Tracking the fitness of buildings

Without measurement and verification, even the most efficient product or system won’t do the trick.
By Amara Rozgus, Editor-in-Chief June 14, 2018

Amara Rozgus, editor-in-chief, Consulting-Specifying Engineer. Courtesy: CFE MediaA couple of weeks ago, a co-worker asked me why I don’t wear a fitness tracker. We’d just returned to the office after the long Memorial Day weekend, and the first thought that popped into my head was that my sloth-like holiday was visually apparent to her. My weekend included dining out with friends, enjoying a cold, tasty beverage (or two) with my husband, and relishing the season’s first truly warm and lazy days in Chicago.

I have never considered a fitness tracker. Though I had spent the holiday weekend evenings at some of Chicago’s best off-the-beaten-path restaurants (ask me for recommendations next time you’re in town), I still managed to squeeze in a couple of workouts, so my pants still fit. I didn’t feel a stroke was coming on. And I even marched in a neighborhood parade in 90°F weather, which in and of itself was like a stress test.

So why did I need to measure my caloric intake or log the time I’d spent doing cardio? And who really needs to know how many steps they’ve taken each day?

I can hear the collective sigh—I realize it’s important to understand what my calorie intake is. In fact, it would probably help me figure out why I can’t lose those stubborn 5 extra pounds (I promise, my pants really do fit). If I don’t measure, how will I know what I need to do to improve?

Bingo! My colleague put it all into perspective that dreary Tuesday morning: I needed to measure and verify, just like a building owner might. She reminded me that, for every case study we accept and publish, we require 12 months of performance data to prove that a product or system is working as it was originally designed.

Like a true engineer, she also pointed out that, without knowing what was "broken" in my eating and workout routine, I couldn’t fix it. I needed the equivalent of a test-and-balance professional or a commissioning provider to come in and check on every body system, much like a building owner or facility manager might request of an engineering firm or commissioning agent.

Much like many clients who ask you or an energy efficiency expert for advice on how to make their building or campus more efficient, I now need to conduct an audit of myself to determine what to upgrade, eliminate, or change. So I’m currently in the market for a fitness tracker.

This leads to two questions:

  • What’s the No. 1 recommendation you give clients who want to make their new or existing building more energy-efficient?
  • Can you recommend a good fitness tracker to pair with my Android phone?