Project Title:

Wireless Measurement and Control
of the Indoor Environment in Buildings

Enhanced control systems that may reduce wiring costs and lead to potentially more optimal systems.

Status (updated 7/18/2007): Complete

Funding sources: CBE Industry Consortium, Research Grants


Project Objective

Investigate the potential for applying micro-electromechancial systems (MEMS) sensor technology and wireless communication technology to the control of buildings. This project is a collaboration with the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center (BSAC) and the Berkeley Wireless Research Center (BWRC).

Significance to Industry

The cost of running wire for sensors in buildings is 50%-90% of the cost of the sensor. Wireless communications could eliminate that cost. Combining wireless technology with MEMS technology could reduce the cost further, allow sensors to be embedded in products such as ceiling tiles and furniture, and enable improved control of the indoor environment. Recent technological advances in micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and integrated wireless sensing and communication are enabling the realization of dense wireless sensor networks. This technology enables functions that traditionally were localized in a single point to be taken apart and to be distributed over a wider space, leading to potentially more optimal systems.

A distributed building monitor and control approach could vastly improve the living conditions for the building's occupants, resulting in improved thermal comfort, improved air quality, health, safety, and productivity. At the same time, it will dramatically reduce the energy budget, needed to condition the space. First-order estimations indicate that such technology could reduce source energy consumption by 2 quads (quadrillion British Thermal Units or BTUs) in the U.S. alone. This translates to $55 billion per year, and 35 million metric tons of reduced carbon emissions.

Research Approach

This research area is comprised of multiple related projects. The first phase of CBE activities included a demonstration of the sensing system installed in a building on the UC Berkeley campus, Cory Hall. This first phase of research included a network of 100 sensing motes in the building, and the design a PC-based control system that can control temperatures and lighting levels in one area of the building. Ultimately, we will develop control logic that accounts for the coupling between lighting controls and temperature controls and evaluate the impact of the MEMS-based control system on the basis of temperature and lighting control performance, and system energy usage. In addition, the performance of the MEMs-based system will be compared to the performance of the existing system using these same metrics.

Current research development is sponsored through the NSF program, "XYZ On A Chip: Integrated Wireless Sensor Networks for the Control of the Indoor Environment In Buildings." This collaborative research project includes the development of control algorithms that will optimize occupant comfort and energy performance by using multiple sensing points for the control of both conventional and UFAD buildings. We are also developing wireless air speed measurement technology (a wireless anemometer) that will have the ability to chart airflow throughout a building in order to optimize building performance. More on the XYZ research>>

Publications and Reports

Lin, C., C. Federspiel, and D. Auslander, 2002. Multi-Sensor Single-Actuator Control of HVAC Systems. International Conference for Enhanced Building Operations, Richardson, TX, October.

Wang, D. E., Arens, T. Webster, and M. Shi, 2002. How the Number and Placement of Sensors Controlling Room Air Distribution Systems Affect Energy Use and Comfort. International Conference for Enhanced Building Operations, Richardson, TX, October.

Click here for related publications>>

Wiring illustration

Utilizing wireless control networks can significantly reduce wiring costs in new construction and renovations.

Wireless network illustration

This multi-part research project utilizes ubiquitous sensor networks to optimize building operations.