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Building Manager Green Tip

May 2011

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Automated Continuous Commissioning: Reducing consumption through building analytics


As part of the Harvard University Green Building Standards, post-construction commissioning is required for all major construction projects on campus, but these quality assurance processes typically end within a year after construction is complete. What happens once the consultants leave, students and faculty move in, and a building manager is provided with overwhelming amounts of data from building automation system (BAS) control software that isn’t designed for careful analysis?

Increasingly the answer is to use automated continuous commissioning programs that tie directly into common BAS software, interpret all the data for you, and send alerts when trends diverge from expected performance. While it’s possible to perform such commissioning through consistent and careful analysis of the control trend data alone, the amount of time, effort, and skill required to do so would be very difficult on a departmental or campus scale.

Economics of Continuous Commissioning

A 2002 report from the Federal Energy Management Program, the Continuous Commissioning Guidebook, cited a study in which 130 buildings underwent a continuous commissioning process. This study determined that “the average measured utility savings are about 20%, with simple paybacks often in less than two years.” Experiences at the Harvard Business School reflect substantial savings as well where automated commissioning systems installed in 2008 have resulted in savings to date that are nearly three times the initial cost.

Successful Implementation Considerations

While the potential savings and benefits of automated continuous commissioning are substantial, getting these programs running is more complex than simply installing a program on a server and letting it run. Meghan Duggan, Assistant Director of Sustainability & Energy Management at the Harvard Business School advises that “for the program to be truly successful you have to have your controls vendor on board and partnering in the process.”

Most software solutions rely on the development of an algorithm of how each control point should operate under ever changing conditions, and that requires varying degrees of customization for each building up front to reflect specific operating conditions and control strategies. In general a building with more control points will require more effort and expense in the initial setup.

Green Building Services provides consulting services to ensure that the design, construction and operation of Harvard's built environment has minimal environmental and human health impacts, maximizes occupant comfort and generates an awareness of sustainable design and building operations. To learn more about our work and services, visit http://green.harvard.edu/gbs.