The Building Controls Subprogram, within the Emerging Technologies Program, is dedicated to developing and validating supervisory building energy management systems for residential and commercial buildings. It aims to accelerate the transition from simple, reactive, and customized controls to autonomous and interoperable solutions, adaptive to occupant and grid needs. Our goal is focused on economic occupant comfort and zero carbon emissions using control theory and artificial intelligence built on a foundation of cybersecurity and interoperability. The RDD&D Building Controls portfolio works in conjunction with the Building Electric Appliances, Devices, and Systems, Lighting R&D, and Building Energy Modeling Subprograms.

Graphic showing several goals, core opportunities, and foundation on a building.

Integrating state-of-the-art sensors and controls into most commercial buildings can save as much as an estimated 29% of site energy consumption. These savings are achieved through high-performance sequencing of operations, optimizing settings based on occupancy patterns, and detecting and diagnosing inadequate equipment operation or installation problems. Furthermore, state-of-the-art sensors and controls can curtail or manage 10–20% of commercial building peak load. Building control strategies are also necessary to implement flexible, grid-interactive strategies to optimize building loads within productivity or comfort requirements and decarbonize the electric grid. The work translates into 1.4 quads of energy savings in 2030 and 3.8 quads in 2050 across applicable end-uses.

Current Projects

Building Operations Testing Framework (BOPTEST)
BOPTEST is an API and set of models for testing, comparing, and benchmarking building control and fault detection and diagnosis (FDD) algorithms.
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BENEFIT-2016: Open Building Control (ended 2019)
A team led by LBNL researchers is developing a toolkit to improve the portability and deployability of high-performance control sequences.
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VOLTTRON is a lightweight, open-source platform for secure messaging and execution of programs called "agents". VOLTTRON is now part of Eclipse IoT.
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BENEFIT-2016: Hamilton: Flexible, Open-Source $10 Wireless Sensor System
UC-Berkeley Researchers are developing a wireless, secure, sensor node platform with a total cost target of $10 or less.
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Reducing Residential Plug-Load Energy Use Through Nonintrusive Submetering and Personalized Feedback
Columbia University researchers are developing an interactive messaging system to help residential customers reduce plug-load electricity use.
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Sensors and Controls Project Portfolio
Active and past projects in BTO's Sensors and Controls Program
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Technical Reports

Innovations in Sensors and Controls for Building Energy Management
Research and Development Opportunities Report for Emerging Technologies
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Challenges and Opportunities to Secure Buildings from Cyber Threats
Paper provides an overview of commercial control systems and potential cybersecurity risks to them, and discusses efforts underway to protect them.
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Impacts of Commercial Building Controls on Energy Savings and Peak Load Reduction
This study investigated the potential energy savings from implementation of 34 basic and advanced controls measures and eliminating common faults...
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Sensors and Controls Reports
Reports from the sensors, controls, and transactional network program.
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