If You Don’t Have Super Human Powers, Trade In Your ASHRAE Auditing Forms For A Tablet PC
In our travels through the energy auditing world, we rarely find field professionals who consistently use the PCBEA (Procedures for Commercial Building Energy Audits) Sample Forms supplied by our friends at ASHRAE. A number of our more seasoned customers have noted that these forms are employed in less than 1% of all energy audits. Undeterred, many services firms have taken on the challenge of generating their own tailored version of these paper novels, yet somehow data collection efficiency remains elusive for even the most well-intentioned.
We all know that if you’re an auditor, you’re naturally superior in every way to non-auditors. You’re faster, smarter, stronger, and more creative. You can run circles around those of your engineering peers that have chosen less noble disciplines, but let’s face it…those ASHRAE forms come with problems that are just begging to be solved through a more automated approach.
Problem 1: Most auditors, while smarter than non-auditors, have limited cranial capacity.
Our tablet-based application, kW-Field, helps auditor collect data for over 500 unique building components across 20 different component categories – with the ability to choose from nearly 2,000 questions. Give me the auditor who can accurately estimate, in advance and not having stepped foot in the building, how many of each form he/she will need to bring on site, and I’ll show you a telepathic genius who could be using the same predictive skills to make a killing in the stock market.
Problem 2: Most auditors, while more dexterous than non-auditors, only have two hands.
Let’s just say that you nail Problem 1. OK, now predict the order in which you plan to walk the building, so you can arrange the Forms in a manila folder in the right order. Unless you’re in the Mensa chapter of AEE, the guess here is that you’ll have to pull the forms from your clipboard and clumsily flip through the stack – looking for “Form 1.24 Opaque Doors” – all the while juggling a camera, tape recorder, and a Starbucks Expresso Frappuccino while trying to conduct a professional conversation with a client facility manager (points off for spilling!).
Problem 3: Most auditors, while stronger than non-auditors, can’t carry the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (or a laser jet printer) 8 hours a day.
So you’re the Einstein of the HVAC World – and ace the Problem 1 and 2 test. If your brawn is equivalent to your brains, you might be able to haul this paper beast through a 2 million square foot office building from dawn to dusk without slipping a disc. Of course, we’re sure that you also have the time to print and stack the forms, the hand speed to quickly and legibly fill them out, and the patience to transcribe/collate them into a format usable for analysis and reporting…. because by now, we’ve concluded that, damn, you’re good. You will be promoted to management, and meanwhile, the other 99% of us will have to figure all of this out on our own.
Problem 4: Most auditors, while faster than non-auditors, can’t run the 40-yard dash in less than 5 seconds.
You had better be smart AND strong AND nimble, but you’d better also be lightning fast….like, Usain Bolt fast. Remember that 2 million square foot office building? Unless you have a way to copy and paste blocks of building data (oh, wait a minute…it’s paper!….you don’t!), you’ll have to write really, really, really fast to capture the many different instances of the same building element or component on separate forms, and we’ll bet you dollars to donuts you’ll have to sprint up and down stairs to double back on the information you either messed up, misplaced, or missed altogether. But the Expresso Frappucino will help here!
Problem 5: Many auditors, while wise beyond their years, are not yet ASHRAE Black Belts.
If you’re like most energy or engineering firms that conduct energy audits, you’re struggling with the increasing scarcity of knowledgeable, experienced senior field personnel. The Obi-Wan Kenobis of the auditing world are hanging up their light sabers and data loggers, leaving the Luke Skywalkers of the industry to fend for themselves. Obi Wan has honed the ability to know what data is relevant to a particular building in a particular project context – and does not let the distraction of superfluous questions deter him from the task at hand. Alas, the Force is not yet with Poor Luke. He may not yet know the different enclosure types for a supply fan motor, or have the judgment to discern whether or not a particular piece of AHU data makes a dent in a building’s energy use. Pretty soon Obi will be gone – and Luke won’t be able to mouse over a building term on a paper form to get a usable definition, refer to an electronic lighting code legend, or choose from a picklist of pre-set choices for various HVAC systems.
A Better Way: Tablet-Based Energy Auditing
We applaud ASHRAE efforts to provide guidance and much-needed data standardization. But unless you’re from the planet Krypton, we humbly suggest you try automating the field walk-through process and invest in energy auditing software that runs on a tablet computer. Instead of fumbling with a stack of forms, picture yourself walking through a building and entering information with a stylus or a point of a finger as you go. Such a tool will:
- Eliminate the time and cost associated with paper-based, manual processes - You’ll no longer need multiple forms to collect the same data for the same components that just happen to be located in multiple places – just use the same copy and paste function you’d use in a Word document. All building data will be organized by location within a logical building hierarchy – rather than scattered across a stack of unsorted papers.
- Ensure data accuracy, completeness, and consistency – Software can enable auditors to full describe any building component accurately and consistently- no matter how unique or rare its characteristics are – with targeted questions for each asset. Paper forms force the auditors to lump dissimilar assets together in an effort to include them on the same form.
- Streamline data aggregation and reporting – Instead of spending days aggregating data back at the office, wouldn’t it be nice to capture all data digitally and be ready to perform analysis and generate reports the minute you walk off the site?
- Make work – and life – easier on your auditing staff – Having the camera and voice recorder imbedded in a tablet frees up valuable appendages, but just as importantly, automatically associating all media with specific building systems and locations saves a lot of sorting time back at the office.
By investing in tablet-based energy auditing software, you’ll be able to more productively apply the vastly superior talents bestowed upon you as an energy auditor without needing to summon super human powers – and spare yourself the wear and tear on your back, your legs, your fingers, and your mind.