Data-Driven Airport Operations Increasingly Tied to Continuous Commissioning

We are in an era where the built space must be looked at differently. Aviation stakeholders — airlines and airports alike — are demanding increases in productivity and reductions in costs from facility managers, while at the same time establishing sustainable approaches to their operations.

Commissioning Provides a Way Forward

For decades, the commissioning discipline has been focused on delivering successful projects. Constructors and engineers have long understood that involving commissioning agents in their projects early helps to mitigate schedule disruptions, identify workflow gaps and create visibility into subcontractor performance. Why? It’s because commissioning agents understand the construction process, speak the language and know the systems.

Today, as facilities become more complex, commissioning processes continue delivering value well after the day that the project is complete. Monitoring-based commissioning — also called continuous commissioning — is a rapidly growing specialty that combines the experience and knowledge of a commissioning agent with an analytic technology platform to deliver holistic insights that promote energy savings, increase business value, and mitigate production disruption and downtime. The result is enhanced operations and productivity of the built environment.

Delivering Value

A large airport client has implemented a sophisticated monitoring-based commissioning program as part of a multibillion-dollar terminal expansion program that is now nearing completion. This program utilizes an enterprise monitoring technology platform that assimilates data generated by hundreds of sensors installed on critical components to detect temperatures, electric current, fluid pressures and other metrics within those components.

Systems needed for heating and cooling, pressurization, and ventilation are monitored for performance, as are electrical and plumbing systems. The monitoring platform feeds data back to airport facility staff to provide clear insights that are key to manpower, budget planning and energy monitoring.

Despite the visibility into how the systems are performing, humans are still needed to verify readings and make actual repairs. Unfortunately, this has become a growing challenge at this airport — along with many others — as experienced maintenance technicians and other essential facilities staff are leaving faster than they can be replaced.

The monitoring and analytic functions of the monitoring-based commissioning system is helping backstop this challenge by prioritizing the repairs needed most urgently, while also providing the information needed for managers to augment the on-site staff through a network of mechanical, electrical and technical subcontractors.

This optimized network of in-house and outsourced skilled technicians may be the model that airport facilities teams need to rely on for the future.

Optimizing Budgets

Like budgets for other large facilities, airport budgets cover four categories:

  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Operations
  • Capital Investments

During normal operating periods, utility expenses for power, heat and other related items will require about 20% of the budget. Another 15% is typically allocated for capital improvements. The remaining 65% of the budget is allocated for operations and maintenance, and this represents the largest opportunity to maximize savings.

Monitoring-based commissioning programs provide the analysis necessary to identify significant savings as tasks are automated and service orders are optimized. The analytic results provide the visibility facility managers require to create condition-based maintenance and sustainable workflows that allows their technicians to be better prepared and equipped, to spend less time troubleshooting and correcting problems. This paradigm shift has transformed the way facility managers operate their departments — from the expensive and onerous cycle of reacting to problems — to a proactive stance that drives down costs and increases worker efficiency and productivity.

Optimizing the Technology

Airports are experiencing a convergence where monitoring serves as the basis for an asset management system incorporating a number of data sets. This is taking airport operators on a steady march toward a day where data becomes the source of truth needed by a small core group of facility managers and supervisors who direct the activities of a pool of service contractors who can be flexed up or down as needs dictate.

This complex transition can be boosted by consultants who work side by side with facilities managers who help them get the most value out of these high-powered monitoring and analytics systems — filling the gaps for people, budgets and technology — all gaps that many airports struggle with in today’s era of increasing complexity.

Addressing Carbon Footprint

It is unknown how our planet will react to the effects of climate change. What is known, however, is that the complex environmental impacts from climate change will directly affect our businesses, society and ecosystems. It is apparent that there is strong political momentum for governments to seek to mitigate its effects through legislation and possible far-reaching regulations.

As a result, airports that take a wait-and-see position will be disadvantaged, compared to those that adopt a proactive approach by formulating strategies to reduce risk and exposure in this new carbon-constrained world.

Data Unlocks the Way Forward

Traditionally, airports have used data analytics to help direct their strategy to maximize profits. However, they have generally ignored the data analysis of their built environment — energy consumption and operational performance.

Incorporating energy analysis into the monitoring-based commissioning platform will allow airports to baseline and study the day-to-day energy consumption and operational performance needed to light, heat, and cool, and for appliance operations — known as operational carbon emissions. Monitoring-based commissioning empowers facility managers and their stakeholders to make proactive decisions together that help minimize their carbon exposure and execute effective facility management practices at the same time.

As the built space evolves and stakeholder expectations shift, the tangible benefits delivered by monitoring-based commissioning will further protect airport facility investments, while promoting a productive working environment and favorably impacting the ratio of revenue versus expense through cost reduction and avoidance.

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Aviation Special Report


George Hawkinson

Commissioning Manager

Brian Schwartz, CxA, CCP, LEED

Operations Manager