Metadata Schemas and Ontologies for Building Energy Applications: A Critical Review and Use Case Analysis

Marco Pritoni, Drew Paine, Gabriel Fierro, Cory Mosiman, Michael Poplawski, Avijit Saha, Joel Bender, Jessica Granderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus Citations


Digital and intelligent buildings are critical to realizing efficient building energy operations and a smart grid. With the increasing digitalization of processes throughout the life cycle of buildings, data exchanged between stakeholders and between building systems have grown significantly. However, a lack of semantic interoperability between data in different systems is still prevalent and hinders the development of energy-oriented applications that can be reused across buildings, limiting the scalability of innovative solutions. Addressing this challenge, our review paper systematically reviews metadata schemas and ontologies that are at the foundation of semantic interoperability necessary to move toward improved building energy operations. The review finds 40 schemas that span different phases of the building life cycle, most of which cover commercial building operations and, in particular, control and monitoring systems. The paper’s deeper review and analysis of five popular schemas identify several gaps in their ability to fully facilitate the work of a building modeler attempting to support three use cases: energy audits, automated fault detection and diagnosis, and optimal control. Our findings demonstrate that building modelers focused on energy use cases will find it difficult, labor intensive, and costly to create, sustain, and use semantic models with existing ontologies. This underscores the significant work still to be done to enable interoperable, usable, and maintainable building models. We make three recommendations for future work by the building modeling and energy communities: a centralized repository with a search engine for relevant schemas, the development of more use cases, and better harmonization and standardization of schemas in collaboration with industry to facilitate their adoption by stakeholders addressing varied energy-focused use cases.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number2024
Number of pages37
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-79751


  • Energy audit
  • Fault detection and diagnostics
  • Metadata
  • Ontology
  • Optimal control
  • Semantic model
  • Smart building


Dive into the research topics of 'Metadata Schemas and Ontologies for Building Energy Applications: A Critical Review and Use Case Analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this