Data tools supporting improved energy performance of buildings: Evolution and perspectives
Publication date: 15 July 2015
The evolution of data tools that are used to improve the energy performance of buildings follows the broader development of data management and processing, a field which has expanded rapidly in recent years. This article reviews the various types of software applications currently available.
It is today possible for an ordinary consumer to install an application to their smartphone, aim the phone at a product’s bar code, and immediately receive additional information on that product, including input by other consumers on the product’s quality and value for money. This seemingly simple procedure has a number of prerequisites which have only been made possible relatively recently, such as:
‘Always connected‘: the ubiquity of fast wireless internet connections, either local (wi-fi), or wide-area (3G and above), allowing literally instant access to huge amounts of data, including the downloadable applications themselves.
Integration of advanced technologies: a modern smartphone has many thousand times the power of the Apollo 11 on-board computer, in addition to an ultra-high definition camera, accelerometer, Geographic Positioning System, high resolution screen, etc., most of which are employed in the above example.
Crowdsourcing: millions of consumers around the world contribute their experiences, opinions and helpful tips on products and services, in relevant online communities and resources.
Interconnection of reference databases: access to official project data alongside consumer reviews is made possible by the openness of such resources, and by the ‘cleverness’ of online search engines able to associate related information irrespective of source.
All of these trends have been influencing contemporary markets for some time, and the energy performance of buildings is no exception. Though IT tools have been used in the building industry for decades –from computer aided design (CAD) and simulations to construction itself– there is a growing availability of data-intensive tools aimed at estimating and further improving energy performance in particular.
A first such category includes the tools used for the standardised issuance of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) in Member States, e.g. SBEM in the UK. Next to these, dedicated tools exist for calculating the energy properties of specific building elements, such as WINDAT WIS for window systems. In addition, reliable EPC input data is provided by product performance databases. Given the multitude of such databases, it is useful to have them available via a centralised resource, such as the Belgian www.EPBD.BE, which may also include approved measurement/calculation procedures, and certified software.
The use of online tools for EPC calculation, combined with related activities such as inspections, has the added benefit of gradually aggregating relevant building stock data into centralised databases. The German CO2-online heating atlas illustrates the possibilities: it aggregates data from 50.000 buildings, presents it in a graphical interface, and allows users to access data from selected federal states and regions. It is worth noting that CO2-online has data on one million buildings, but has only published the data for which it was explicitly granted the right by owners/tenants.
Such large scale databases can in turn facilitate:
calculation of statistics and benchmarks on energy performance;
development and fine-tuning of models of the existing building stock;
highlighting of possible issues, e.g. widespread ineffective insulation, for which new policies should be developed;
better planning of top-level actions, including energy supply management; such planning usually relies on simulation tools, e.g. CASSANDRA, but these can now be based on the plentiful real data provided by EPC-related activities.
Read more on: Build Up
Subscribe to Trust EPC South bimonthly newsletter