Building Energy Epidemiology: Analysis of Real Building Energy Use at Scale
The Annex will focus on the analyses of real building energy use at scale and the emerging field of energy epidemiology, which seeks to develop robust and multidisciplinary approaches to such analyses. The purpose of the Annex is to support member countries in the task of developing realistic transition pathways to substantial and long-term reductions in energy use and carbon emissions associated with their buildings by:
- Evaluating the scope for using real building energy use data at scale to inform policy making and to support industry in the development of low energy and low carbon solutions;
- Establishing best practice in the methods used to collect and analyse data related to real building energy use, including building and occupant data; and,
- Comparing across the national approaches to developing building stock data sets, building stock models, and to addressing the energy performance gap in order to identify lessons that can be learned and shared.
Background and Justification
In response to concerns about climate change, energy security and social equity, countries around the world are either planning to dramatically reduce energy demand and carbon emissions or in the case of emerging economies to develop in less energy intensive ways. These transformations will require a raft of technology and policy interventions that, to be truly effective, must be supported through comprehensive empirical evaluation. The data to support the design, implementation and evaluation of such interventions are often absent; consequently, many policies do not deliver the anticipated impact on energy demand. The collection of, and access to, reliable building and energy use data have historically been limited due to the cost of collection and institutional or governmental structure such as the privatisation of utilities. In addition, the importance of access to high quality data has been underestimated with an over-reliance on normative models. This situation is changing as new international treaties are agreed upon and countries implement legislatively controlled carbon budgets. Simultaneously, a data revolution is occurring as a result of the introduction of high frequency and smart meters, the increasing use of low cost sensors, and the combination and integration of many and varied data sets facilitated by the Internet.
A much better systems approach is needed to understanding how energy demand is changing over time and the factors operating to influence these changes than has been the case with conventional approaches. This energy systems perspective can be obtained by bringing together energy data from large scale population (or building) based studies and adopting data management and analytical techniques similar to those applied to public health (e.g. health epidemiology). Insights from population-based empirically derived evidence can be used to inform the type, timing, and targeting of policies, as well as provide insights to assist development of technologies designed to manage energy demand and carbon emissions. For example, by linking together large databases of energy, buildings, and energy retrofits data to determine the efficacy of delivered technology in reducing measured energy use. Such information is the tip of the iceberg of what can and should be achieved with future data sources and when these data are combined with data from more detailed field studies. This field is becoming known as “energy epidemiology”, the study of energy use among a population.
The transfer of the health epidemiological approach to energy demand is not a direct application, but rather an adaption of those tools and methods that can best serve the study of the complex interactions between technological, institutional, behavioural, physical and environmental factors that lead to energy demand. The epidemiological study of energy demand should:
- describe and measure the distributions of variable(s) of interest, e.g. energy demand per unit of observation
- explain the distribution by its determinant factors: physical, environmental, social, behavioural and economic
- support models that predict the changes expected in the distribution due to interventions, particularly energy efficiency and behavioural control measures
- provide an evidence basis for informing policy and practice related to the management of energy demand.
There are numerous beneficial implications of a more systematic and systemically structured approach to using national energy and buildings data for: policy formulation and evaluation, technology testing and deployment, and national development and decarbonisation pathways. Figure 1 illustrates an idealised system in which national building stock modelling and analysis builds on a foundation of empirical data, field trails and sub-group surveys to inform policy making and the development and deployment of new products and designs for new buildings and retrofit. Such a model could support and evaluate the development of national transition pathways to meet energy and carbon reduction targets.
Figure 1 – Idealised Operation of a National Building Data and Stock Model
Annex 70 therefore focuses on empirical data and analysis methods rather than technologies and tools. Nonetheless, it can both inform and draw on experiences gained from the monitoring and modelling of building performance conducted in other annexes.
In order to address the challenges of collecting, describing and using high quality data on energy use and buildings for the purpose informing national development and low carbon pathways, this Annex will focus on: stakeholder engagement in needs and uses of energy and buildings data; availability, collection methods and structure of building stock data; comparisons of actual and predicted energy performance in buildings; methods of empirical data analysis of populations of energy and buildings; data structures for national building stock modelling.
There is a need for better energy and buildings data among a wide group of actors. National building, energy and environment, building control and construction agencies need better quality data on buildings and their energy performance and energy demands for both forward planning and evaluation of past practices. Commercial development and technologies organisations need better market information and processes for describing real world impacts of their products on energy demand and performance.
By focusing on data, its collection methods and analysis and use in national modelling exercises, Annex 70 will identify data gaps and provide stakeholders with resources, i.e. an observatory of data and methods, from which to draw for national comparison, modelling and engagement.
Aim, Objectives and Scope
The shift to a low carbon built environment will require both a step change in the energy performance of buildings alongside more efficient provision of energy services, and an aggressive decarbonisation of the energy used. Yet the prerequisite data of building stocks needed to support this essential shift in energy performance of buildings are not necessarily available or are inaccessible or incomplete. Further, as more information on building energy use (and indoor environment) is collected through high frequency sensors and building form analytics become more sophisticated, the analysis methods applied to the myriad and diverse sub-sectors of the building stock ‘population’ need to be commensurate with the heterogeneity of the building stock. As national sustainable development and decarbonisation plans are developed, government, research and commercial organisations will need better empirical data on building stocks to support modelling exercises and to evaluate past practices. Finally, the participation of a full range of stakeholders is needed to support data access, its meaningful analysis and the investment in low carbon and energy efficient buildings.
