Crown Group – Portfolio IoT system

CSIRO & AIRAH – 1m ARENA funded energy control and integration program in NSW schools

Executive summary

The internet-of-things (IoT) design and infrastructure proof-of-concept delivered Crown Group a superior, best-of-breed technology strategy for collecting building data, analysis, reporting and building management across their portfolio.

By integrating data from building management control systems, water, gas and other telemetry systems onsite into the Microsoft Azure cloud in real-time; enabled analytics and reports to be created centrally and unlocked building data available to the entire organisation.

Crown’s internet of things (IoT) solution improved operational management and control for their portfolio driving automation of processes which drove efficiency savings and productivity improvements across their group.

Website: www.crowngroup.com.au

Budget: $200K

Location: Australia

Industry: Private property investment group

Key outcomes

$80k vendor technology savings per annum

Freed up 4-6 FTE personnel per annum

10+ reports automated

10+ Dashboards and BI tools created

Challengesthe many

Crown Group’s investment focus shifted from build-to-sell to build-to-manage with Eastlakes Live, a mixed-use shopping centre and luxury apartment development. The shift in ownership meant that the company was required to report under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act1 where the Directors of a company were personally liable for any issues of non-compliance. To comply with NGERS, Crown Group was required to calculate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions with some important exceptions, such as excluding tenant consumption. Thus, achieving accurate energy and emissions calculations required accurate metering data to be processed from energy-consuming assets as well as generation, solar and embedded network building devices. Qualifying for NGERS reporting means that requirements extended to all assets across their portfolio including serviced apartments, a conference centre and the new shopping centre.

Crown Group engaged Buildings Evolved to consult on NGERS requirement calculations via a series of stakeholder engagement sessions. From these sessions, we identified that there was a heavy reliance on manual curation and analysis of pdf and CSV files for compliance reporting resulting in increased effort, costs and risks which were amplified by:

  • Poor data availability – data existing in multiple locations, and between departments causing tedious and time-consuming manual searches, aggregation and analysis tasks that limit efficiency.
  • Poor data quality – data is old or multiple versions exist with variations
  • Organisational inertia – report requests between departments took time to fulfil which disrupted workflow and resolution of issues

1 National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007

Compliance & Reporting – applied

The solution involved determining strategic vision – understanding the business case, identifying key criteria for success, and defining a performance culture through engagement, research, and planning. From this process, a bespoke compliance and reporting solution was identified as optimal. Crown Group desired the ability to integrate a compliance and reporting solution with energy management and business intelligence capability in departments outside of sustainability.

The next stage involved defining user stories through consultation with key stakeholders, ensuring that project outputs and outcomes aligned with user needs and were meaningful, effective, and measurable. From this process, it was evident that Crown Group sought a class-leading strategy that would enable them to move from reactive to proactive governance by:

  • Providing quality data, real-time alerts and alarms to issues onsite.
  • Leveraging best-of-breed machine automation and fault detection diagnostics and machine learning algorithms for equipment and energy management.
  • Determining key performance indicators, reporting and analysis tools for improved management and control.

A vendor research piece was commissioned to seek off-the-shelf solutions. From this analysis, it was held that software-as-a-service offered limited capability to meet operational and business intelligence requirements outside of compliance and reporting. Namely, the ability to manage energy and resources in a proactive way by responding to events in real-time and enacting proactive governance and control for the operational management of plant and equipment onsite. Additional technical requirements of the system were added after this step which was:

  • The solution be hosted on Australian cloud servers using Microsoft Azure architecture, and
  • Integrate with existing solutions used by Crown, such as Microsoft Active Directory.

The solution – IoT architecture

At the centre of the IoT architecture was the ‘data lake’ – essentially, a giant storage of original unaltered source files and data. All data flowed to the data lake – and from here, daily ‘snapshots’ of the data were taken into the ‘data warehouse’ via extract, load and transformation procedures. The ELT extracts data from source files, transforms it so comparisons could be made between disparate data sets, and places it into the data warehouse.

This ‘structured’ data can be used by anyone in the organization to run a report using the chosen drag-and-drop analysis tool, Microsoft Power BI. Once the data is structured, anyone in the organisation could develop models and derive insights from data in minutes, without time-consuming aggregation tasks or elaborate models. The following reports were delivered upon handover:

  • Real-time reporting – e.g. programmatic peak demand management and fault detection, alerts and alarms.
  • Operational reports from internal sources,
  • Employee Log,
  • Electricity Consumption,
  • Electricity Peak Demand,
  • Water Consumption Report,
  • Gas Consumption Report.
  • Invoice reporting from external sources,
    • Electricity,
    • Gas,
    • Refrigerants,
    • Water, and
    • Waste.
  • Sustainability and mandatory reporting,
  • NGERS Report,
  • Scope-1 & 2 Emissions Data Requirements,
  • NABERS Report (NABERS),
  • GRESB, and
  • GRESB Data Requirements.

An asset register was developed as a central, user-editable database to accurately reflect on-site operational plant and equipment as a single source of truth (SSOT). The information entered into the asset register provided contextual, reference data for the IoT system to fulfil quality reporting requirements for an asset, measurement unit, building, site or across the portfolio.

The solution eliminated unnecessary vendor solutions, reduced data duplication and waste, optimised team resources and unlocked advanced capabilities and innovation programs across the entire portfolio of buildings.

Key benefits – realised

The solution eliminated unnecessary vendor solutions, reduced data duplication and waste, optimised resources and activated advanced capabilities and innovation programs across the entire portfolio of buildings. Key project benefits:

  • Eliminating $80k per annum in redundant vendor-based products and services.
  • Freed up 4-6 full-time equivalent personnel for reallocation.
  • Reduced reliance on external data vendors by realising technology development in-house, and retaining infrastructure ownership, security, and control.
  • Automated the ingestion and normalisation of 20+ cross-departmental data sets to provide quality structured data for reporting.
  • Automated 10+ reports through customised dashboards developed in Microsoft Power BI that reduced manual information gathering, and improved time to report and the quality of decision-making.
  • Automated error tracking and detection of machinery faults to realise efficiencies, avoid unplanned downtime and reduce equipment lifecycle costs.
  • Enabled feedback and compliance monitoring allowing management to gauge effectiveness, manage the risk of non-compliance and further develop and manage business intelligence (BI) systems.
  • Facilitating key asset-related data on demand to improve the value of building stock to stakeholders, prospective investors, and buyers.

Evolve to best-of-breed technology solutions and intelligence

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A class-leading strategy that reduces costs and delivers benefits from smart building technologies?

A solid plan to meet net-zero commitments and the transformation of the energy sector?

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