This website uses cookies that are necessary for the technical operation of the website and are always set. Other cookies, to personalize content and ads and to analyze traffic to our website, are set only with your consent. More info

Manage Cookies

March 29, 2023

Effectively Exploit Savings Potential in the Building Through Operational Optimization


Magdalena Sturm

Technical monitoring, needs-based maintenance and predictive maintenance are just a selection of the terms used for technical processes that are mentioned in connection with optimization of building operation. These processes serve the well-known, original goal of technical building equipment: to ensure an optimal indoor climate for the comfort and well-being of building users using as few resources as possible. Combined with the possibilities of digitalization, these methods represent a new type of tool for optimizing operations and pave the way from the currently mostly reactive operation of buildings to proactive operational management. As a result, existing technology can be operated more in line with demand, with less wear and tear, and with less work - in short, more efficiently. With simultaneous improvement of indoor comfort, the potential for operating cost savings through reduction of CO2 emissions, energy consumption, maintenance and repair costs adds up to an average of 20%.

Through proactive, digitized operations management, operating teams can make a major contribution to solving current challenges facing the real estate industry, even in the face of an increasing shortage of skilled workers. In particular, industry challenges include decarbonization, sustainability, ESG (environmental, social, governance) goals, and EU taxonomy.

This article highlights what is meant by proactive operation, why it cannot be established early enough in the building lifecycle and how the change from reactive to proactive operation can be started with small steps in the operation phase.

Reactivity: Status Quo in Building Operation

Currently, the work of operator teams is designed to respond to user complaints and alarms from the building control system. Often, a response is time-critical to avoid further technical failures and building user dissatisfaction. As a technical tool for investigating alarms and complaints, understanding their causes and remedying them, the operating teams and facility management usually only have a building control system at their disposal. It can be used to view current measurement data, as well as the status of the technical building equipment (TGA), and to identify and rectify acute malfunctions. However, the basic cause of the malfunctions can often not be identified with a building control system, or only with disproportionately high effort, so that similar alarms and complaints occur again in the foreseeable future. Malfunctions of the building control system that lead to increased energy consumption but do not trigger an alarm or cause user complaints cannot be detected with this approach. At best, these malfunctions are detected and corrected during the next maintenance work.

Proactivity: The Key to Mastering Current Challenges

Innovative operator teams and facility managers are aware of the problems of reactive operations management and are beginning a shift to proactive operations management purely intuitively: for example, they are using trend analysis and are continuously looking at improving operations to address the causes and not just the symptoms of alarms and complaints. Of course, it is impossible to avoid technical failures nonetheless. However, they occur less frequently and to a lesser extent. The workload of the teams decreases while at the same time improving operational stability and energy efficiency in the building.

However, to meet the current challenges and in particular the desire to decarbonize operations, additional technical tools are needed in addition or as an alternative to building control systems. These must enable operating teams and facility management to keep a permanent and efficient eye on the entire building management system. They must actively support the identification of more than 500 possible malfunctions of various types and hidden energy losses in building operation and provide guidance on how to eliminate them.
Such tools are increasingly available on the market and are based in various forms and degrees of automation on the methodology of technical monitoring according to VDI Guideline 6041. The guideline describes a systematic procedure based on operating data for analyzing and improving TGA operation. Special emphasis is placed on technical system functionality, energy efficiency and indoor comfort. The guideline is thus particularly suitable as a methodological basis for proactive building operation.

Technical Monitoring Supports Proactive Operations

Especially energetically disadvantageous, but also wear-prone modes of operation of the building services equipment inevitably remain unnoticed and are not remedied in reactive operational management. With the technical monitoring of buildings and building services equipment according to VDI 6041, a method is available to identify and avoid these operating modes in a structured manner. The VDI guideline recommends operational data-based energy, plant, building and comfort monitoring. The aim of technical monitoring is to enable in-depth transparency of building operation and thus create a basis for comprehensive and effective operational optimization. The VDI guideline divides into single-regulation and long-term monitoring in order to address the different phases in the building life cycle.

