Helping Smaller Buildings Retrocommission

Berkeley LabScientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are developing a “Retrocommissioning Sensor Suitcase” to help small and medium sized buildings reap the energy savings of retrocommissioning, which only large buildings have traditionally been able to afford.

Fine tuning of building systems, known as retrocommissioning, can save as much as 15 percent of a building’s annual energy use and pay for itself in less than a year, according to Berkeley Lab.

The Retrocommissioning Sensor Suitcase project is funded by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office.

The turnkey product is embedding the knowledge and skills of an experienced building commissioning practitioner into a scalable hardware and software package that can be deployed by a variety of building services personnel. The product will contain a set of different types of portable building sensors, a handheld smart pad for documenting the location, placement and sensor type, a battery, and a data control module that can receive and pre-process data from the sensors, which are distributed throughout the building. The data module communicates wirelessly with the smart pad, which launches sensors during their installation.

The Retrocommissioning Sensor Suitcase is targeted for use in small commercial buildings of less than 50,000 square feet of floor space that regularly receive basic services such as maintenance and repair, but don’t have in-house energy management staff or buildings experts.

The hardware kit is designed to be easy-to-use by building maintenance staff, or other professionals such as telecom and alarm technicians. The sensors in the suitcase include those for lighting, vibration (for measuring the condition of rooftop units), and various types of temperature sensors for internal and external areas of the building. In addition to the hardware kit, the turnkey comprises a software application to collect, process, store, and analyze the data. The kit’s user, or a third party such as an energy performance contractor, can use this software to generate specific recommendations on what actions to take to reduce the building’s energy cost, and improve comfort.

The scientists are at the proof of concept prototype for the product and are beginning to test the prototype in the field. The development team plans to make the hardware and software design available in the public domain, for transfer of the technology to partners who will move it into the marketplace.

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