Big data for people-centred buildings

Part of Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy?

Today in the Lab – Tomorrow in Energy? shines a spotlight on research projects under development in the Technology Collaboration Programmes (TCPs). Learn more about the initiative, read the launch commentary, or explore the TCPs.

What is the aim of this project?

This project aims to provide new insights into how building occupants behave in relation to comfort and the impact of this behaviour on the energy performance of buildings. The project is creating an open collaboration platform for data and software to support the use of “big data” methods – analysing very large sets of data – and advanced occupant behaviour models. This will promote the design and operation of buildings that are more comfortable and energy efficient, with lower greenhouse gas emissions.

How could this technology be explained to a high school student?

Designing and operating buildings that are comfortable and have low energy bills depends on how people use buildings – for example, when people are at home or out, or what temperature they find comfortable. To understand this behaviour we rely on simulations, but computer models often don’t reflect actual building use. This project is using big data and machine learning to develop more accurate software.

What is the value of this project for society?

  • helps to create more comfortable, affordable and healthier buildings
  • supports the clean energy transition and supports more accurate modelling of energy use and systems.

At what stage of development is this project?

The project began in 2018 and will run until 2023. Participants have developed comprehensive theoretical models of behaviour, comfort and use of occupant-centric building technologies. The second half of the project will focus on applying and demonstrating the theory and technology using a set of diverse case studies and simulation studies.

What government policies could bring this from the lab to the market?

  • assessing how this improved occupant modelling performs in practice compared with other approaches
  • initiating pilot programmes to test how this improved occupant modelling could be used in building energy performance codes or energy start rating/certification schemes
  • incorporating improved occupant behaviour modelling in building energy performance codes, energy star rating/certification schemes, and utility and system operators’ energy demand forecasting models.

Next-generation building occupant modelling: from treating occupants as a source, to recognising them as part of a two-way relationship with buildings. Source: Liam O’Brien, Carleton University, Canada.


Forty research institutions from participating countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.


The above partners are funding this project.

About the Technology Collaboration Programme on Energy in Buildings and Communities (EBC TCP)

The EBC TCP, created in 1977, carries out research and development on achieving near-zero energy and carbon emissions in the built environment. EBC TCP activities focus on integrating energy-efficient and sustainable technologies into healthy buildings and communities.