Install real-time water meters: check. Now what?
Once your water meters start streaming data, you will receive a flood of information. Having all of this data at your fingertips is great, but interpreting and acting on water data can be challenging. Considering that real-time water monitoring is new to the real estate industry, the building operators who deploy this technology first will become the trend setters and industry experts.
These efforts will not go unnoticed. Understanding where, when, and why water is being consumed in your building has become increasingly important. With the drought in the West and the cost of water rising 33% across 30 major cities since 2010, leaders across all industries have shifted their attention. Commercial real estate leaders are now beginning to understand how this valuable resource impacts their tenants and their bottom line.
Here are the top 3 ways to take advantage of real-time water data:
Aligning a building’s energy curve with the hours of occupancy is a common efficiency measure. Optimizing water use is no different. With interval water data, you can easily see what percentage of your water use is during non-occupied hours. Next you can use water submeters to determine which water systems are consuming the most. Cooling towers can consume up to 60% of the indoor water use for the entire building. Fine-tuning the controls and set points of your cooling tower, chiller, and cooling units is one of the quickest water saving measures.
In the above case study, 29% of the building’s entire water consumption was during off-hours. Buildings can conserve between 20-30% of their water consumption simply by optimizing operating schedules. In California, where the governor mandated a 25% reduction of water consumption, this can be an easy, effective way to meet this ambitious water conservation goal.
Real-time water meters give building engineers and managers new insights into building operations. This includes identifying problems they could not see before. By submetering equipment, building teams can catch large equipment leaks right away, which gives the team the option to fix or replace the equipment before tenants are affected. The real-time data will also provide an easy tool to assess the effectiveness of water conservation measures.
In one case, an engineer identified a cooling tower issue that was repeating on the weekends. The team realized the float in the cooling tower was triggering the problem. With real-time data, the engineering team determined the payback was justified and moved forward with the upgrade.
Before real-time data, utility customers received their bills on either a monthly or quarterly basis. Consumers had no idea when they hit peak water consumption, which equipment or spaces consumed the most water, or what their water trends looked like. The new insights that real-time water data provide allow consumers formerly in the dark to have frequently updated information on water peaks, weekly/daily/hourly trends, and inefficiencies in their systems.
This new information also gives customers an opportunity to compare this data to their water bills. Utilities charge for the water entering a property and assume the same amount of water that enters a building exits through sewer or irrigation pipes. However, water that goes into certain equipment, like cooling towers, evaporate; thus, utility companies in some cases are overcharging clients.
With the proper metering infrastructure, a property manager could prove that the utility company had been overcharging for water discharge. In one case, the utility company issued a $75,000 reimbursement for 9 years of inaccurate charges.
Over the next five years, more water districts and municipalities will require water consumption reporting and benchmarking. This transparency will force people to take a hard look at their consumption and identify inefficiencies. Startups and corporations are developing new technology that will provide low-cost, non-invasive ways to measure water use in commercial, residential and industrial buildings. Once this is available, the adoption of real-time water metering and submetering will increase dramatically.
Water has been a cheap and easily accessible resource…until now. With the cost of water rising dramatically in cities across the US, building managers should act now to lower their operating costs and become water pioneers.