Proactive operational optimization begins well before the building's operational phase. Already during the first trial operation in the new building and TGA, technical monitoring can be used for quality assurance of the construction. At this point in time, the information situation about the TGA planning and its actual construction is at its best. The information can be used in technical monitoring to compare the actual trial operation against the planning target. In this phase, the players such as system integrators and installers can still easily compensate for malfunctions. Already in the trial operation, but especially in the adjustment and operation phase of the building, it is advisable to carry out a comparison between the actual operation and the literature target for the state of the art with technical monitoring. In this way, the design target is also checked and the improvement of the operation takes place in comparison to the technical and physical optimum. This procedure is very suitable for the initial use of monitoring during the operation phase.

Through long-term monitoring, operation can be specifically adapted to changes in building use and technical challenges, and unavoidable malfunctions can be proactively countered.

Digitization Automates Technical Monitoring

There is no question that the implementation of technical monitoring requires both extensive data access to measurement and status data points of automation systems and strong technical expertise in the operation of buildings to evaluate the collected data.

These challenges can also be solved in a software-based manner. Their individual process steps can be divided into Collecting Data, Structuring Data, Analyzing Data, and Optimizing Operations.

  • Collect: Storage and availability of any trends of data points from automation systems, energy measurements and additional IoT sensor technology can be achieved by connecting the building to a cloud platform. Modern automation stations already offer direct coupling of automation systems to such platforms, and cloud gateways in the form of edge devices and data loggers are also available for the broad building inventory. In addition to its benefits for technical monitoring, a cloud platform enables numerous other use cases in smart buildings, so it is establishing itself as a standard building automation framework.
  • Structure: Platforms specializing in the operational optimization of buildings offer the possibility of structuring the available operational data into digital twins of the individual technical systems, the trades and the entire building in a semi-automated manner with the help of artificial intelligence.
  • Analyze: The analysis of the data can be done manually or automatically by algorithms. For efficient manual analysis of operational data, cloud platforms provide simple web interfaces for visualizing operational data that can be operated from any location. The advantage of manual data analysis lies in the flexibility and adaptation of the analysis to the specific building. Structuring the data into digital twins supports manual navigation through the volume of operational data. In an automated analysis, artificial intelligence evaluates the operational data structured into digital twins. The artificial intelligence is usually a combination of rule-based and statistical algorithms. The results of the analyses can be viewed via the platform's web interface and represent automatic inspections of building operations in terms of technical monitoring. Operator teams and facility management can use the results directly to proactively improve building operations. Particularly in continuous operation, this provides the operating team with a digital helper that fully automatically takes over permanent monitoring of the entire building system.
  • Optimize: Some platforms additionally offer to directly influence building operations in order to directly implement the identified optimization measures. In this way, the operating team and facility management can adjust control parameters, setpoints, heating curves, setback operations, and schedules of the building management system similar to a building control system, and also activate additional and extended control loops via the platform. Such adjustments to the automation system represent a large part of the optimization measures identified by technical monitoring. These optimizations can be implemented without investment.

Now Is the Time to Start Proactive Operations

Whether you construct, own, commercially or technically manage or operate buildings: Now is the right time to start proactive building operations.

1. integrate a cloud platform as a standard trade in your new or existing building and start recording all data points.

2. Digitize your data management consistently: whether documentation of plant technology, invoices for energy consumption or maintenance information. Digitally, in the best case web-accessible, this data and its information remain available and available to support proactive operation.

3. especially during construction: find out about technical monitoring early on and seek support from consultants and engineering firms.

If you are already in the operational phase of your building, consider using a digital tool for automated technical monitoring.

4. in operation: understand proactive building operation as a process of continuous improvement. Set operational goals together with asset, property, facility management and operator teams. For example, reduce CO2 emissions by 5% in the next 12 months or reduce facility management efforts by 10%. Designate responsibilities, implement small-step measures and report on their success.


Proactive operational management can not only reduce energy consumption, CO2 emissions, wear and tear on technical building trades and operating costs, but also increase the comfort of building occupants without investment. In addition, proactive operation supports the work of facility management and operating teams.
With technical guidelines such as VDI 6041, established methodological procedures are already available.

With the help of digital tools, the operator team and facility management can be provided with a helper that makes it possible to switch from reactive to proactive operations management. These digital tools are composed of data collection through a cloud platform, data structuring in digital twins, data analysis through artificial intelligence algorithms, and optimization of operations directly through the cloud platform.

How proactive operations management can lead to a significant reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions is demonstrated by aedifion in the Kaiser Hof in Cologne, a project development of Art-Invest Real Estate, by means of a case study: Case Study Kaiser Hof