Dashboards aren’t just in your car anymore. Graphic displays gleaned from building automation and montoring systems provide an intuitive tool that allows engineers, facility managers, and building owners to easily assess their building’s performance and compare multiple buildings. Whether it’s a college campus, Fortune 500 facility being measured in a “shared portfolio,” or a third-party measuring energy performance, dashboards provide critical metrics to manage a facility. And as more information is accessed, savvy managers are requesting more dynamically configurable ways to view facility information within their enterprise.

Due to the wide range of potential users, from the highly technical to the non-technical, dashboards provide each user with the view that makes the most sense to them. Whether it’s pie charts, graphs, or bar-line comparisons, each person of interest can quickly assess data profiled to his or her liking.

Dashboard software also enables users to customize screens on the fly for their own unique use. This means users can dynamically configure data to their preferred visual. Given the wide range of potential users, this feature declutters technical data for the non-technical to the technical. Once observed, the user can view his or her personal dashboard and take action that optimizes resource efficiencies and sustainability by reducing volumes of disparate systems into knowledge.

If you’re in a single site or small footprint building, dashboard software can run as a stand-alone module on a network controller. This eliminates the need for additional PC-based software. Moreover, as dashboard software becomes more robust, users appreciate the growing library of views that permit analysis of various types of data. Users can choose their preferred visualization from the library to include historical collection, color grids, weather correlation, baseline comparison, etc.

Other features allow multiple users to create, view, and modify their private dashboards. Likewise, data (such as energy consumption) can be normalized to account for differences in square footage. Perhaps a “one click” display of selected trends in equivalent units such as kilowatt-hour-to-dollars or to metric tons of carbon dixoide is important to you. Now, creating such a display is easy.

A chief financial officer may want integrated views of a facility’s contribution to business profitability, such as energy cost per each widget manufactured. Or an energy manager may want to map energy meters, databases, or automation systems into multiple views. Dashboards easily enable that, and allow the export of data into a PDF file for a technical document or presentation. Guests can view active dashboards without interfering with data compilation.

Reducing the volumes of technical and/or interrelated data through dashboards is becoming a godsend for the astute manager. Simplified display of normalized data can foster team building within an organization while highlighting corporate/institutional energy goals and sustainability initiatives. So pick your color, create your graph, and make your point. The era of the dashboard has arrived!

Richard A. “Dick” Starr , LEED AP, is CEO and president of the Enterprise Corporation (also known as Enterprise HVAC Service & Control). The company is a design/build/maintain contractor located in the Cleveland, OH area. Enterprise is a Linc Service Contractor, Tridium Systems Integrator, and NEBB certified air/water balance agency. Starr also sits on the national boards of both the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA) and the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA). Enterprise HVAC Service & Control was selected as Contracting Business magazine’s 2011 Commercial Contractor of the Year. For more information, visit www.enterprisehvac.com.