Carnegie Mellon University
December 17, 2013

Developing Tools To Make Buildings Energy Efficient

Developing Tools To Make  Buildings Energy Efficient
A software platform that enables comprehensive real-time command and control of indoor environments has the potential to revolutionize the way buildings are currently managed. With a three-year, $1.9 million grant from the Department of Energy, CEE Assistant Professor Mario Berges and Assistant Research Professor Anthony Rowe of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and CMU CyLab are leading a team of researchers to develop tools that will enable buildings to run more efficiently.

Building on an existing project, Sensor Andrew, and in collaboration with the Bosch Research and Technology Center (RTC), Berges and Rowe are developing a sensor network and software platform that will address the needs of professional facility managers to ensure that the building performs efficiently, while also providing a safe, secure and comfortable environment for occupants.

Currently, facility managers are able to acquire a great deal of data from modern monitoring technologies. The challenge, Berges explained, is the lack of a unified framework, as well as issues relating to privacy, security, and resource management. These challenges, along with the difficulty of scaling for larger systems, create a disconnect with the current technology and make it more difficult to pinpoint how the energy infrastructure is used within building systems. 

"Even when facility managers have access to sensor measurements from building automation systems, it is challenging for them to manually analyze and annotate all this data," Berges said. "We need to develop computer algorithms that are able to process and understand the measurements automatically in order to detect and diagnose faulty behavior."

To facilitate an open exchange between different building automation systems, the CMU and Bosch RTC team is developing an operating system that will manage the building’s hardware and software and integrate them into meaningful information that allows facility managers to make infrastructure-related decisions and increase buildings’ energy efficiency. 

In close collaboration with CMU’s Facility Management Service (FMS), the team is using the university's 40,000-square-foot Scaife Hall as a “living” lab to test the network of more than 500 sensors placed strategically throughout the four-story building. The goal of the project is to develop open source software that helps building owners measure, monitor and adjust lighting, HVAC and plug-loads to save energy without compromising occupant comfort.