The November 2020 Journal, High Performance Buildings, features a survey of building operators, facility, and energy managers in Canada responsible for managing between five and 160 buildings each. The survey sought to understand and quantify the operational decision-making process of building operations staff.

Not surprisingly, what they found was a blend of subjective feedback and building automation systems (BAS) data resources that inform decisions about the indoor environment. The survey indicated occupant feedback “is recognized as the vital component to ensuring a building’s ability to fulfill the functions of its intended use” —enabling productivity — but doesn’t substantiate or detect HVAC equipment faults.

The journal article, while far more detailed, cites responses in 3 questions about data acquisition and use, reflecting the operational side of ongoing commissioning (OCx) as staff increasingly own the data analytics process. Here are the top 2 in each category:

What BAS features are most important to you?

1.       Data Archiving/Logging Capabilities

2.       Online Monitoring and Troubleshooting

How could you use ‘real-time’ or archived information from the BAS to make occupants more comfortable?

1.       Identify HVAC Equipment Fault Before it Impacts Occupant Comfort

2.       Minimize HVAC Equipment Maintenance by Identifying Root Causes of Major Faults

What is the most important information that you wish you had access to regarding occupants and occupant comfort?

1.       Building Occupancy Count Data

2.       Detailed Feedback from the Occupants

GHG emission reductions and occupant comfort were the top two goals that drove most of the interview participants’ operational decisions, based on contractual obligations set by building owners. (In Canada, facility managers are required to maintain the mechanical environmental standard for federal office buildings, and as part of this obligation, they need to fulfill explicit GHG emission targets.).

Data-driven strategies and tactics, whether as basic as trend logs or as sophisticated as automatic fault detection and diagnostics (FDD), energy management and information systems (EMIS) and monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) are necessary to identify and correct root causes. Without these tools, survey participants still experience the difficulty of detecting operational faults since they need to deal with large amounts of data from multiple buildings.