquarters across town. That facility manager now knows exactly where to focus his energy performance improvements.