Fault detection in buildings is an energy winner

Cim Enviro

Fault detection in buildings is an energy winner
Cim Enviro improved Melbourne Meseum’s Nabers rating from 1.5 to 5.0 NABERS. Photo: John Gollings

Waiting until tenants complain, equipment breaks down or energy bills eat into your bottom line before you decide on asset improvements is no way to manage a building, especially when there are better alternatives available.

The new best-practice approach is to use Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) to ensure a building is performing at its optimum, according to new research by CSIRO.

It is also an approach that can leverage opex (operating expenditure) to achieve significant gains in energy efficiency, thermal comfort and lower spends on equipment maintenance and repair.

CSIRO recently assessed a number of FDD products available in the market, and rated CIM Enviro’s ACE platform as an all-star performer in terms of delivering results.

The review of building analytics software, commissioned by the CRC for Low Carbon Living, also identified the big picture benefits of FDD tools.

Authors Dr Josh Wall and Dr Ying Guo from CSIRO Energy said performance degradation, improperly tuned controls and malfunction of HVAC systems and equipment wastes up to an estimated 16 per cent of whole building energy.

More asset owners using FDD technology effectively can therefore improve the overall energy performance of the built environment, they say.

David Walsh, CIM Enviro’s chief executive officer, says the platform can help underperforming, older A and B Grade buildings, as well as optimise the performance of new A Grade and Premium assets.

The key is “getting the most out of the data available at the site”, David says.

So how does the ACE Platform work?

The ACE Platform utilises data delivered by a small device about the same size as a mobile phone that can be installed in seconds, which collects all of a building’s data streams, from thermal analysis to the performance of specific items of plant and equipment.

The platform then uses machine learning and analytics to convert this information stream into real-time insights into unnecessary energy use, associated carbon emissions and key factors such as how equipment is performing and the likelihood of tenant comfort complaints.

The technology can be customised to each specific client and building to generate intelligent alarms, report on faults, or predict where equipment is likely to fail or where energy budgets are being exceeded. It can show how improved energy use is likely to influence the NABERS rating.

It can also pinpoint what a maintenance technician needs to pay attention to, what possible solutions could be, and predict the dollar savings of proposed actions.

David Walsh, CIM Enviro CEO
Alan Place

Save your capex

According to David predictive maintenance can also result in substantial capex (capital expenditure) savings by ensuring equipment is more likely to perform for its designed lifespan.

CIM installs the technology free of charge. There are no up-front fees for the platform, and ongoing usage is billed on a monthly subscription basis with no lock-in contracts.

Clients say it’s working

CIM clients have reported cost savings on energy, maintenance and capex of between 14 per cent and 32 per cent, with payback periods as short as just a few months.

Analytics modules start from $399 a month for energy, $415 for maintenance and $349 for thermal comfort tracking – or users can have all three as a bundle for $995 a month.

A specific product for commissioning that gives users protection in relation to the Defects Liability Period is charged at $149 a month.

Managed Service bundles complement the offer

The company also offers managed service bundles that give clients the added support of CIM’s expert engineering team. These are priced by building floor area, starting at $1995 for under 15,000 square metres, and include the ACE Platform bundle, asset optimisation, FM project management and contractor performance reporting.

ACE is not designed to replace people – it is designed to empower them,” David says.

ACE has been used by assets including commercial office buildings, university buildings, hotels, government assets, retail centres, research facilities, sporting clubs, aircraft hangars and public buildings such as galleries and museums.

Melbourne Museum, for example, achieved savings of 20 per cent on electricity, equating to $203,000, through the platform. Among the productive insights ACE delivered, 117 BMS and asset faults were identified and rectified, with overall payback achieved in four-and-a-half months.

Getting from 1.5 Star NABERS to 4

CBRE used the platform at 99 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, as part of achieving the owner’s goal of increasing the NABERS rating from an indicative 1.5 Stars to 4 Stars. Instead, an uplift to 5.5 Star NABERS was achieved within 24 months at a cost of $48,000 in operating costs – and without capex spend. Tenant temperature-related complaints also fell to less than five per cent of reported issues.

David says one of the company’s strengths as a software as a service provider is due to its insistent focus on R&D. In 2017 CIM Enviro hired Anton Mazkovoi, who was Atlassian’s head of engineering for 11 years, as its chief technology officer (CTO).

“We have grown with our clients,” David says. “We have always listened to their pain points and customised our technology to meet their requirements, which has proved to be a win-win approach.”

Cim Enviro

Consultants | Australia