Why disorderly data slows energy efficiency projects in commercial buildings

Ones and Zeros

On the eve of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, much has been said, and written, about the impact commercial buildings and industrial facilities have on climate change.

In the US, this group generates 45% of all greenhouse gas emissions, yet 30 percent of the energy they consume is wasted. Lighting and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC, are the leading culprits. They consume 70% of all building energy.

Even minor improvement can have major impact. For example, if the energy efficiency of this group improved 10%, the collected savings would be $40 billion per year.

Getting started is hard

Only two percent of building stock is consider “new.” This means virtually the entire US commercial building population -- nearly 6 million in all -- lacks basic improvements that reduce both energy consumption and cost. The magnitude of this opportunity explains, in part, why the global industrial and commercial LED market will reach $166 billion by 2022, according to Energy Manager Today.

But corporate sustainability experts, energy procurement professionals, and facility operations managers face a difficult, if not impossible, task: quickly identifying high impact efficiency opportunities across a multi-building portfolio.

The same is true for a trusted energy service partner working on behalf of a building owner or manager. Oftentimes costly onsite audits in many buildings are necessary to discover opportunities.

Matters worsen in large property portfolios because scouting each facility to find a starting point for improvement is impossible.

Lastly, promises of future cost savings can be met with initial skepticism from financial decision-makers. A frequent demand is evidence that a specific building, or set of buildings, can be improved, and proposed savings measures will work in the real world. Sound familiar?

Data Standardization

Local governments, energy companies, large portfolio managers and individual building owners are all working to bring their data online in order to make better, more informed decisions about buildings and building efficiency measures.

But the problem all face is the lack of data standardization.

Building energy and attribute data take on many forms and standards, creating significant challenges. From regions, to agencies and organizations, to individual buildings, the way the world describes building data varies tremendously. Think: “you called it a swamp cooler, I call it an evaporative cooler”. Numerous codes and vocabularies that need to be mapped together in order to make this data truly useful.

Enter the The Building Energy Data Exchange Specification (BEDES).

My company, Building Energy, is a leading contributor, author, and adopter of this standard. As an effective means to manage data definitions and semantic interoperability, the BEDES specification provides a standard language and set of definitions for building characteristics, efficiency measures and energy use.

As a result, BEDES is a critical enabler for credibly benchmarking energy and resource performance using real data from real buildings.

Data Management

Managing legacy building data is messy. The digital pile of spreadsheet files grows, often exponentially. Time spent dealing with data leaves little room for value-add analysis, getting efficiency projects up and running, and reporting outcomes.

Worse, data quality and accuracy emerge as major risks when spreadsheet use proliferates.

Building Energy takes building and energy data from a number of different sources and intelligently helps combine them into a secure, complete portfolio of aggregate buildings. All building data becomes searchable, editable, and auditable.

Any credible system must easily support multiple file types, whether .CSV, .XLS, or Green Button, as well as master building attributes along with meter and time series data.

Automatic data mapping to the BEDES standard, and matching of assessor and Portfolio Manager data is a non-negotiable. Flexibility to load and store custom data fields is a key requirement.

API support for integration with other systems is a must.

Visual, Interactive Benchmarking

These breakthroughs solve major technical problems that have held back efficiency projects for years. Now rapid analysis, and conversion of insight into action, is possible.

Efficiency projects can be pinpointed, prioritized, and started fast. Performance against energy conservation measures is tracked using validated, objective data. Origins of Building Energy’s technical expertise comes from its role as creator of the Building Performance Database (BPD) for benchmarking, and the Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform™.

If you want to learn more, Building Energy is hosting an educational webinar Thursday, December 3rd at 10:00 AM PST


Or simply start a conversation by contacting me at chris.preston@buildingenergy.com.

In my next blog we will explore the leadership opportunity that cities have to shape the global climate conversation.

About Building Energy Inc.

Building Energy Inc. is a technology company that combines cleantech, fintech, and information technology to transform the way building owners and service providers generate successful energy and water efficiency projects. Building Energy’s cloud-based software is used to design, implement, and finance energy and resource projects by building owners and managers, energy management companies, and sustainability professionals.