LIT 4: Unique Building Identification

LIT 4: Unique Building Identification


City agencies, commercial real estate, and others keep track of a numerous amount of building data. City agencies across the United States developed local building identification (ID) numbering systems primarily for tax properties and building permits, but these local systems are inadequate for the rising needs of connecting building attributes to data points across a variety of sources. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is supporting a scoping study on Unique Building Identification (UBID) to facilitate data matching.

Market Needs

As public and private entities collaborate to gain a better understanding of building assets through a variety of tools and services, a major obstacle presents itself across the board: the difficulty of joining various types of data from disparate sources in a single location. Typically, that effort is based solely on address matching strategies—an outdated strategy which often yields low match rates and leaves significant portions of the building stock unaccounted for across multiple data sources.

Value Proposition

A unique identification system for buildings will provide a standardized framework under which a unifying field is used to match building data from various sources to a single object. It will facilitate data management and sharing by reducing the risk of mismatching or duplicating building data, and it will ease the burden of data exchange.

Benefited Parties

City departments will be able to jointly track building information for multiple governmentally-related functions.

Commercial real estate will better leverage various data sources to evaluate and manage their building assets.

Emergency response, such as the police and fire department, will react in less time during emergencies.

National security agencies will identify critical buildings, such as schools, hospitals, etc.


This scoping study is intended to establish a framework for developing Unique Building Identifiers. It will investigate the existing framework options for building IDs and their applications. It will also determine what it would take to implement such a standardized framework. The outcome from this study will be a published white paper. The published study will propose a new building identification system that is able to reference to existing IDs currently in use in some cities. The paper will also discuss implementation strategies to assist the adoption process.


Once the proposed framework is agreed upon, we plan to pilot for UBIDs with select cities, counties, and states through the Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) Platform Collaborative.


Dr. Nora (Na) Wang

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Wang specializes in building energy efficiency, sustainability, daylighting, and human behavior. She received her doctorate degree in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Beginning her career in architecture, Dr. Wang participated in a dozen large-scale international projects and won several design competitions. Since joining Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 2010, Dr. Wang has led a variety of building research projects, such as Building Energy Asset Score, Buildings of the Future vision development, and Connected Buildings. Dr. Wang has a PhD (Architecture) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mark I. Borkum, MEng, Ph.D.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Mark I. Borkum, MEng, PhD, is a computer scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. His work focuses on the usage and application of computer science and software engineering techniques and technologies to enable and to support interdisciplinary research. He is the software architect, lead software developer and lead data scientist for the Unique Building Identification project. Dr. Borkum earned his PhD at the University of Southampton, UK.