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Monitoring-Based Commissioning for Fifteen Laboratory Buildings

Karl Brown, California Institute for Energy and Environment

The University of California (UC), California State University (CSU), and California Investor-Owned Energy Utilities are collaborating in an innovative new program to retro-commission campus buildings and plants with the assistance of permanently installed energy monitoring equipment and trending capability. This monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) effort involves eight plants and forty buildings on twenty-four campuses, including over fifteen laboratory buildings. The program is a part of the implementation of the new UC Green Building and Clean Energy Policy, ongoing CSU energy efficiency efforts, and the California public-goods funded Energy Efficiency program.

Based on the success of preceding efforts on campuses in California and other states, the program is designed to identify, diagnose, and implement previously unrecognized low-cost operational and maintenance improvements. The program is also demonstrating the potential for MBCx to identify previously unrecognized cost-effective retrofit opportunities in campus systems. In addition, the monitoring equipment will provide enhanced benchmarking capability for campuses, aiding in overall energy management efforts, design of new facilities, and campus infrastructure planning.

Campuses nominated a high percentage of laboratory buildings for the program, reflecting not only the relatively high energy intensity of these facilities, but also campus staff perception of the potential for substantial improvement in laboratory facility efficiency through MBCx.

Labs21 Connection:

Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx) employs remote energy metering and other monitoring capabilities to provide new information about campus building and central systems performance. This capability can facilitate the application of diagnostic protocols, identify previously unrecognized inefficiencies in building and plant system operations, measure and document energy savings from resulting operational improvements, and facilitate ongoing re-commissioning of systems to ensure persistence of savings. The energy system performance information for MBCx exceeds that provided for direct control of building systems, and is accompanied by an improved degree of trend log capability for diagnosing problems and guiding commissioning. The program also emphasizes training of campus staff in commissioning techniques including monitoring and diagnostic protocols.

The program is partially based on the energy monitoring capability installed at the new UC Merced Campus, a Labs21 Pilot Partner. It reflects the UC Merced and Labs21 approach of establishing goals, tracking performance, and sharing of results for continuous improvement in design and operations. It is anticipated that project case studies will identify MBCx best practices and establish benchmarking that can form the basis for an expansion of the program to much of the rest of the 160 million gross square feet of floor area in the two University systems.


Karl Brown is Deputy Director of the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE), a part of the University of California Office of the President (UCOP). With twenty years experience in energy systems, Karl manages research in end-use energy efficiency and assists with energy planning for University of California facilities. His recent work has focused on the new Merced campus and on contributions to the development and implementation of the UC Green Building and Clean Energy Policy.

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