Open Data Platform for Energy Efficiency in Buildings

Kunde: New City Energy LLC
Task: Relaunch of the Open Data Platform BuildSmart DC
Date: 2017

For buildings, which account for 40 percent of all U.S. energy use, a major culprit for wasted energy is the lack of public information to act upon. Data that shows how much energy and water a building uses is unavailable to the market in many cases, which means that the energy and water consumption – which can account for a third of the cost of operating a building – can’t be factored into market decisions.

Thus the District of Washington D.C. is developing an Open Data Platform for Building Energy Data. The current version is functionally and aesthetically unsatisfactory, and so I got the opportunity to make a complete redesign of the website.



A typical use case: Students and teacher search for their school and compare it with other schools in the district.

The search has a set of plain and simple filters, and the results are shown either as building cards or on a map. The cards show, besides an image and address, the key performance indicator: the Energy Star score with traffic light colors.

The core of the platform is the building detail page. It starts with a series of benchmark cards, covering the most important numbers: Energy Star, energy use index (EUI), costs, energy mix, water usage and some more. Traffic light colors help at assessing the numbers, making them less abstract.

The comparison with other schools, buildings in the quarter, or all buildings in the district help to classify the energy consumption of this building.

Performance cards show the most important KPI’s development over time.

The benchmark and performance cards can be expanded for a detailed chart with more data shown, additional goals and predictions, base- and peak lines, and what I find really important, a guided tour as an interactive explanation of the chart.

In the analysis section, there are explorative tools, which provide in-depth insights. The typical use case is a Facility Manager who wants to check the effects of technical changes on the energy consumption (and maybe also production) of the building. With the electricity explorer, you can observe electricity usage and production from solar and wind generation nearly in realtime.

There are two influencing factors for energy costs: Usage and purchase price, and both can fluctuate. A simple timeline of the energy costs per month shows the fluctuations, but hides to which proportion the influencing factors were involved. A scatterplot can help, but it is hard to read by laymen and the connection to the timeline is not particularly intuitive. Therefore, I thought of an animated transition from timeline to scatterplot.