A US initiative has been launched to standardise data on energy efficiency in buildings so that investors, building owners and developers can amalgamate, share and analyse data in a common format. What’s more, its adoption is being made easy and free.

The purpose of developing a common language is ultimately to create a marketable financial product that enables investors and building portfolio owners to compare the relative benefits of investing in energy efficiency projects in different buildings or portfolios of buildings.

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The “Building Button” Specification is an initiative of the Investor Confidence Project (ICP), and applies to commercial and multifamily occupancy buildings. It is applicable in three contexts: technical due diligence, financial underwriting and actuarial data.

The specification will allow any organisation to share project data across platforms to reduce underwriting costs, build confidence in energy savings and ultimately drive greater market demand for energy efficiency.

The specification is for a standard XML dataset, and is based upon the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Building Energy Data Exchange Specification (BEDES) for a building energy efficiency retrofit.

It also fits into the full range of existing ICP protocols to facilitate data collection for ICP investor ready projects. A project overview spreadsheet containing 388 rows can be seen here, colour-coded according to which context the data is relevant.

Typically data necessary for actuarial underwriting and to conduct technical due diligence for investment in energy efficiency projects is locked away in PDFs, spreadsheets and proprietary tools.

Standardising this data helps to give investors and building owners increased confidence in energy savings because they are based on the experience derived from empirical, project-level data from many previous projects.

?Institutional investors, rating agencies and markets for secondary transactions also demand volumes of normalised data in order to have confidence that the industry can deliver results prior to making large capital investments.

Involved in developing the Building Button Specification were project developers, technology providers, investors, insurers, program administrators and other market actors.

They were able to point out and evaluate what type of data, and their formats, they themselves used and felt were helpful when they examine the cost effectiveness of an energy efficiency project.

ICP sees this as the first step towards the reality of standardised industry-wide “big data” for the energy efficiency industry and is calling on all those interested in energy efficiency data to participate in further development of this opportunity through upcoming webinars, technical forums and more.

The BEDES team has allocated engineering resources to make adoption of Building Button easy and cost free for anyone who collects or distributes building energy performance data by offering to map their existing data sets into Building Button / BEDES-compliant formats.

You can sign up here.

David Thorpe is the author of a number of books on energy, buildings and sustainability. See his website here.

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