Earth Advantage’s Role in Enhancing Building Analysis

May 7, 2021 | By: Erik Cathcart

The Building Performance Database

Because of policy trends in cities across the country, energy data is becoming more and more available, making it easier to evaluate both building attributes as well as trends in energy use. In 2015 Earth Advantage signed on to design and build a new user interface for the Building Performance Database or BPD. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) under contract from the US Department of Energy, had created a tool that  captured both public and private building data from across the US, anonymized it, then made it available for analysis. In 2020, we revisited the BPD tool to make major code enhancements and update the user experience. 

BPD tool
Earth Advantage has been working for more than a decade with cities, states, and the US DOE, to enhance the visibility of energy efficiency in homes across the country. Helping the Berkeley Lab to build a better tool for comparing both residential and commercial building energy use is a good fit with our mission. Energy service providers, real estate owners and managers, energy consultants, and policy makers can use the BPD to make decisions about energy efficiency policy and building retrofits. The tool is free to use after a simple sign-up process and now has over 13,500 users. With over a million data points from across the US, it provides a robust data set for analysis. BPD is not, however, statistically representative of national building stock due to how the data was collected through a crowdsourcing effort.

Earth Advantage’s focus on the BPD is as software developers,  with a directive to completely rebuild the user interface portion of the tool. The previous code from 2016 was outdated and LBNL had made changes to their API (Application Programming Interface) so it made sense for us to take this approach. Much had changed in the five years since our original work in terms of user interface design, so we also did an overhaul on the actual UI to align it with current best practices and enhance the user experience. We also made an agreement with LNBL to take on the actual web hosting for the user interface of the tool. The API and databases live on LNBL servers, and using that API, talk to the Earth Advantage hosted user interface. This allows data visualizations to be updated in real time when a user sets a filter within the tool. It also provides an extra layer of security because the data is kept separate from the website. Lastly, LBNL had requested we build a new multi-year graphing function into the tool, given the fact they now had enough data that spanned several years. The new functionality is particularly useful for policy makers who want to examine some of the impacts of policy on energy use in other cities.

We’re excited to continue to be a partner with LBNL on a range of development projects that advance the visibility of energy efficiency policy and attributes across the country. Stay tuned for more as we embark on new projects this year. 

Earth Advantage wishes to gratefully acknowledge our development partners at Rain Software and Dymaptic for their work on BPD. We also want to thank Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Paul Mathew, department head of whole building systems; and Travis Walter, senior scientific engineering associate. The BPD is sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office.