How often does software or the IT department come to mind when you think about energy efficiency? Most facilities managers picture major physical retrofits like adding insulation, upgrading HVAC systems or installing lighting controls when they picture ways to reduce energy.
But, oftentimes, energy savings can be realized by simply making better use of the technology that’s already in place.Microsoft’s Real Estate & Facilities team partnered with Accenture and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to test this theory on its Redmond, WA, campus, which is comprised of 118 buildings totaling nearly 15 million square feet. Microsoft deployed and tested software solutions in about 2.6 million square feet of its campus (13 buildings that ranged from 20 years old to almost new) to better understand what its current IT systems could do.
Most new buildings already have building management systems (BMSs) in place that allow facilities professionals to observe and control equipment. But adding analytical software applications that complement existing BMSs can bridge systems and improve equipment productivity.
By implementing software applications that analyze millions of data points each day, Microsoft was able to create a plan around that data to save energy and cut costs. The team can now hone in on faulty and/or under-performing equipment, prioritize notifications generated by building systems and allocate engineers to the most critical problems, and track energy consumption over time by integrating building system data with external sources like utilities and weather.
Sure, it seems easy for a company like Microsoft to implement software solutions to cut energy. But what about other types of organizations? Several of Accenture’s corporate clients have seen IT deployments that offer an ROI of 18 to 24 months, with energy savings of between 10 and 30 percent. An LBNL study shows that Sysco, a food services company, used software to cut energy use by 28 percent.
Microsoft’s annual cost savings have exceeded $1 million because of this initiative. And while that number is sizeable, it’s likely that other organizations’ savings would be even better if they were in regions with higher utility rates (the Redmond campus receives very inexpensive hydropower from a nearby river).
Is integrating IT analytics something you’ve considered to improve energy use? If so, we’d like to hear about what you’ve done. And check out these recommendations from Microsoft on how to get started using software to manage energy use.