Towards a Stronger Foundation: Digitizing Commercial Buildings with Brick to Enable Portable Advanced Applications
Most large commercial buildings have digital controls for their heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) and lighting systems with the potential to implement advanced control strategies and data analytics. However, advanced control strategies and data analytics are rarely deployed at scale due to non-standard naming conventions and heterogenous building configurations. Semantic metadata standards, like Brick, show promise to proliferate these applications across many buildings, but they have not been widely adopted by industry due to barriers such as perceived risk and unfamiliarity with the technology. This paper describes the workflow we established and evaluated while using it to develop over ten Brick models of existing buildings. Through this process, we observed that digitizing existing commercial buildings is a cost and labor-intensive effort in which understanding the buildings’ data streams is the major bottleneck. Yet, we conclude this investment is worthwhile since various use case applications such as fault detection and diagnostics, thermal comfort analysis, and HVAC control optimization can utilize the same Brick model. The paper also explores the challenges and lessons learned we encountered while creating these data models, such as: 1) difficulties in finding metadata descriptions and relationships for existing buildings; 2) handling missing concepts in the schema needed to model a building; 3) lack of guidance on how to structure the data model or how much detail to include; 4) unfamiliarity with technologies, which makes the learning curve steep for applications developers. Finally, we also describe future directions for semantic metadata research and development to make such transformative technologies more accessible to practitioners.