BPL: Building Automation Systems for Energy Efficiency

Objective

To pilot and expand a programmable survey-and-assessment tool that will serve as a trustworthy informational platform for commercial building operators in deciding how best to upgrade existing building automation systems (BAS) for advanced functions.

Background

A building automation system (BAS) is a sophisticated control system that uses digital controls to monitor and manage mechanical (HVAC) and electrical systems within buildings. BAS systems hold great potential for significantly improving overall building energy performance. Well-known BAS functionalities include optimized sequences of operation, integration of meters and sub-meters, adaptive machine-learning, predictive control, and system-level information tracking for performance monitoring. In fact, substantial improvement in control can often be realized simply with new software for driving hardware already in place.

And yet in the great majority of cases, existing building control systems are not being up-graded to take advantage of opportunities that can have significant energy performance impact.  Why not? Evidence suggests that the crux of the problem is not lack of financial resources, but rather uncertainty and lack of confidence on the part of decision-makers as to what can be reliably accomplished, lack of motivation on the part of building engineers to venture into the new territory of advanced control functions, and understandable reluctance of all to rely entirely on vendor claims and recommendations.

Proposed Solution:  The market needs a technically sound informational platform that will provide a trustworthy basis for decision-making about building automation system up-grades. This platform will give decision-makers access to information based on an industry-standards approach, developed by New York City’s public university and drawing on underlying work by building-systems researchers at other universities and at national labs. The overall purpose and goal of the project is to encourage and enable commercial building operators to take full advantage of “advanced BAS functionalities” that are available from the controls industry but dramatically under-utilized.

Suggested Approaches

The capstone team will begin with an intensive review of the technical literature on controls, building automation systems, and building system optimization (emphasizing HVAC). The project will then apply one or more of several approaches to extend ongoing BPL work:

  1. conduct field trials of an established a prototype tool (BASAT), including data analysis, design of output databases, and programming of tool improvements;
  2. perform industry outreach and support, including focus groups, website (“BetterBAS.com”) development;
  3. develop system documentation for control up-grades;
  4. develop methods for use of BAS in on-going commissioning and re-tuning. 

A publishable technical paper is expected to be an outcome of project work.