How an Effective Sustainability Dashboard Works
The word dashboard, as it applies to sustainability dashboards, did not come about until the 1990s. Early developers likely coined the term “dashboard” because automobile dashboards were often used as a model for the software programs designed for these systems. The goal was to provide a quick and easy way to present a variety of information all on one screen.
Data is delivered into these systems using a personal computer, tablet, or similar device. The type of data entered or retrieved includes the following:
- Facility fuel and gas consumption (for HVAC systems, etc.)
- Waste removal and recycling
- Water consumption
- Transportation costs (e.g., fuel used by company vehicles)
- Amount of consumables used, such as paper products and ink cartridges
- Number of cleaning items used, such as cleaning supplies and chemicals (most specifically, non-Green cleaning products because they can have the biggest impact on the environment)
Often the initial data entered into these systems consists of items considered “low-hanging fruit”—that is, easily gathered information such as electricity use, water use, fuel consumption, and the costs related to each. Gathering and entering this data are often simple because most utility companies store such information, and, in some cases, it can even be downloaded directly from the utility. When this is not possible, the data can be entered manually. While this may take a little time, some systems are designed to make this task relatively quick and easy.
When beginning the process, building owners and managers should enter information not only for a month or two but going back two or more years. Why? Because this information will be used to create a benchmark for future improvements. Also, it will “smooth out the data.” Often there are spikes or dips in, for instance, energy consumption. Data collected over a longer period of time will provide a more robust and accurate overall picture; data taken over only a short period of time may distort the metrics.