Energy-Efficient and Comfortable Buildings through Multivariate Integrated Control (ECoMIC)

Date Published



This project aims to develop an integrated control solution for enhanced energy efficiency and user comfort in commercial buildings. The developed technology is a zone-based control framework that minimizes energy usage while maintaining occupants' visual and thermal comfort through control of electric lights, motorized venetian blinds and thermostats. The control framework is designed following a modular, scalable and flexible architecture to facilitate easy integration with exiting building management systems.

The control framework contains two key algorithms: 1) the lighting load balancing algorithm and 2) the thermostat control algorithm. The lighting load balancing algorithm adopts a model-based closed-loop control approach to determine the optimal electric light and venetian blind settings. It is formulated into an optimization problem with minimizing lighting-related energy consumptions as the objective and delivering adequate task light and preventing daylight glare as the constraints. The thermostat control algorithm is based on a well-established thermal comfort model and formulated as a root-finding problem to dynamically determine the optimal thermostat setpoint for both energy savings and improved thermal comfort.

To address building-wide scalability, a system architecture was developed for the zone-based control technology. Three levels of services are defined in the architecture: external services, facility level services and zone level services. The zone-level service includes the control algorithms described above as well as the corresponding interfaces, profiles, sensors and actuators to realize the zone controller. The facility level services connect to the zones through a backbone network, handle supervisory level information and controls, and thus facilitate building-wide scalability. The external services provide communication capability to entities outside of the building for grid interaction and remote access.

Various aspects of the developed control technology were evaluated and verified through both simulations and testbed implementations. Simulations coupling a DOE medium office reference building in EnergyPlus building simulation software and a prototype controller in Matlab were performed. During summer time in a mixed-humid climate zone, the simulations revealed reductions of 27% and 42% in electric lighting load and cooling load, respectively, when compared to an advanced base case with daylight dimming and blinds automatically tilted to block direct sun. Two single-room testbeds were established. The testbed at Philips Lighting business building (Rosemont, IL) was designed for quantifying energy performance of integrated controls. This particular implementation achieved 40% and 79% savings on lighting and HVAC energy, respectively, compared to a relatively simple base case operated on predefined schedules. While the resulting energy savings was very encouraging, it should be noted that there may be several caveats associated with it. 1) The test was run during late spring and early summer, and the savings numbers might not be directly used to extrapolate the annual energy savings. 2) Due to the needs for separate control and metering of the small-scale demonstrator within a large building, the HVAC system, hence the corresponding savings, did not represent a typical energy code-compliant design. 3) The light level in the control case was regulated at a particular setpoint, which was lower than then the full-on light level in the base case, and the savings resulted from tuning down the light level to the setpoint was not attributable to the contribution of the developed technology. The testbed at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley, CA) specifically focused on glare control integration, and has demonstrated the feasibility and capability of the glare detection and prevention technique. While the short one-month test in this testbed provided a functional indication of the developed technology, and it would require at least a full solstice-to-solstice cycle to ruinously quantify the performance, which was not possible within the project timeframe.

There are certain limitations inherited from the operational assumptions, which could potentially affect the effectiveness and applicability of the developed control technologies. The system takes a typical ceiling-mounting approach for the photosensor locations, and therefore, the control performance relies on proper commissioning or the built-in intelligence of the photosensor for pertinent task light level estimations. For spaces where daylight penetration diminishes significantly deeper into the zone, certain modification to the control algorithms is required to accommodate multiple lighting control subzones and the corresponding sensors for providing a more uniform light level across the entire zone. Integrated control of visual and thermal comfort requires the lighting control zone and thermal control zone to coincide with each other. In other words, the area illuminated by a lighting circuit needs to be the same area served by the thermostat. Thus, the original zoning will potentially constrain the applicability of this technology in retrofitting projects.

This project demonstrated the technical feasibility of a zone-based integrated control technology. From the simulation results and testbed implementations, up to 60% lighting energy savings in daylit areas relative to a "no-controls" case can easily be achieved. A 20% reduction of whole building energy consumption is also attainable. In the aspect of occupant comfort, the testbed demonstrated the ability to maintain specified light level on the workplane while promptly mitigate daylight glare 90% of the time. The control system also managed to maintain the thermal environment at a comfortable level 90% of the time. The aspect of system scalability was guaranteed by the system architecture design, based on which the testbeds were instantiated. Analysis on the aspect of economic benefit has yielded an about 6-year payback time for a medium-sized building, including the installation of all hardware and software, such as motorized blinds and LED luminaires. The payback time can be significantly reduced if part of the hardware is already in place for retrofitting projects. It needs to be noted that since the payback analysis was partly based on the testbed performance results, it is constrained by the caveats associated with the testbed implementations. The main uncertainty lies in the contribution from the space conditioning energy savings as it was non-trivial to realistically configure a room-size HVAC system for directly extrapolating whole-building HVAC energy savings. It is recommended to further evaluate the developed technology at a larger scale, where the lighting and HVAC energy consumption can be realistically measured at the building level, to more rigorously quantify the performance potentials.

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Philips Electronics North America Corporation

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Andover, MA

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Research Areas