Anyone who has moved into a brand new home knows that even beautifully executed construction can come with problems. A ventilation duct is blocked, wires are crossed, a section of insulation was never laid. All are fixable, but all lead to bigger problems if left unchecked.
The same applies to commercial and institutional buildings, only on a grander scale. Even little mistakes in a big building can spell trouble for occupants, wasted energy, and whopping costs.
An antidote is monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx), a process pioneered by CIEE and researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It’s created a paradigm shift in how we approach optimizing the performance of energy systems in building — and how we maintain it over time.
A naval engineering term, “commissioning” is the standard practice of taking a new ship for a test run at sea to ensure that it’s fit. Similarly, a new or existing building should be “commissioned,” tested out to assess its performance, verifying that heating, air-conditioning, ventilation, and other systems are working efficiently. To be most effective, however, “commissioning” should span the life of the building, a persistent process of keeping the building in tune.
MBCx relies on measurements of energy use to diagnose problems, account for savings, and help ensure that savings persist over time.
CIEE began working with LBNL in the 1990s to show the value of permanent real-time building monitoring, resulting in the development of a prototype monitoring and diagnostic system. UC Santa Barbara pioneered implementing the system in the early 2000s. Today, CIEE has helped implement MBCx in partnership with California utility companies and most of the 33 UC and California State University campuses.
Monitoring-Based Commissioning: Benchmark Analysis of 24 UC/CSU/IOU Projects | June 2009
How Monitoring-Based Commissioning Contributes to Energy Efficiency for Commercial Buildings | 2007
Development & Testing of an Information Monitoring & Diagnostics System for Large Commercial Buildings | 1998
Diagnostics for Building Commissioning & Operation | LBNL
Building Commissioning | LBNL
Information Feedback Loops for Building Performance | 2009 (pdf 1.4mb)