TPEx allows building users, product manufacturers, and third-party certifiers to access, share, and compare performance data for products and systems using an online tool.

TPEx allows building users, product manufacturers, and third-party certifiers to access, share, and compare performance data for products and systems using an online tool.

A new Web-based tool from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to help architects, engineers, and building owners and operators source and compare energy-performance data for the products and systems they specify and manage. The Technology Performance Exchange (TPEx) launched earlier this month and features products grouped in 17 categories, including solid-state-lighting luminaires, compressors, and photovoltaic modules.

TPEx relies on standardized data entry forms to gather product-specific performance information from manufacturers and third-party certifiers. Though it’s not possible for NREL to verify each data point upon submission, a series of restricted workflows and metadata helps users identify the data’s source and how it was derived, said Daniel Studer, an engineer in NREL’s Commercial Buildings Research Group and TPEx project lead, in an email.

Performance data is tagged with its submission date, the name and type of organization supplying the information, and the process by which the results were obtained. Manufacturers may only provide data for their products. However, additional users, such as third-party testing organizations, can submit performance data for a product.

“All performance data is shown for a product,” Studer says. “Tightly grouped data should increase confidence and disparate data should give users pause.”

A screenshot of the landing page for the Photovoltaic Modules sub-category.

A screenshot of the landing page for the Photovoltaic Modules sub-category.

To start, NREL seeded the system with information for more than 20,000 products that it aggregated from more than 800 organizations. Photovoltaic Systems is the most robust category so far, with more than 11,000 products in the system at the time this article was published.

Now, Studer says, the challenge is getting manufacturers to submit data on their own and for trade and consumer users to sign up to access the documents. NREL will retain custody of the pilot manufacturers’ data until those companies sign up for TPEx.

“While one wouldn’t anticipate large amounts of data [or] a significant user group at the first unveiling,” Studer says, “we anticipate that both the number of users and amount of content will grow dramatically throughout this year.”

While NREL has seeded pilot manufacturers’ data, those firms are then responsible for updating performance data as new or more efficient models of their products become available. But having an archive of performance data for older versions of products could be advantageous, Studer says.

“There is quite a lot of value in maintaining a database of performance data for older products,” he says. “For example, building energy auditors often have a very difficult time locating such information when assessing the effectiveness of energy-efficient upgrades.”

The TPEx website lists envelope insulation, roofing membranes, and combined heat and power systems as being among forthcoming categories.

The project is funded by the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Building Technologies Office and the Federal Energy Management Program as well as the Bonneville Power Administration.