Scaling Building Energy Audits through Machine Learning Methods on Novel Drone Image Data
Building energy audits are time-consuming and labor-intensive. This paper describes a new method using machine learning (ML) techniques on novel data sources (drone images) to improve the identification of building characteristics and retrofit opportunities, and thereby reduce the effort for audits. The new ML method includes: (1) Building footprint extraction using line extraction, polygonization, and polygon-merging, (2) Building envelope extraction using PIX4d modeling software to reconstruct a building 3D model, (3) Visualization tool for viewing images from the 3D model, (4) Window-to-wall ratio (WWR) using state-of-art deep neural network semantic segmentation, (5) Envelope thermal anomaly detection using an unsupervised machine learning clustering algorithm, and (6) Rooftop energy equipment detection based on an object detection algorithm. The testing of this method involved a comparison of additional ML-generated information overlaid on current ‘state-of-practice’ audit and remote assessment baselines using evaluation metrics: labor time and associated cost, marginal benefits of using ML-generated information in workflows for audits and remote assessments, integration potential with existing processes and tools, and replicability/scalability of the method. In two test buildings in California that had comprehensive drawings and meter data available, the ML method effectively generated a building footprint, envelope, rooftop equipment, WWR, and locations of envelope thermal anomalies. Projected target segments of the ML method are sites with minimal drawings and energy data, and underserved sectors such as multistoried housing, disadvantaged communities, and schools for which the ML method can enable identification of building asset characteristics and prioritization of envelope retrofits and decentralized energy equipment retrofits.