Evidence Based Building: It's All By Numbers

Evidence Based Building: It's All By Numbers

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WegoWise may sound like the latest Hasbro toy, but this web-based energy tracking system is actually a powerful new addition to Byggmeister's green-building toolkit. It is easy to say certain improvements will save energy. Paul and the rest of the Byggmeister crew want to prove it to their clients and themselves. Byggmeister Performance Manager Rachel White and client Dick Jones share both sides of the story and a little bit of inner data-loving geekiness too.

Why did Byggmeister decide to use WegoWise?
RW: When you step back and think about how most energy upgrades are done in the residential sector, you think if we do this it will save about X amount each year, but no builder is really looking at hard and fast numbers when they say that. We want to see how much money and energy upgrade X or Y is actually saving, from adding insulation and fixing air leaks, all the way to a complete deep energy retrofit.

How does it work?
RW: You enter your utility account information and WegoWise retrieves the data automatically from online bills each month. We had started trying to track that ourselves, asking homeowners to give us the information after we complete an energy project, but it is hard to keep going back for it. This streamlines the whole process and Byggmeister is now offering it as part of our services. We'll set up the accounts, monitor the data, everything. It is free to the homeowner and all the information is shared between us.

How does Byggmeister use the data?
RW: WegoWise has great analytical and graphing that allows you to look at total energy usage and compare that to similar buildings in energy usage per square foot. We can compare our portfolio of projects against one another, and we can also compare against the WegoWise broader pool. That gives us real insight by drilling down and seeing how this particular upgrade, like a basement retrofit, actually impacted energy savings. It takes the guesswork out of it and we can take that to future clients and apply it because we have concrete numbers. We call it "evidence-based building."

What has the data shown?
RW: On a couple of our deep energy retrofit projects, it's very dramatic. Per square foot, they use 60 to 65 percent less energy than my own house uses. That's exactly what we want to see. 50 to 70 percent reduction is the goal with a deep energy retrofit. It impressed me just how much impact those projects actually had.

What the Client Says:

What kind of project did you do with Byggmeister?
DJ: We had a tenant in our carriage house apartment that was a hoarder, lots of cats, windows were broken, and there was a water problem. When she left, we said we'd fix it up right and make it as sustainable as possible. We asked around about architects and builders who would be sensitive to our goals and that's how we came to Paul. Since then, we have also done more on our main house to make it more energy efficient, including blower door tests to see where we were losing heat. Kerry [Kostinen] is crazy about that stuff. He'll crawl all over an attic and into any crevice to find air leaks.

Why use WegoWise?
DJ: I kept asking Paul, 'I've got this 8500-square-foot house with 11-foot ceilings, how are we doing with these improvements? I want to be the best you've ever done.' We kept wanting to know how we compared to other Byggmeister projects, but Paul didn't have enough data. Byggmeister is actually entering historical data into WegoWise for us so we can do a more substantial evaluation.

What has WegoWise shown you?
DJ: The greatest thing is the monthly feedback loop. I can see that my natural gas use is the biggest contributor to our carbon consumption. I saw that my electricity use came down a lot and then back up, which I figured out is behavior related. It's like buying a certain kind of car for the miles per gallon, I want to know this stuff is making a difference. If you're not getting the savings, then you can hunt down the reason.

Have you hunted down energy issues in your house?
DJ: I'm always asking questions about what's going on. Like when I realized houseguests had caused our electricity consumption to go up because they were leaving lights on. I've also realized the new boiler we had installed is not as efficient as it should be, so I'm having Byggmeister's plumbing contractor come in to look at it. It's all about working to drive my costs down more and seeing it happen. Everyone can do it. In fact, I think homeowners should eventually be able to say to builders, 'I want to see your WegoWise improvement numbers.'