Semantic Tagging – the Commissioning Provider’s Role

By Jim Meacham, P.E.
Founding Principal, Altura Associates

Semantic tagging is a data modeling schema that is highly flexible and powerful. You are probably already familiar with semantic tagging in tools you use every day. Gmail, Evernote, Microsoft Word and many other applications already allow users to add free form or pre-defined tags to their content, making it easier to sort, search, and manage content in the future.

What does this evolution in data modeling mean for Cx providers? There are many benefits to standardized data modeling for both Cx providers and their clients. Standardized data modeling means easier access to building data to support functional testing during initial commissioning, and streamlined access to building data during operations, making it easier for Cx providers to add value to their client’s operations. Given the nature of building automation system programming, it can often be difficult to easily discern what data points are and the context around those points. Standardized data modeling makes it easy to know exactly what a data point is intended to be, leading to faster and deeper identification of issues and opportunities for performance optimization. Building owners and operators also have the added benefit of enhanced interoperability between systems. With appropriately modeled data, other software solutions can be more easily integrated – enabling enhanced control, visualization, analytics and fault detection, demand response, and many other applications.

However, to unlock the power of sematic tagging, particularly for building systems, standards are needed. Project Haystack, a nonprofit initiative focused on standardizing collection of data about the operations and energy usage of buildings, took on the challenge of establishing this standard several years ago, and has provided an important foundation for the modeling and exchange of data in building systems. I encourage you to learn more about the important work of Project Haystack here (insert link).

What is the Cx provider’s role in supporting the implementation of semantic tagging? Because semantic tagging is early in adoption across the industry, Cx providers have an important role to play in educating our clients and vendor partners in the application, power and benefits of semantic tagging that leverages Project Haystack. During design, Cx providers can support the specification of control and analytics systems that can directly support data modeling using semantic tagging. During start-up and testing, Cx providers can validate the use of standard data modeling with the Project Haystack tagging protocol. Cx providers can also work with open analytics tools that leverage semantic tagging during existing building commissioning projects, building robust and well modeled databases that deliver ongoing value to our clients.

The power of data in building systems is self-evident. However, too often, that power is not realized due to idiosyncratic construction and building controls processes. Cx providers have an important role to play in breaking down these barriers, resulting in better performing buildings that enhance the occupant experience, empower operations and maintenance personnel, and reduce building energy use.

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