“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Lord Kelvin’s famous truism certainly applies to building energy use. But whereas it has been possible to measure building energy use at the meter since nearly the start of centralized energy generation and distribution, that alone has not been sufficient to drive reductions. To drive action, energy use must be correlated with assets and activities in the buildings and all of this information must be available in the right form to the right people at the right times.
Today, data related to buildings and their energy use is increasingly available. The challenge has shifted from measurement to management—curation, organization, and analysis, along with privacy. To address this challenge, BTO’s Building Energy Data (BED) subprogram supports two sets of activities, categorized broadly as standards and management and analysis tools.
Standard dictionaries (ways of naming data) and schema (ways of organizing related data items and denoting their relationships) promote interoperability (the reuse of data across tools), reduce effort and error associated with transporting and translating data, and increase the value of data.
Open-source tools that provide basic functionality for managing data that complies with standard dictionaries and schema increase the availability of data, supporting new applications and services and increasing demand for that data, creating a virtuous cycle.
Increasing availability of unstructured data such as images of various kinds and vantage points (e.g., street view, aerial, and IR) along with other environmental and electronic data (e.g., wi-fi connections and activity) encode information that is relevant to building energy use. Methods that extract this information reliably while preserving privacy can enhance different building energy-efficiency processes including auditing, retrofit planning, and operations.