Every day we produce millions of data points. What we buy, what we eat and what we do – it all generates data, and a lot of it. And our buildings are no different, there is so much data on our buildings that we just don’t use. So how can we make the most of it? Here are my recommendations to help you utilise your data and improve your building’s energy performance.
We’re already data rich
There’s a lot of data in the built environment, trust me. It would be impossible to tackle it all in one short blog post. So where do we begin? Let’s start with a set of data I believe is vastly undervalued and scarcely used; compliance data. A surging amount of regulations require us to conduct compliance assessments on our buildings. For example, if you have an air conditioning system larger than 12kW you’ll need a TM44, commercial and domestic buildings require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), public buildings larger than 500m2 require a Display Energy Certificate (DEC) etc. etc. The outcome? PDF after PDF after PDF. An inconvenient expense for some. But is there something hidden in those PDFs that we’re paying for and not actually seeing?
More often than not, the PDF is just the topsoil and lurking below is a goldmine of valuable building data. For example, an EPC will display the total floor area (m2). To display this, the assessor will have collected the floor area of each zone, the height of each storey, the external heat loss perimeter, the perimeter to adjacent dwellings and premises, the perimeter to unconditioned zones, and so on. Which may not sound interesting, and to some of you it definitely won’t be, but it is extremely useful. When considering an insulation project you will need to know the wall area of your exposed and un-exposed perimeter, when considering lighting you’ll need to know the lux coverage in each zone, the list is almost endless. You can use data to inform the initial estimates, or even quality assure the details your contractors and partners are providing you. It’s highly likely that this data already exists, buried within those ‘useless’ PDFs.
You’ll hear us in the industry use terms like .xml, .nct and .cab and what we’re talking about is the raw data required to conduct a compliance assessment. Without getting bogged down in the technicalities, the first recommendation I want to make is…
Recommendation 1: Get a hold of the raw data files from all of the compliance assessments that have been undertaken on your buildings.
Data rich, information poor
Onto the next stage. Once we have the data, what do we do with it? We don’t just dump data onto data and expect something great to come out. Data has to be well structured, interrogated and presented for it to produce valuable information. Luckily, the software we use presents nicely structured data for us. For example, for every domestic EPC the raw .xml data is structured into an ‘LIG’ format so that all fields are labelled the same with consistent coding (you don’t have to know what I mean by this, but if you do…kudos).
So we’ve acquired our raw data and we have it well structured. Now time for the fun part, interrogation and presentation.
Recommendation 2: Interrogate your data to understand more about your energy performance. As well as being fun, this is also the difficult part because the data is well protected in a variety of file formats. Here we have two options, both have equal value but different applications. 1 – collate multiple (tens, hundreds even thousands) raw data files into one single data set to analyse energy performance across an entire portfolio. Or 2 – upload the data file back into the software and conduct well defined simulations to gain more understanding about an individual building’s current and potential energy performance.
Here at Sustain, my colleagues and I have had great success with both approaches. We’ve collated thousands of raw data files to help our clients understand their building stock’s current and potential energy performance. Typically, this is a great approach for those with a large domestic portfolio and a really robust exercise to inform strategic direction and ambitions. Elsewhere we have obtained the raw data files on individual buildings, uploaded the files into existing software and been able to conduct detailed analytics on where and why the building may not be performing as expected (see my previous blog “Can we hack our way to better building design?” for more information on the performance gap and similar efforts to mine data such as the Building Data Exchange).
In a similar vain to my first recommendation, my third is…
Recommendation 3: Do not duplicate! Too often do I talk to partners about how they never received the raw data files and now they have to commission brand new assessments rather than updating the originals. It is an expensive mistake to make but we make it all too often. Later this Spring we have the confirmation of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) and I can assure you that if you adhere to my three recommendations the whole process will be a lot smoother. I’ll talk a little more about the upcoming MEES requirements in my next blog, so watch this space!
To sum up, here are my recommendations for property managers and building owners to make the most of their data:
- Get a hold of the raw data files: You’ve paid for the full assessment so ensure that you receive all of the data gathered during the assessment.
- Interrogate your data to understand more about energy performance: Whether you focus on individual buildings, or choose to look at your entire portfolio, you can understand more about energy performance in your buildings and diagnose them for inefficiencies.
- Do not duplicate: As assessments are often triggered by a renewal requirement you can often use the original raw data files to update your assessments rather than commission new, more expensive ones.
For more information about using the data you have, or help acquiring any data you have already commissioned, visit the Sustain website or get in touch with myself at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org (0117 403 2698).