Therefore, the aim of Annex 70 is to work in an international collaboration to identify user needs around energy demand in buildings and to establish best practice methods and harmonized approaches for data collection, analysis and modelling.
In support of the principal aim of employing an energy epidemiological approach for the benefit of improving the transition to more energy efficient buildings and communities, the Annex will seek to identify lessons that can be learned and shared between participants as a means of achieving the following objectives:
- To evaluate the scope for using real building energy use data at scale to inform policy making and to support industry in the development of low energy and low carbon solutions;
- To compare across the national approaches to developing building stock data sets and building stock models, and to addressing the data analysis reliability in the calculation of the energy performance gap; and,
- To establish best practice in the methods used for gathering and analysing real building energy use data, including the creation of models and the identification of determinants for energy demand/use.
The principle aim of an energy epidemiological approach is to put in place the methods that can improve the understanding of variation and causes of difference among the energy-using population. The Annex is principally about energy and building stock data and models, it is not the intention of the Annex to collect such data, instead the function of the Annex will be to identify, describe and structure the data and models and to provide best practice guidance on their use. The Annex will focus on ‘populations’ of buildings and not on individual buildings. The scope of the Annex will include:
- Engaging with government, industry and technology manufacturers in order to identify user requirements for data and information upon which future strategy and policy can be based;
- Researching the requirements, needs, types, and uses of empirical building and energy data for both the residential and non-residential building stock;
- Developing best practice guidance for undertaking surveys and for analysing and reporting energy and building stock data and models; and,
- Developing metrics and methods for international comparisons of building stocks and their energy use.
To address the specific Annex objectives, the research and development work in the Annex will be divided into three subtasks, which is further divided in a number of research activities.
The Annex will comprise the following main subtasks (to operate in parallel):
- Subtask A: User engagement (needs and provisions);
- Subtask B: Data and methods;
- Subtask C: Building stock modelling and analysis.
Results and deliverables
The main outputs of the Annex will include:
- Registry of energy and building stock data;
- Registry of energy and building stock models;
- Series of reports on data, models and methods.
The results will facilitate the use of empirical energy and building stock data in undertaking international energy performance comparisons, policy review exercises, national stock modelling and technology and product market assessments and impact analyses. The deliverables will promote the importance and best practices for collecting and reporting energy and building stock data.
A significant enhancement of the value of the products of the Annex will be the establishment of links from the lessons from this Annex to the on-going work of the IEA’s Energy Data Centre. The work in developing standards for collection and comparison of energy performance data that is consistent from country to country will greatly enhance the quality and reliability of future IEA Statistics publications. In addition, it is anticipated that the work of the Annex will benefit greatly from the existing standards and relationships developed by the IEA Data Centre.
The duration of the Annex in the Operation phase will be three years (planned start in November of 2016), with the preparation phase beginning in November 2015. Two meetings will be held every year.
The Operating Agent will organise semi-annual plenary Annex meetings at varying locations, each time hosted by one of the participating countries. In connection with the plenary Annex meetings, a semi-annual subtask leaders meeting will be organised.
If needed, the participants and subtask leaders can decide to organise separate meetings. In such cases, they will inform the Operating Agent of the meeting and its results. A fourth year will be used to finish reports.
Table – Annex 70 Time and Delivery Schedule
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Funding and commitment
The work is divided into three subtasks. Each participant shall work in at least one of the subtasks. All participants are also required to deliver information and written material to the final reports. Each participant shall individually bear their own costs incurred in the Annex activities. Funding is expected to cover labour costs, consumables and investments (including eventual overhead costs) associated with the execution of activities defined in sections 3 and 4, and to cover traveling costs for participating in at least two expert meetings per year during the four-year working phase of the Annex. The working meetings shall be hosted by one of the participants. The costs of organising and hosting the meeting shall be borne by the host participant.
All participating countries have access to the workshops and results of all subtasks. Each participating country must designate at least one individual (an active researcher, scientist or engineer, here called the expert) for each subtask in which they decide to participate. It is expected that the same expert attends all meetings and acts as technical contact regarding the national subtask contribution. A minimum commitment of six person-months of labour for each year of the Annex term will be required for participation. For the subtask coordinators funding shall allow for two person-months and an extra one person-months per year for Annex activities. For the Operating Agent, funding shall allow for six person-months per year for Annex activities including the attendance at ExCo meetings.
 The term model is used in this text in a broad sense and also includes data structures and analysis frameworks.
 Summerfield,A.J., Bruhns,H., Caeiro,J., Oreszczyn,T., and Steadman,J.P., “Life Course Building Epidemiology: an alternative approach to the collection and analysis of carbon emission data” COBRA 2005: the construction research conference of the RICS Foundation, Brisbane, Australia 4-8 July, 2005
 Hamilton, I. G., Summerfield, A. J., Lowe, R., Ruyssevelt, P., Elwell, C. A., & Oreszczyn, T. (2013). Energy epidemiology: a new approach to end-use energy demand research. Building Research & Information, 41, 482-497.