Earlier this month, the building analytics company WegoWise launched a blog that provides the public with useful nuggets of data about building efficiency and water use, gleaned from the staggering amount of information it collects from scores of utility companies around the country, among other sources. The new blog, data.wegowise.com, focuses on concisely presented, interactive images that enable readers to get a visual grasp-at-a-glance of the essential elements before delving into the details.
As a means of helping to convince property owners that energy efficiency improvements are an investment, not a cost, the new blog is especially timely for New York City. New regulations embodied in Local Law 84 require owners of thousands of buildings in New York to start recording and publicizing their energy and water consumption, and WegoWise has launched a new service designed to help them comply.
Getting a handle on building efficiency
As described by WegoWise co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Barun Singh, the company’s mission literally is that knowledge is power. By providing customers with details about their utility bills, WegoWise also provides them with the motivation to act on improving building efficiency.
The new blog enables WegoWise to present that information in a visual format that enables customers, and the public at large, to see how the collected data adds up to reveal significant trends. As Singh describes it:
Data.wegowise.com builds on top of this expertise to demonstrate more macro-level trends. It allows the public to see how we can leverage millions of meter readings to better understand, and thus improve, the efficiency of the built environment.
The first five interactive images presented on the new blog are:
- Plotting water bills after a retrofit to demonstrate savings.
- Graphing seasonal changes in gas and electricity use as building tenants adjust for weather swings.
- Comparing the potential for water savings in different types of buildings.
- Tracking seasonal shifts in utility bills in New England.
- Comparing month-to-month utility bills in California and Massachusetts.
More data, more power
WegoWise also has another blog, blog.wegowise.com, that also offers up some data points along with other useful information.
Last week’s entry was a list of top 15 statistics on energy and water use in buildings (here’s that link again).
All 15 are significant, but three of them really stood out out.
One is a statistic from the federal EnergyStar program that, on average, 30 percent of energy in buildings is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.
That should be a wake-up call to every property owner, including those who have already made some efficiency improvements but have not gone to the extra step of benchmarking and tracking their energy use before and after the investments. Without that information in hand, the full relationship between their investment and their actual energy savings is not clear.
A second statistic underscores how the full value of the efficiency investment may not be realized, if a property owner does not have the information to target the most productive areas in which to invest efficiency dollars within a limited budget. Benchmarking information is critical, for example, when deciding on new insulation, new windows or new HVAC equipment.
The last one we’ll highlight is a statistic on water loss in plumbing that underscores how small inefficiencies can add up throughout the year. Running toilets are a notorious water-wasters, at 200 gallons per day according to the U.S. EPA, but even a dripping faucet (one drip per second) can add up to 3,000 gallons per year.
The collection of statistics also draws attention to the role of consumer trends. Consumer electronics, for example, already account for 15 percent of residential electricity consumption globally. Without new advances in energy efficiency, energy use by those devices is expected to triple in about 15 years.
WegoWise and Green Button
WegoWise’s contribution to public awareness about the potential for efficiency improvements is also significant in the context of the federal Green Button initiative. The idea behind Green Button is simple: require utilities to provide data to their customers in a standard, user-friendly online format.
That might seem like a no-brainer, but in the context of a large nation with no pre-existing national standards, the adoption of a uniform knowledge platform is significant.
When it joined, WegoWise had this to say about the Green Button initiative:
Green Button is about one thing: open standards. Standards are a set of rules that the individual players in an industry agree upon to allow the industry as a whole to flourish. One of the best examples of why standards are so necessary is the internet. Without formal, well-defined, open web standards, the internet wouldn’t be the innovative marvel it is today, and WegoWise almost certainly wouldn’t exist.
The utility industry was eager to sign on. Green Button launched in 2012 with half a dozen utility partners and other stakeholders, and quickly gathered steam. Within two months it doubled in size to cover about 27 million households, and even more utilities signed on to to Green Button later that spring.
The initiative was also expected to result in the startup and growth of the utility data services industry, and WegoWise is just such an example. When the company joined up with Green Button in May 2013, it had already created a name of itself in building analytics and it had begun importing data in the Green Button format.
Image: Building efficiency data courtesy of WegoWise