Management Dashboards


'If you can't monitor it, you can't manage' is the first principal of energy management...
This has now become.....
If you can't properly visualize the information, you may know the 'What and Where', however you won't know the 'Why'.


Existing Building Systems can provide a lot of data through BMS points, sensors and meters. This is collected in a Database, from which a subset of data can be extracted to form the basis for Energy Management.

Unfortunately, the final link in this chain and probably the most important, is the weakest.
The typical user interface for these Building Management or Building Automation systems (BMS or BAS) generally looks like something designed in the 1980's.

What is an Energy Dashboard?

Dashboards convey essential information quickly and clearly on one screen. It also an attention-grabbing way to represent real-time (and/or historical) information and to provide visual alarms when a particular event is triggered (Imagine your Car's Fuel Gauge and warning light/alarm when the tank is running low). In the same manner an Energy Dashboard can provide a warning alert when consumption has exceeded a pre-set threshold (this can be a 'big picture' of usage cost vs budget, or specific equipment level alarms if the expected level has been exceeded).

Who needs a Dashboard?

Dashboards provide real-time relevant information to several organizational levels or groups involved with a building's performance. Kiosks and digital display walls can also provide tenants, occupants or visitors with an informative overview of the how the Building is achieving its Energy objectives. This can publicly demonstrate commitment to a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) objective, achievement of a Carbon emissions target, or even compliance with Municipality Green Building Codes.

Some examples of Energy 'Big Picture' Dashboards :
How to Develop your Energy Dashboard?

In developing dashboards, you need to identify what decisions or insight each user or group hopes to gain by using the dashboard and what information at what time interval is needed to support their decision process.

Directors of Finance may want information on energy usage and cost. In this case the dashboard should display the usage and costs of a building's comprehensive and individual utilities, budgeted versus actual utility costs, budget deviations, comparisons with other similar buildings.

Directors of Facilities or Engineering Managers have different information needs apart from usage and costs vs budget. For example, an engineer may be interested in specific system alarms for example ; Chiller Plant, Laundry, Kitchens which together typically represent 60-75% of the Total Electrical Energy consumed in a Hotel/Resort complex . In this case the dashboard needs to be more analytical and to be able to "drill down" to specific data, which could help indicate which system components are not running at optimum efficiency at best, or in worst case about to fail.

Dashboards designed for high-level performance summaries will be fed from data and that data will probably need to be collected from several sources: building management systems, specialty systems as well as internal corporate business systems. For example if you are a healthcare organization you may be interested in metrics such as energy use of an MRI scanner per patient and need patient counts from business systems; or, if you are a Hotel it may be energy use per restaurant and you will need customer and sales data from the Property Management System.

In order to gather all the information needed for a dashboard we use a middleware platform to normalize and standardize data generated from several sources in different database formats. This provides a flexible and consistent platform for the display of information.

How to start presenting the information?

Dashboards are meant to convey essential information quickly and clearly on one screen. Most importantly they do so based on their visual design. Visual design is much more than nice graphics. It involves how human beings perceive and act upon visual information.

According to Jennifer Tidwell, author of "Designing Interfaces"' you have to choose your visual features very carefully because they operate "pre-attentively" - that is, they convey information before the user pays conscious attention to them.

Excerpts from the chapter "The Basics of Information Graphics"
Look at this figure and find the blue items first.


Assuming you are not color-blind (and probably even if you are), you can easily pick out the blue items.

Now try it with a larger field of data items:


Still not a problem, as you can see. No matter the number of balls in total, you can easily pick out the blue ones, right? In fact, if you think about it, the time it took for the larger data set was not more than that for the first smaller set. You just look at it and see the blue ones. Instead of being a linear relationship with the number of objects, the time is not dependent on the number. That's because this example operates on color. That's the key, because color recognition happens at a primitative cognitive level. Your visual system does the heavy lifting for you and it works in a massively parallel manner

The full list of 'Pre-attentive Variables' is:

  1. Color

  2. Position

  3. Brightness

  4. Orientation

  5. Saturation

  6. Size

  7. Texture

  8. Shape


The beauty of all this is that you already know and use these techniques. All we are doing here is formalizing them and presenting them as an information visualization best practice! "

Thus the position of the information on the dashboard a very important aspect of the design. Our perception of color is relative and dependent on the color or context that surrounds the colored object, so selecting the color of the object and a contrasting and consistent color for the background is important. There are variations of the use of color as a pre-attentive means, such as color hues, brightness and color saturation.

Industry Examples

Here are a few industry examples of well executed energy dashboards:
Courtesy Jim Sinopoli, PE, RCDD LEED AP, © 2010 Smart Buildings.


This is a Demand Response dashboard Enernoc created in 2009. It's one screen with the most important information in the most-emphasized screen position. Viewers can also interact with the dashboard to calculate and change timelines.


This is a dashboard, developed by Controlco, is meant for a building engineer to analyze a system, in this case a chiller plant. It quickly conveys the system setpoints, alarm status and provides options on the left for further information

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