While the availability of “big data” about building energy performance is increasing in response to market demands and public policies, the lack of standard data formats is a significant ongoing barrier to its full utilization. To overcome this barrier, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) developed the Building Energy Data Exchange Specification (BEDES). BEDES is designed to enable the exchange, comparison, and combination of empirical information by providing common terms and definitions for data about commercial and residential building’s physical and operational characteristics, energy use, and efficiency measures. This paper describes the BEDES development process, scope, structure, and plans for implementation and ongoing updates. BEDES was developed based on a review of over 40 common data formats and an intensive working group process, which engaged stakeholders from State and local governments, energy-efficiency programs, and private sector products and service providers. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is committed to using BEDES for all relevant programs, grants, and tools, etc., in order to make its tools interoperable, reduce reporting burdens, and to make it possible to combine resulting datasets. Broader, voluntary adoption of BEDES will facilitate data sharing and exchanging among subsectors of the industry, and open a pathway for innovative analysis and technologies at relatively lower transaction costs, by reducing the time spent on data formatting and cleansing. This in turn will increase available information for decision-makers, and ultimately facilitate growth of the energy efficiency market.