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Nuveen Finds Path to Lower Costs & Improve Operations During COVID Through Hatch Data’s Low-CapEx Smart Building Platform

"The appeal of Hatch Data was their approach to solving the problem.
It was an easy way to get our foot in the door to start making our building more efficient."
- Dave Dyer, Director of Asset Management, Nuveen

Organization

Founded over 85 years ago, Nuveen has become one of the top five largest global real estate investment managers. They hold $133B in assets under management, spread across more than 1,800 investments globally. Their focus on investing in real estate in cities that are resilient, sustainable, and growing has led to a series of acquisitions of landmark properties with strong sustainability credentials. “Building optimization and energy efficiency have been key focuses for Nuveen for years,” explained Dave Dyer, Director of Asset Management at Nuveen.

It comes as no surprise then that in 2005 Nuveen added 99 High Street in Boston, MA, to its portfolio, overseeing transformative renovations inside and out, including a lobby renovation that was completed in 2019. The 730,210 square foot LEED Gold Certified, and 2011 BOMA Mid-Atlantic Building of the Year is situated one block from South Station and two from the harbor, with 32 floors overlooking the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Boston’s waterfront.

Opportunity

In mid-2019, Dyer saw an opportunity to bring smart building benefits to Nuveen’s US portfolio, starting with 99 High. “We knew the building wasn’t running optimally—that we could make improvements—but we just didn’t know where to start,” said Dyer. He needed a solution that would allow his building teams to uncover savings opportunities without diving into the deep end of hardware installs and payback periods.

Added to that, the building had already picked the low-hanging fruit of efficiency opportunities, and been recognized for it. “In a building like ours, which is already LEED Gold, replacing chillers and lighting is already done,” explained James Russell, the building’s property manager with CBRE. “Real-time performance monitoring is where we add value.”

Unforeseeable at the time, COVID-19 was just around the corner, and the need for smart building operations would snap into much sharper focus. “One of our selling points at 99 High is how inexpensive our electricity costs are per square foot,” said Russell, reflecting on the opportunity COVID-19 created to leverage smart building technology. “Our renewed commitment to that is definitely important.”

The team knew acquiring data through a centralizing platform that could deliver useful, timely savings recommendations would help them lower Nuveen’s operating costs and pass on savings to tenants. “I thought a smart building platform like Hatch Data would be a definite help to us,” said 99 High’s chief engineer Jim Zaremski with EMCOR. “We’d be able to see the real-time problem instead of waiting to get our bill at the end of the month to find out ‘Oh, this happened.’ We could catch things early.”

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Approach

Dyer was on the lookout for a low-CapEx solution, something that could be piloted without huge upfront costs: “other vendors were approaching us, requiring us to make a large capital investment and guaranteeing returns; we didn’t see the value there.” When he met the Hatch Data team, the setup was different.

“The appeal of Hatch Data was their approach to solving the problem,” recalled Dyer. “We could suddenly track data and understand our utility usage, which led to ways we could optimize the building. It was an easy way to get our foot in the door to start making our building more efficient.” By leveraging the data 99 High already had from utilities and meters, the platform provided the team with a single, holistic view of asset performance.

Straight away the Hatch Data platform allowed the 99 High team to make improvements to the building’s performance. “Right out of the box we were able to make some adjustments to the way the building was being run, beginning with startup schedules,” said Zaremski.

Results

As 99 High’s data flowed into the Hatch platform, and Zaremski’s team began making adjustments to the building’s run-time, they quickly unlocked meaningful savings. Within the first month of having the platform online, the team identified no-cost savings measures by adjusting startup schedules that reduced their annual electricity bill by nearly $25,000 and more than paid back their initial investment in the platform. “Being able to make a minimal capital investment, then seeing returns right away, validated the value of Hatch’s service,” said Dyer.

Shortly afterwards, the pandemic began and shelter-in-place orders left 99 High under occupied. Rather than simply reducing utility use to a minimum and leaving the building idle until tenants returned, the building team moved into action. “Under occupancy has given us a chance to dial in our building’s operations,” explained Zaremski. Above and beyond reductions directly attributed to decreased occupancy, the 99 High team was able to optimize nighttime and weekend baseload to achieve additional annualized savings of nearly $50,000.

At a time when operational efficiency has never been more critical to a firm’s success, the 99 High team is helping Nuveen keep costs in check, which in turn impacts the building’s value. Spending just over $1.60 per square foot a year on energy, the annualized no-cost savings of 6.7% 99 High’s team uncovered creates a boost for Nuveen, the 99 High team, and for the businesses that call 99 High home: “Being able to show that the building and the ownership is interested in efficiency is a win for the tenants,” reflected Dyer.

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