The cost of data: the hidden expenses in building monitoring

Research indicates that an average email can produce approximately 5–10 grams of CO2e emissions, giving us pause to question how much of our daily data is avoidable and why it is essential in the decarbonisation of buildings that we collect the right data – not big data.

Smart Buildings

We constantly look for the most efficient ways to monitor our buildings and reach net-zero carbon targets. However, we need to consider the cost of collecting, storing, and managing this data. More data means higher costs, something that seems obvious. Yet, it’s hard to grasp how much data can be generated from a single building.

Imagine the scenario where data from one collection point, a thermostat for example, is continuously stored every fifteen minutes. This one data source quickly multiplies into 35,000 data points a year. Now consider that some state-of-the-art buildings have approximately 9,000 smart connected assets (each containing multiple data points), and you can start to grasp the sheer volume of data being amassed by “smart” buildings.

Hidden expense of data collection

The hidden expense in all of this isn’t the cost of the collection; it’s the carbon footprint associated with it. Did you know that collecting, transmitting, and storing data generates emissions? Gathering and storing large quantities of data consumes a significant amount of energy and has quite an impact on a company’s environmental footprint. According to recent research, data centres in the European Union could account for a significant 3.21% of total electricity usage by 2030. 

The price of unreliable data

It isn’t just the carbon footprint of data collection we’re looking at. While most discussions about data costs focus on storage and processing expenses, another significant cost tends to fly under the radar – validation, the reliability of our data is crucial; after all, unreliable data is not only useless but can also lead us astray in our pursuit of high performance and sustainable solutions.

Validating data often requires manual involvement and meticulous attention to detail. It demands time and resources, i.e. cost. Therefore, having systems and strategies that can provide valuable insights with minimal data points can bring wide ranging benefits to your organisation and sustainability journey.

Data challenges and their influence on decarbonisation

The costs associated with data integration, collection and validation are significant and we shouldn’t let these challenges disrupt the urgent decarbonisation efforts in our ever-innovating sector. The time, effort, and investment required to solve data-related problems should be channelled towards reducing energy consumption and achieving sustainability targets.

We must challenge the status quo and find innovative ways to address these data costs without compromising our goals. By doing so, we can pave the way for a more sustainable future while optimising our use of resources.

Understanding the cost of data is essential for all those who aspire to monitor their buildings effectively and achieve net-zero carbon targets. By acknowledging the hidden expenses associated with data collection, storage, and validation, we can navigate these challenges while remaining focused on our ultimate mission – creating sustainable and energy-efficient buildings for a more sustainable future.