'App Store' Aims to Get LEED Buildings to Deliver on Performance

'App Store' Aims to Get LEED Buildings to Deliver on Performance

There are two big challenges in ramping up the potential impacts of green building technologies: Getting more green buildings built, and making sure they are performing as efficiently as expected.

Today, just in advance of the annual Greenbuild conference, Indie Energy has launched what it thinks could be a solution to the performance problem. The company's Energy App Exchange is an open platform for developers to create solutions to make sure sustainable buildings deliver on their promise.

Think of it as an Apple App Store for green buildings.

The app exchange is the centerpiece of the Indie Energy Network, a collection of building performance energy apps developed by Indie Energy and now made available to any developers to create software solutions for any building management platform.

"It's a vendor-neutral approach and that is a big game-changer," said Indie Energy co-founder and executive vice president Erik Larson, "From an owner's value proposition point of view, that's a big need."

Buildings tend to have a mix of controls, automation and monitoring systems of varying ages from a number of vendors. And while sensors may have been installed in the structure, it's likely that they aren't picking up "all the data imprisoned in a building" to optimize performance monitoring and management, Larson said.

"What this is about is taking it to the next level, we have a bridge to all the major providers," he added, also saying that this kind of vendor-neutral approach allows the offerings on the Indie network to cost less than many proprietary services.

Indie rolled out two new apps on Friday, one focused on the LEED certification, and another aimed at food and beverage manufacturers.

The first app, Sim Tracker, is for LEED users and integrates with the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Online tool. The goal of the app is an important one: helping building owners and operators measure and monitor the actual performance of their structures against expected reductions in energy use and other environmental impacts, which were based on building designs.

The tech partnership is one of the measures the USGBC is taking to tackle one of the biggest hurdles the group faces to wider adoption: LEED buildings that fall short of their environmental expectations. Green building and sustainability experts discussed that challenge and the quest for smarter, better performing buildings at the GreenBiz State of Green Business Forum this year.

Building operations and maintenance are often the root of the problem. Building designs are one thing, but green performance depends also on what the people who occupy the building do in it and how the building is run. And if you don't maintain a building properly, just as if you don't maintain a car, it's going to break down.

The Indie Energy app for LEED users and others in the app exchange are intended to help building owners and operators spot performance gaps and address them.

The second new app was developed in collaboration with global infrastructure firm Gannett Fleming and is designed for food and beverage companies to track and manage energy and water consumption at manufacturing  facilities. In-depth monitoring and management of water consumption are relatively new dimensions of building performance management, but are quickly developing thanks to tech advancements in energy management which provide a model for water solutions.

Businesses focused on sustainability in the built environment are increasingly turning to energy management and are taking those services into the cloud. Serious Materials began offering cloud-based energy management services last year and rebranded the company Serious Energy this year to emphasize that business.

Indie Energy was founded in 2006 and initially focused on geothermal energy systems. Although that's still an important part of the company, Indie began developing its energy management solutions ideas about three years ago and is just now going big with that line of business.

Autodesk brought early-stage energy modeling into its building design tools last year, and this week began bringing several of its software suites into the cloud.

Indie Energy's announcements came on the eve of the USGBC's annual Greenbuild conference, which is this week in Toronto. We'll tell you about more developments along these lines in the coming days.

Photo CC-licensed by ProblemKind.