Operating Data and Commissioning; The Two Go Hand in Hand; News from NCBC 2009

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Analyzing building data is key to the commissioning process, including the use of trend data from the building energy management system and/or independent data loggers and the ongoing monitoring and analysis of utility data. As a result, the commissioning conference typically includes a number of sessions that are focused on various aspects of building data analysis.  This year was no exception.

Free tools always catch my attention. The Universal Translator, a free data analysis tool developed with California public goods money was demonstrated by Ryan Stroupe, Measurement Tools Program Coordinator for the Pacific Energy Center in his session. The UT can quickly merge multiple large data sets, providing a means for synchronizing data sets from different platforms, filtering the data, running diagnostics, repairing faulty data, and graphing the results.

Here is a screen shot of the UT looking at an economizer with an operating problem in a conventional, time-series data arrangement.

UT Economizer Data Plot

Here is the same data run through the UT economizer diagnostic. The fact that the red cloud does not follow the blue horizontal line in the lower left quadrant of the graph reveals that the AHU that was under test had an economizer damper that was stuck wide open.

UT Economizer Scatter Chart

While the scatter plot pattern associated with the problem may not seem obvious to you until you have used the diagnostic a few times and learned how it works, once you have gained an understanding of it, the diagnostic plot makes operating anomalies jump out at you when compared to the more conventional time series presentation. To help you along, the UT includes an assessment of the potential problem in the set up tab …

UT Economizer Diagnostic Setup

… and also includes a fairly well written manual and tutorial.

UT Manual

Exploiting the UT’s full capabilities can take some time, experience, and perhaps attendance at one of the free training classes offered at the Pacific Energy Center (which are offered more and more frequently as web casts). But, once the tool is downloaded and installed, even the novice user will find they are quickly loading and viewing data with a just a few clicks of the mouse, as Ryan demonstrated in the course of his presentation.

My infatuation with free tools aside, there were several other interesting presentations at NCBC that focused on data logging and data analysis. Brian Welsh of Welsh Commissioning Group Inc. built on his NCBC 2006 presentation on Data Logger Essentials by exploring how loggers and building automation systems can be used to support the on-going commissioning process via a number of avenues. Brian has a long history with the industry and his presentations are always full of practical information that you can immediately put into practice.

Greg Sullivan of Efficiency Solutions and Bill Younger of Puget Sound Energy took a look at how utility meter metering and performance metrics. In my experience utility data analysis is a powerful tool that has application over the course of a building’s life cycle, supporting financial decisions regarding energy efficiency projects and validating their effectiveness and ensuring the persistence of their benefits when they are complete.

Building Diagnostics, particularly automated diagnostics, were the focus of a session presented by Michael Birchak of The Industrial Solutions Group and Michael Brambley of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Michael Brambley in particular has a long history in this area including work on economizer diagnostics in the late 1990’s which evolved into a module in the Whole Building Diagnostician.

Finally, Bill Michell presented a compelling case study illustrating the key role that a recent building automation system upgrade played in the retrocommissioning process at his facility.  Bill is a graduate of the Marriott Advanced Engineering program and is the Director of Engineering for  the New York Marquis Marriott, a flagship Marriott facility.


Bill also emphasized the importance of the new system in supporting their ongoing commissioning process, which has become “business as usual” for their facility and would make Nancy Benner proud of the movement she inspired were she with us today. You will be able to hear more from Bill regarding his experience with his new control system in upcoming articles and a round table discussions that will be featured in CSE magazine later this year.

Watch for the papers and presentation slides from all of the these sessions and more on the BCA website this week in the conference proceedings section.  If nothing else, they will inform you and help you do your job better.  And who knows, maybe they will inspire you to submit an abstract of your own this fall when the NCBC call for papers comes around.

David Sellers
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering

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