Autonomous Control of Indoor Climate for Commercial Buildings

Principal Investigator: Prabir Barooah

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Start Date: September 1, 2019

End Date: August 31, 2022

Amount: $450,000


Buildings account for 45 percent of the total energy consumption in the United States (U.S.), and maintaining indoor climate, which includes heating, cooling, and ventilation, accounts for approximately half of that energy consumption. A low-cost option for reducing building energy usage is intelligent climate control, moving away from the prevalent “design for steady-state conditions” philosophy into one that exploits the constantly changing conditions a building operates in due to its occupants and the weather. The potential for intelligent climate control has been recognized for many years, especially for commercial buildings that have the requisite sensors and actuators. In particular, control algorithms that make decisions using real-time optimization have been shown to be highly promising. In spite of its promise, such “model-optimization” based control technologies have not been widely adopted by industry. The reason for this lack of translation to practice is the lack of autonomy of existing algorithms. Not only do they require expert human involvement in model creation, which have to be tuned for each building manually, they do not provide guarantees about the quality of real-time decisions. Addressing these weaknesses will lead to the wider adoption of intelligent building climate control technologies, which will contribute to the technological edge U.S. industries enjoy, and reduce the nation’s energy usage.

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