#56 Active Building Data Monitoring

Why Monitor Building Energy Performance?

A critical element of an Active Building is the energy performance monitoring for true building performance evaluation (BPE). Data collected from the individual systems integral to the operation of the Active Building are used to monitor performance. This enables rapid fault detection and remediation; the development of predictive control strategies; and development of planned maintenance regimes.

Historically, robust BPE has not been carried out routinely on building projects, often only taking place to gain environmental credits, or to satisfy funding criteria, for example. The reasons for this lack of BPE vary, but include: anticipated costs; time; reluctance to uncover issues that may be difficult to resolve; or simply due to a lack of understanding of the value of BPE and the potential energy, carbon and cost savings that could be made through simply identifying problem areas.

We have been able to make significant reductions in the energy consumption of our Active Office through BPE using data captured from our monitoring system, saving as much as 1 MWh in energy consumption from the first year of occupation to the next! Hence, we believe it should form an essential component of all building projects, particularly as we strive to reach a net zero carbon society.

Active Building Monitoring

We are currently developing monitoring specifications for different building typologies and these will set out the key components to monitor, how to monitor them, and how to use the data collected.

Before developing a monitoring strategy for a particular building, some of the questions we might ask include:

  • The purpose – what will the monitored data be used for?
  • Which loads should be captured?
  • What granularity of data is required?
  • What instruments are needed to capture the required data?
  • How will the data be stored?
  • How will the data be managed?

Answering these questions will enable the development of a focused strategy tailored to meet particular needs and to suit budgetary constraints. The management of data collected from a building should not be underestimated. There is no point in collecting data unless it is managed and used to improve building performance.

The main goals of data monitoring for an Active Building project include:

  1. To understand how energy is used within the building
  2. To ensure the building meets energy performance targets as set out in the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, and can be considered an Active Building
  3. To monitor performance and use data collected to improve/optimise performance
  4. To enable development of control strategies
  5. To reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions

The Future of Building Performance Evaluation (BPE)

The good news is that the benefits of undertaking BPE are being increasingly recognised as we all seek ways to decarbonise the built environment. Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE), which forms part of the BPE process, is already recommended within the RIBA Plan of Work and Government Soft Landings, but full BPE is still not mandated on most projects.

While BPE can be an expensive and time-consuming process, which has undoubtedly contributed to its poor uptake, some exciting new tools, methods and equipment that can significantly reduce the costs and time taken to undertake it are emerging. A great example is Build Test Solutions who will be trialling some of their methods within the Welsh Government’s Optimised Retrofit Programme in Wales; and have recently had their Pulse test for airtightness testing approved as a suitable way to prove compliance with the new Future Homes Standard and Part L of the Building Regulations. This offers a simpler and cost effective alternative to the traditional door blower test usually used for testing airtightness. They are also developing simple and cost effective ways to measure thermal performance of building envelopes. Definitely worth checking out.

In the meantime, if you would like more information on Active Building Monitoring Specifications, please get in touch, info_specific@swansea.ac.uk.

Published by jorclarke

I am an Architect, currently working at SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University, and studying for a Doctorate in Sustainable Built Environment (D.SBE), which is focused on developing an Active Building Design Guide.

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