Retro-commissioning Sensor Suitcase helps small buildings save energy
Dec 06, 2013

retro-commissioning-sensor-suitcaseAs a crusade towards energy efficiency becomes increasingly popular, building owners and tenants are taking advantage of every tip and trick they can to reduce energy consumption.

At the forefront of the craze is retro-commissioning, also known as existing building commissioning, a highly technical process that involves contracting an energy company to do a point-by-point inspection of a building to identify where electricity is being wasted or heat being leaked. Existing building commissioning and its subsequent fine-tuning can save up to 20 percent off of a structure’s energy bill and in many cases pay for itself inside of just one year.

While huge skyscrapers and office campuses have the bankroll to commission such efforts, smaller buildings haven’t had the same luxury… until now. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are in the testing phases of a new device that does all the analyzing, scanning and summarizing for them. Their “Retro-commissioning Sensor Suitcase,” funded through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is intuitively built to be implemented by an energy layman but still have all the evaluative skills of a veteran official in the field.

The compact piece of hardware includes sensors that quantify the many ways in which energy is over-expended. This includes documenting everything from light usage and machinery vibrations to temperatures throughout the building. After touring the device around pivotal, data-rich locations, information is automatically consolidated and interpreted within the suitcase. The findings can then be passed on to a third-party contractor to ameliorate the newfound problems.

The product itself is designed to study buildings 50,000 square feet or smaller that receive basic electrical services, like repair and maintenance, yet don’t employ a full-time energy specialist or team. Functioning prototype in hand, the scientists behind the concept are deep into the testing phase.

An inarguable propellant towards sustainability, the Retro-commissioning Suitcase helps loosen the stranglehold economic limits have on environmental conscientiousness. The cheaper we can make living in our modern age, the better, and in this situation automation equates to progress.

Image Credit: Berkley Lab

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