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CarbonBuzz workshop

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I stopped into one of three workshops being held at the RIBA in London this week to trial CarbonBuzz, the free online platform for benchmarking energy use in buildings.

I wanted to see how much interest the workshops have generated and how easy the tool is to use. Over fifty practices expressed interest in participating but many lacked sufficient post-occupancy data; a total of 17 are actually attending workshops. The day I stopped in the participants included architects from RMJM and BroadwayMalyan, two engineers and Rajat Gupta, co-director of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development, Oxford Brookes. The ratio of architects participating is a sign that it's still hard work to get architects to plunge into the nitty gritty of energy use data.

CarbonBuzz is designed to be user friendly for architects. Projects are divided into sectors (residential, office, retail, etc) and subdivided into 29 benchmark categories. The platform is pretty self-explanatory, intuitive for engineers and more of a leap for architects. With the introductory explanation by Aedas' Eleanor Davies, and three people to answer questions for the 5 workshop participants, it looked more than manageable. Doing it solo in your office would probably be a different story. XCO2 Energy's Ricardo Moreira was taking notes for the 'help files' which will pop up as you click on each box with explanatory text about exactly which energy loads go in which boxes. Moreira's hope is that CarbonBuzz will broaden out into the profession and reach beyond the head of sustainability in a practice.

A clever aspect of the platform is that each practice can decide how much information about each project to make public by 'publishing' it on the website and how much should remain anonymous. Practices who choose to publish data will form part of the RIBA's CarbonConscious practice scheme to be launched next year.

The online platform will go live when CarbonBuzz is formally launched on November 5 at 6:30 at the Building Centre where Bill Bordass of the Usable Buildings Trust will be a keynote speaker.

Then the challenge will be to ensure that CarbonBuzz continues to be populated with projects and is actively used. Moreira estimates that to get meaningful data you need about 10 projects per benchmark category. So far a total of 70 projects have been entered on the site, though not all have 'in use' data. The platform, currently funded through UrbanBuzz, is seeking sponsorship for ongoing support after the launch. Rajat Gupta of Oxford Brookes said 'It's critical that the website should not die after the launch.' Gupta's view is that affiliation with a university may be a way forward.

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