A free tool to benchmark a building’s energy use…and save money? Well, that’s exactly the result of a partnership between Lucid Design Group of Oakland, CA, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). The two were brought together by EERE’s Small Business Voucher (SBV) program.
The SBV program, administered by EERE’s Technology-to-Market team, gives small businesses access to technical assistance from national labs. This helps companies overcome critical technology and commercialization challenges to bring the next generation of clean energy technologies to market.
One of the first round recipients was Lucid through EERE’s Building Technologies Office. Working in the area of enhanced energy data management, their team aimed to improve energy data benchmarking of buildings by developing a tool to help justify and jumpstart building efficiency initiatives. While an increasing number of data sources are available to help identify energy and cost savings opportunities from smart technologies and sensor data, turning this data into energy efficiency projects presents a major challenge to building owners and operators.
Through the SBV award, Lucid partnered with LBNL to bring simplified data analysis to a wider audience. LBNL helped Lucid integrate the Building Performance Database (BPD) and OpenStudio into Lucid’s BuildingOS, a service that automates collection, organization, and analysis of building energy data.
According to Josh Wentz, who leads the BuildingOS product/engineering teams for Lucid, the BenchmarkMyBuilding.com tool the team created was an outgrowth of their SBV proposal.
Although access to LBNL’s resources made BenchmarkMyBuilding.com feasible, it also changed what Lucid saw as the possibilities inherent in the partnership. For example, Lucid already provided enhanced energy data services with their existing platform, BuildingOS. This is subscription-based and serves customers already familiar with what those tools can do. Lucid found, in working with LBNL, that what would make the greatest impact would be a free, public tool. The outcome was BenchmarkMyBuilding.com, which Wentz says would not have existed without SBV.
This allows Lucid to do more than offer energy management resources to their existing client base; it gives them the chance to bring technical energy savings data to a much wider audience.
“There’s a huge benefit to creating this free tool,” Wentz says. “Lots of people who could save energy don’t know where to start, or even why they should. This provides clear data to help get them past the step of ‘why should I care’.”
How does BenchmarkMyBuilding.com work?
There are three inputs: building type, size and location. Building owners and operators expect that buildings with certain characteristics spend “X” dollars per year on energy—but they don’t always know how efficient they are, or how they compares to other buildings.
BenchmarkMyBuilding.com leverages several government datasets—including EnergyStar’s TargetFinder and the Energy Information Agency’s CBECS data—to identify similar buildings. Getting a benchmarked annual energy cost is as simple and fast as entering a location into a mapping interface.
But the team won’t stop here. According to Wentz, the next step is to build a deeper insight and analysis through modeling of individual building systems and assets to make the tool more versatile. And, he says, they couldn’t have done it without DOE.
“Our work with LBNL is ongoing, even past this initiative, and we’ve learned from each other. DOE opened the door for us to do that.”
After eight years of navigating funding proposals, Wentz says that the SBV program benefits the government and public, the private sector, and the national laboratories all at the same time. By partnering with LBNL through SBV, Lucid has provided the public with a free tool—that will save building owners money while promoting the value of data services.