App Lets Occupants ‘Interact’ with Building

NRELEfficiency in commercial buildings could be improved by allowing occupants to directly interact with their buildings, and a new software application to meet that need has been developed by the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Facility managers can use the Building Agent (BA) application to diagnose problems and make adjustments based on occupant comfort feedback. Feedback can be shared on occupants’ desktop computers through the application. Building occupants thus become an active part of the comfort and energy tradeoff along with the facility managers.

Additionally, the application provides aggregated data on electric energy, thermal energy, internal temperatures, humidity and lighting levels.

The BA tool has four key layers: hardware, databases, visualizations and applications. Based on both modeled and measured data, BA provides intuitive visualizations of energy use and comfort, which are critical for establishing building performance relative to expectations. These capabilities help facility managers and occupants understand the overall comfort and energy performance for an entire building.

BA provides a better understanding of the occupant acceptance of energy efficiency measures and how typical design practices need to be improved to produce low-energy buildings. The application is already in use in several buildings on the NREL campus and a version of BA is deployed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif., to conduct an electrochromic window comfort assessment. Electrochromic windows tint automatically to reduce solar heat gain, which can eliminate the need for window shades and potentially reduce cooling load.

NREL said the savings potential of using BA will be seen in the reduction of annual energy use and peak demand.

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