Beyond a House of Sticks: Formalizing Metadata Tags with Brick


Current efforts establishing semantic metadata standards for the built environment span academia, industry and standards bodies. For these standards to be effective, they must be clearly defined and easily extensible, encourage consistency in their usage, and integrate cleanly with existing industrial standards, such as BACnet. There is a natural tension between informal tag-based systems that rely upon idiom and convention for meaning, and formal ontologies amenable to automated tooling. We present a qualitative analysis of Project Haystack, a popular tagging system for building metadata, and identify a family of inherent interpretability and consistency issues in the tagging model that stem from its lack of a formal definition. To address these issues, we present the design and implementation of the Brick+ ontology, a drop-in replacement for Brick [3] with clear formal semantics that enables the inference of a valid Brick model from an informal Haystack model, and demonstrate this inference across five Haystack models.

Proceedings of the 5th ACM International Conference on Systems for Energy-Efficient Buildings, Cities, and Transportation, 2019