Evidence-Based Design & Operations Research Program

Report / June 22, 2010

NBI is managing this three-year research program as a part of the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program funded by the California Energy Commission. The effort is a linked series of projects that examine the variation in energy use of commercial buildings through an evidence-based assessment of high performance buildings. The key tenets of the research program are that:

NBI is managing this three-year research program as a part of the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program funded by the California Energy Commission. The effort is a linked series of projects that examine the variation in energy use of commercial buildings through an evidence-based assessment of high performance buildings. The key tenets of the research program are that: 1. Building performance is not determined solely by the technologies included in the design; tenant/occupant choices and general building operations have roles that can substantially improve or degrade building performance, and 2. Tools that provide measured performance feedback can help designers, operators and tenants/occupiers reduce energy use in buildings and capture all of the benefits of high performance designs. The project begins with an assessment of some achieved performance levels in California high performance buildings, followed by a series of elements focused on identifying key feedback loops and tools to better inform designers, operators and tenants regarding their role in optimizing building performance. Project elements are described below.


High Performance Building Measured Performance

This project element begins by documenting the measured performance levels of a set of high performance buildings. Interviews, site visits, and data analysis techniques are being used to identify critical performance indicators related to actual performance outcome. Focus group feedback will further inform the design of performance reporting protocols and procedures. Prompt, easily understood and actionable performance feedback to designers, owners, and tenants of commercial buildings will allow these groups to directly and effectively participate in efforts to improve building performance, increasing the number of buildings designed to high performance standards that truly meet or exceed their objective.


Plug Load Savings Assessment

Plug loads are increasingly contributing to building energy consumption. Although the sizing of a building cooling system must take into account estimated internal gains, the direct plug load remains largely outside of the designer’s and certifier’s control. As other aspects of building energy use are reduced, plug loads become an increasingly large percentage of building overall energy use. This project element will conduct an in-depth assessment in two buildings of the extent to which plug load energy use (computers, printers, monitors, cell phone chargers, etc) can be reduced through relatively simple, cost-effective measures.  Findings will inform the project’s development of key feedback performance indicators, and will also form the basis for plug load energy reduction policies and programs that utilities and policy-making entities could undertake.Read the Commercial Office Plug Load Savings and Assessment: Executive Summary


Enhance Skylighting Modeling & Validation

Almost all high performance buildings include daylighting and related lighting control strategies to some level, but actual performance is subject to a variety of uncertainties. This element  will develop more accurate information about the performance of skylighting products and specialty daylighting devices.   This project will provide the kind of information needed  for design teams to more consistently and successfully integrate daylighting and electric lighting.  The work will enhance SPOT Version 4.0 simulation software, which earned LightFair 2008 International’s highest honor for the Most Innovative Product of the Year and the Attendee’s Choice Award by popular vote. The software helps designers quantify electric and daylighting with associated energy use in a given space, and is free to users.


RTU Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD)

This element  addresses energy performance degradation in rooftop HVAC units (5-50 tons in size) in California and directly supports the persistence of energy/demand savings from utility-sponsored HVAC service programs.  The effort begins with developing a consensus FDD standard.  A comprehensive product/market/benefit-cost assessment and stakeholder outreach will establish commercial and Title 24 viability. Underpinning the goal is the development and deployment of a diagnostic protocol evaluator designed to true up diagnostic service protocols and, by reference, automated diagnostics. Read more


Programmatic Market Connections

This element  integrates and complements all project components, to increase the opportunities for the technical products to influence decision making processes at multiple levels.  Activities range from broad awareness and partnership development, to detailed market and utility influencing strategies, and finally, to opportunities to imbed key work products in codes and policies.