By Frank DeFina
Inclement weather can be expensive. Weather-related delays and disruptions cost American businesses billions of dollars each year. From increased insurance premiums and operational costs to the plummeting value of a building facing physical and transitional challenges related to increasingly volatile weather, commercial properties are becoming gradually more vulnerable to weather-related financial risks.
This is why commercial and industrial property owners, facility managers, and building management all require timely and accurate weather and air quality data to ensure building comfort as well as efficient and safe operations.
Whether executing everyday operations, improving energy efficiency by bringing in more (or alternative) sources of energy and/or water, or implementing resilience measures that mitigate the impacts of extreme heat, drought, flooding, strong winds, and wintry weather, facilities management is significantly impacted by local meteorological and atmospheric conditions.
The Impact Of Our Changing Climate On Facilities Management
The impacts of a changing climate will vary by geographical location but, generally speaking, include increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, longer frost-free periods and growing seasons, shifting precipitation patterns, and more heat waves and droughts. As local, state and federal governments and international bodies strive to take action to mitigate the growing impact of climate change, this phenomenon is affecting our everyday lives right now.
In facilities management, more energy-efficient building products, as well as best practices for sustainable design and operation, are coming online to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the building’s impact on our climate. Building resilience to climate change is also becoming a hot topic as climate-resilient buildings are providing countless benefits, from employee and community safety to workflow and supply chain continuity. Finally, smart technologies are empowering facilities managers with the data necessary to optimize operations, make better use of resources and better manage energy consumption.
Without reliable and accurate weather insights, facility managers will struggle to increase efficiency, cost savings and uptime. The environment outside has a significant impact on what’s happening inside a building, which is why facility management executives are focusing on microclimate measurements outside their facility to optimize facility operations and energy efficiency. Consider the World Trade Center in New York City as an example of how weather technology can be used for this application in facility management.
The World Trade Center: A Weather Station That Never Sleeps
One of the most recognizable locations in the world — and one of the busiest transportation hubs in New York City — the World Trade Center (WTC) is a 16-acre mixed-used environment composed of five office towers, an eight-acre Memorial Plaza and over half a million square feet of shopping and dining. Located in lower Manhattan, the WTC experiences nor’easters and hurricanes as well as other meteorological conditions that can vary comparative to the rest of New York City.
To gain local weather insight, the World Trade Center Department Operations Division monitors weather data through national channels, but that information lacked a hyperlocal approach and any means of collecting and forecasting accurate weather data locally. Consequently, the operations division thought augmenting this data through local weather data collection at the World Trade Center would empower decision-makers to understand local conditions and prepare for any changing conditions.
Enter a weather station solution that provides accurate, real-time weather information for effective short- and long-term forecasting and monitoring of developing severe weather conditions.
The WTC department team collaborated with Vaisala, a global leader in weather, environmental and industrial measurements, to create a state-of-the-art weather station for gathering and disseminating a wide range of weather data regarding the lower Manhattan area. Located at Liberty Park behind the America’s Response Monument, the solution includes reference-grade sensors and technologies that ensure accurate and reliable weather data is available when it’s needed most.
Combining Vaisala’s air quality sensors and the company’s Automatic Weather Station, the weather observation solution provides essential weather and air quality observations, creates meteorological calculations and reports, displays real-time data, and saves history files for operational review. Tailored to withstand even the harshest environmental conditions, the AWS310 is designed to achieve long-term, automated weather data collection. The complete station’s sensors and probes take the following measurements:
Wind speed and direction
Visibility and present weather
Cloud height and sky condition
Ground temperature and moisture
Additionally, the automated Vaisala Ceilometer CL51 BL measures the atmospheric mixing layer and cloud height, which the WTC staff uses to understand and build precision simulations of existing conditions.
With its own unique, completely customized weather center, the WTC’s Operations team now receives dependable data for greater resiliency. Equipped with accurate, hyperlocal weather information, decision-makers are able to optimize facility operations and energy efficiency, whether automatically shutting doors in high winds, better managing and optimizing HVAC systems, coordinating severe weather response in case of snow, flooding or fires, deploying flood protection systems around the campus, or even offering insights to visitors on visibility from the top-floor sightseeing deck and pricing tickets accordingly.
At the end of the day, facilities management professionals make decisions that impact people’s lives, their health and safety, and their comfort, as well as the energy use of commercial buildings. Equipped with the right local weather data and insights at the right time, commercial property owners, facility managers and building management can support optimized facility operations and deliver a world-class customer experience.
DeFina is a Business Development Manager for Vaisala and has proudly served the company for almost 14 years. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in business management and holds a certificate in weather forecasting from Pennsylvania State University. DeFina served as a weather forecaster in the United States Air Force.