Washington DC launches real-time building energy data project

The District of Columbia this week launched a project called Build Smart DC, which aggregates real-time energy information about 25 million square feet of public buildings in the region. It’s one of the biggest and most sophisticated of its kind, and shows how governments, both local, state and federal, are looking to use open data to create economic and environmental value, and increasingly paying attention to the efficiency of buildings.
While some cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, and New York have created similar projects, Build Smart DC is one of the first that has access to 15-minute interval energy data. Many energy data projects have access to daily, monthly, or even year energy data. Washington DC worked with local utility Pepco to get access to that data, and startup Honest Buildings created the software and services that collect and organize the data.
BuildSmart DC
The rapid data reporting is important because it is far more actionable than, say, a once-a-month energy consumption recording. So basically, with 15-minute data, building owners and vendors can see where there are inefficient energy problems throughout time periods of the day, like buildings that have lights or heating and cooling that run at times when occupants aren’t in them. “The 15-minute interval data distinction might sound geeky, but it makes a huge difference,” says Sam Brooks, Associate Director, DC Department of General Services.
More sophisticated real-time data also just adds more accountability to the system. Washington DC is using the platform — which Brooks says was a small 5-figure investment to get up and running — to both show how efficient its buildings are, and also can be. The idea is that making the data available will convince more building owners to retrofit buildings and add in efficient technologies like LEDs and energy management software.
While the buildings in the system now are those owned by the District of Columbia, private building owners will also be able to add their buildings and organize their data. The group is still figuring out if private building owners will have to pay for the service or not, and if so, how much.
Honest Buildings is the startup behind the DC launch, and they’ve also worked with other cities, and organizations on white-label building data platforms. The startup closed a series A round of $5 million to grow its software around real estate projects earlier this year. Honest Building’s investors include The Westly Group, RockPort Capital, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Spring Ventures, Jason Scott, managing partner at EKO Asset Management Partners, and Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh.