Location, location, location
“The three most important things about real estate are location, location, location.” ~Real Estate Axiom
The interesting thing about the extension of the once-fixed Internet to mobile smart phones is how location-based everything is becoming. From real-time directions and trip tracking on Google Maps to checking in on Foursquare once we reach our destination, we have become creatures of Global Positioning System (GPS) habit. No wonder we feel lost without our smart phones these days.
I was a GPS geek—well, actually, a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) geek—long before GPS-enabled smart phones were cool. In the Dark Ages before GPS phones, we were forced to calculate our geographic location with clunky units the size of large backpacks. Before Google Earth made GIS available to the masses inexpensively or at no charge, we toiled under complicated “vertical market” applications with expensive software licenses. (Before this, there was the realm of actual acetate overlays, but I will leave this manual epoch to those studying GIS prehistory.)
The first terabyte-sized storage device I ever saw was used for storing GIS maps at the government agency where I once worked. There, I first saw the awesome power in tying real-world data to maps, which is a pretty good simple definition for GIS. If you can geo-reference data, you have a lever by which you can move the world.
It is probably clear even to non-GIS users how maps tied to—and drawn from—databases can be used to save the planet in ways such as identifying ecologically-sensitive areas, species boundaries, and floodplains. But what does GIS have to do with green building (other than, perhaps, where not to site the building)?
Quite a lot, it turns out. Especially if you include related fields such as Computer-Assisted Drafting (CAD —think Google Sketchup) and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Location-based tools not only help you site your building; they help you build it virtually and even test its efficiency and performance using real-world environmental factors from your chosen location.
But even the best-laid building plans can be sabotaged by mice and men. We’ve all heard horror stories of marvelous design and technology going out the window when people actually moved into a building and began ignoring, circumventing, or even sabotaging cleantech features. Well, it turns out that location-based technology can help with these problems, too. Today’s building monitors and software can keep track of where building occupants are and what they are doing, allowing building managers to better plan for, respond to, and intervene when necessary, to keep building efficiency goals on-track. (It also helps that we have learned that educating employees while simultaneously giving them more control over their workspace environment avoids the need for “Big Brother”-style controls.)
Here are some recent exciting developments involving green buildings and location-based technologies:
- The Honest Buildings real estate network—dubbed “Facebook for buildings”—is releasing data on more than 15,000 commercial and mixed-use buildings in the D.C. metro area in order to provide transparency and encourage competition for energy-efficient buildings.
- The Green Building Information Gateway has similar aims, but is nationwide and LEED-specific.
- Esri’s GIS for Facilities Management page lists success stories and other links involving GIS technology throughout the lifecycle of a facility for facilities managers.
- Finally, here is a short YouTube video example of Merging Facility Data with GIS and BIM.
Here at Education Corporation of America, we are actively engaging these technologies to manage our own facilities, from HVAC and lighting controls with night and weekend setbacks, through our first energy information system with public dashboard at Ecotech Institute. Are you utilizing some combination of GIS, CAD, and BIM to plan and manage your buildings? If so, we would like to share stories and hear what you have learned.
Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at email@example.com