Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Visualising the Invisible: Displaying Building Resource-use Benchmarks in a 3D City Visualisation

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posted on 2021-11-15, 02:14 authored by Hills, Alex Josephine

This thesis proposes a reinvention of the means of presenting statistical data about 3D urban environments. Conventional GIS use of 3D ’enhances’ hard to understand 2D maps with even harder-to-understand histograms of data. The goal is to demonstrate the means by which data on energy and water-use in buildings can be used to enhance familiar 3D interactive city environments and be made accessible to the widest possible audience. Ultimately, resource benchmarks and other related publicly available information about the built environment could be presented in this highly accessible form. All information would be database driven, so automatically updateable. From this basic platform, applications that allow people to compare their own private records with public norms are easily constructed: a world where a building owner can compare their energy records with benchmarks for similar buildings and take action to improve if necessary, or to advertise accomplishments.  This study draws on data from the ‘BEES’ Building Energy End-use Study - a BRANZ research project documenting energy and water use in New Zealand commercial buildings. During the study a ‘Websearch’ survey was conducted, building a detailed picture of non-residential building stock in New Zealand with data collected on building typologies, characteristics and surroundings. A thorough research methodology was developed to ensure that high level data could be collected from 3,000 randomly selected buildings within the budget allocated for the project. The data was examined for quality, building characteristics and typology mix and a valuable layer of detail was added by inferring additional information from the basic Websearch dataset. Where sub-samples used in the BEES study were subject to refusal / survey participation rates, the level of potential bias in the mix of building typologies could be tested and allowances made. Energy and water use data collected for a random subset of the sample, could then be applied as benchmarks to the census of New Zealand commercial buildings.  In order to trial the communication of the benchmark results to the widest possible audience, an automated 3D city visualisation ‘pilot’ was generated of the Wellington Central Business District and a number of graphic tools were brought together to make the information publicly accessible and as useful as possible. The overall aim was to test the feasibility of applying this technique at a national level.  The research revealed three major recommendations: firstly, a national unique building identifier is required to ensure the accuracy of national building data and enable statistical results about the built environment to be accurately and reliably applied to real buildings; secondly, resource use data in 3D format is urgently required to improve the value of sustainable properties; lastly, creating a significant impact on building stock efficiency will depend upon the engagement of a wider audience. Developed further, this visualisation will enable construction professionals, building owners, developers and tenants to understand the built environment and implications of building design and typology on energy and water use.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Building Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Building Science

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Donn, Michael