May 19th

on Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I spent the long weekend thinking about what interesting data modeling tools we can build. Showing relation between interactive data (like in JCM), or giving access to a larger set of data seem OK. Another thing I was thinking about is somehow related to the calculators found in

Buildings in North America contribute to almost 40% of the annual carbon dioxide emission of the continent. There are examples of green buildings out there, but the majority of new and existing developments in the GTA are not green. Hence, we desperately need to make the existing buildings green (by installing good insulation, energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, roof gardens, water recycling, etc.) But that is not as simple as it seems. In some cases, these tools may turn out to be not as efficient as they seem.
So how about a tool, a calculator, that, in its very basic mode, allows homeowners to provide information about their house (location, orientation, size, etc.), and the new efficient gadgets they want to install. The calculator then outputs the approximate cost of installing the gadgets, how good/bad they are for the environment, and what savings they will bring to homeowners. This idea sounds promising.
On a more advanced level, this tool can be directed to architects (i.e. to design a house that has not been built yet) and allow them to explore the numerous choices they have in terms of buildings materials, orientation, and configuration. Then the tool outputs the expected environmental performance of the building.
I know there is a big software called JK solar that does such calculations, but it is expensive and complicated to use.
* This is a link to a online free DIY home energy audit. It calculates the energy performance of house and provides tips on how to save energy (and CO2 emission).
* This is LEED calculator. Many online building products are linked to that calculator to evaluate the environmental performance of that product (like how recyclable it is). Here's an example.
* Carbon Footprint Calculator
* This calculator counts how much you can save when using renewable energy. The cool thing about it is that it does not only give the result as a chart, but it also scales it in terms of how many trees planted, miles not driven, passenger cars off the road for one year, etc.
This conversion is interesting, may be we can use it.
There are lots of calculators online that calculate your footprint, and they show you how changes can affect the environment. But they are not related to the building itself. From Wikipedia: "Studies have suggested that an initial up front investment of 2% extra [in green gadgets] will yield over ten times the initial investment over the life cycle of the building." Also, LEED points system distribution can be found here.

Electronic Lab Book Data Insertion Tool:
I was discussing the latest developments in our tool search with Maria when she pointed me to Statsjam. From their website, "The Stats Jam project is an extension to Mediawiki that allows users to embed database queries and visualisations into their wiki pages". Now I have to figure out how to use it, to see whether we cam improve it or not.
I tested it. It's pretty useful, but not for everyone. Only people who have basic knowledge of SQL and MATLAB can use it. It is not that it requires complicated coding, but people who have never coded before are not, needless to day, comfortable with coding even if it's a couple of sentences.
So how about a friendly user interface that allow users to pick data from some database, and provide them with the all the options MATLAB does for plotting.
Another thing I need to check is the database. How do you upload it? Does the configuration of stats jam database saved within the web framework code?
We can make things more complicated by giving the user the choice to search for data within existing public databases. For example, he/she can search "global temperature change", with 1950 as a start date and 2050 as end date. Then our tool must provide a graph with this plotted data.This kind of recalls Manyeyes where users can plott from sets of data uploaded by other users.
Now I am looking at a tool called DBDesigner4 which models data from mySQL. I will try to install it again tomorrow.