The importance of open data in buildings

Written by Brian Seitz

The drive for open data sets in smart cities is really starting to gain steam, as individuals and organizations worldwide look for correlations between traffic, weather, lighting, air quality, crime, affordable housing and more. Open building data in that context should be regarded as one of the most critical pieces to the sustainable, smart city puzzle. As we say around Buddy, you can’t have smart cities, without smart buildings, since they account for over 40% of resource consumption in cities. And we don’t think smart equals the most expensive or feature rich technology, it starts with knowledge of what’s coming in and what’s going out. Once those baselines are set, the plan for efficiency and reduction can really get going.

Vice President of Product, Habib Heydarian is on the ground in Atlanta at Urjanet SPARK 17, participating in a panel discussion that tackles this very issue for building owners and managers. How can you ensure the monitoring and management system in your building is not locking you out of your data, either for internal system integration, or for contribution to a broader city-wide data sharing effort? More often than not, you can’t. Many of the large management and monitoring systems use proprietary protocols and technologies to keep your building data locked in their systems. Only with increasing spend on service plans, or upgrading to higher product tiers can you start to play with building data, and even then it might not be easy to navigate poorly documented APIs for example.

The democratization of energy data

We have a different point of view. Make access to building data as easy as possible for building and sustainability managers to monitor, manage, troubleshoot, share and act on. Make it available in everything from glance-and go-dashboards in building lobbies, building manager portals to dive deep, even just export historical building data in the most popular data manipulation tool in the world, Microsoft Excel.

We can’t achieve the huge potential in energy efficient cities unless every building, of every shape and size, has access to technology to provide a real-time, closed feedback loop on resource consumption. They also need a system that can affordably grow with the building as new sensors, solutions and personnel are added. They say knowledge is power, but nobody expects to be a genius from day one. Start with the basics, learn, adapt, optimize, measure and start the cycle over again. Smarts are crucial, but wisdom is only gained through experience.

The UN identified 17 sustainability goals

Open building data for smarter cities

Building data could play a critical role in city, state and country wide sustainability goals. The United Nations has identified a number of Sustainable Development Goals for the world community, with SD 11 directly connected to our goal of democratizing energy data. Imagine incentives for building owners to share their building’s progress in increasing efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint. Or designating efficiency and sustainability zones in cites where residents and businesses commit to shared goals and benefits to help reduce negative impact on their city and the planet.

The State of South Australia is committed to Target Zero, by taking a lead in targeting net zero emissions by 2050 and prioritizing investment in low carbon industries and renewable electricity generation. I would argue this goal won’t be met unless all buildings are part of the drive for efficiency, and open access to building data. Success can’t be measured unless all buildings have a simple, low-cost way to quantify their progress against the goals.

In the end, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. And if blockers to easy measurement are in place, shared sustainability goals won’t be met. Let’s make the tools for measurement, and access to building data as easy as possible for all of our benefit, and let’s free the data.

Do you have a point of view, or ideas for open data in buildings? Let us know using #FreeTheData on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Learn more about how we can help reduce consumption with Buddy Ohm.