Data-Driven Decisions Are Changing Sustainability August 6, 2015 | Kelia Cowan

Take a step back to the old days of environmentalism: sustainable choices were made using moral arguments. People argued for the rights of polar bears and spoke for the trees (courtesy of the Lorax) and the maintenance of the nebulous term “The Environment.”

Now, in the information age that we live in, sustainable choices are being made and rationalized using data. The amount of information collected and analyzed for sustainability purposes has transformed rapidly in the past decade.
Well, the truth is, data is changing everything.
We are in a world that records information about everything. You can find data on the steps you took today, the number of accidents on your daily commute, and how geographically distant you are from potential “matches” on dating sites to make choices in your everyday life. So it makes sense that we are finally using the data we collect to make choices on sustainability.

 

Collecting The Right Data

Today, the amount of information surrounding us is overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that it’s hard to know where to start collecting the data you actually need. Here are three easy steps for incorporating data into CRE sustainability choices:

 

1.Identify focus areas. Select your sustainability targets (e.g. recycle more, reduce water waste, etc.) to ensure you are only working on sustainability projects of value.

 

2.Install proper measurement tools. You’ll want to pick the measurement tool that will provide the most accurate, timely information possible for your focus areas. If you want to divert more trash to recycling, you’ll want to measure the volume of both trash and recycling to see the results of your efforts.

 

3.Initiate data collection. Start collecting data right away. You’ll need to collect data for at least 10 days to establish a baseline. Then, continuous monitoring is optimal for maximizing data collection and analysis.

 

Once you start collecting the right data, you’ll be able to quickly establish areas of waste. For example, reducing energy consumption can start with understanding areas of peak consumption. By adjusting the building operation schedule, you could easily reduce the building’s energy use.

 

Driving Sustainability Projects With Metrics

Forgo the moral argument that sustainability is good for the environment. While the warm-fuzzy feelings are great and may work with some executives, others may care more about their bottom line than polar bears. Hit them with some knowledge: data collection and analysis is being used increasingly frequently, from
sustainability benchmarkingto healthcare supplies distribution. Using data to drive sustainability efforts is a new use of the ability to collect information about everything in our world.

 

With your freshly collected data, you can now rationalize the time and effort you’re spending to make your building more sustainable. Additionally, you’ll be able to show your results with your collected data and can prove that your efforts are making a difference.

 

Even if your building is already very efficient and eco-conscious, you still find new ways to optimize efficiency. Take this example:
A building with an Energy Star Score of 91 was able to reduce its annual energy costs by 9% after installing submeters and energy management software.

 

Maybe your team is the real-life Grinch and totally hates the environment as a whole. Never fear! Sustainability is increasingly shown to improve your bottom line. According to a report by DTZ,
sustainable features actually increase your desirability and can raise tenant satisfaction. Additionally, reducing energy consumption, for example, can save you thousands of dollars on your annual energy bill.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Get started with your data-driven sustainability efforts now. The sooner you start collecting data, the faster you’ll be able to use data to make and rationalize sustainable choices.

 

USPS Did It - You Can Too!

About The Author

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Aquicore, Kelia Cowan manages the company’s content and events, including the company blog, social media channels, resources, email marketing campaigns, webinars, and conferences. Simultaneously, she fields questions on how to “properly” pronounce her name.

Previously, Kelia was the Marketing and Communications Fellow at Cleantech Open Northeast, where she focused on digital content and event coordination. As an undergraduate student, she worked in various communication roles at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Energy Excelerator. Kelia left the paradise of Honolulu, Hawai’i, to attain a B.S. in Journalism and a B.A. in Environmental Analysis & Policy from Boston University.