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Building Agent Software

Occupancy Feedback for Building Controls

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Contact NREL About This Technology

	Building Agent System Architecture</p>

Building Agent System Architecture

	Building Agent Occupant Feedback Survey</p>

Building Agent Occupant Feedback Survey

Technology Marketing Summary

Energy savings achieved via occupant behavioral changes could be as high as 25%, and could rival savings achieved by technological measures. For example, energy audits often show that more than 50% of the energy used in a building is consumed at night. Occupants leaving equipment and lighting on after they leave work is a large contributing factor. Similar savings opportunities have been identified when occupants were away from their desks 50% of the time, while most of their computers, lights, and other equipment remained powered on.

Energy interfaces provide a new level of motivational information. Many studies have reported energy savings after dashboards for operators are installed, but these provide little actionable information to the occupant and the occupant cannot report individual comfort. The Building Agent (BA), in development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), provides an interface for the occupant to converse with the building control system and the building engineer.

The BA system has four goals: (1) use occupant feedback to help commission and tune the building system settings to optimize energy use and occupant comfort; (2) use occupant feedback and power monitoring to provide insight into control patterns of personal (e.g., task lighting) and public (e.g., natural ventilation, room lighting) systems, as well as general occupant preferences for daylighting versus electric lighting, natural ventilation, and acoustics; (3) test the effectiveness of various data visualizations for occupants and facility managers; and (4) (the most important goal) to lower energy use and demand by engaging occupants to influence behavior and empower the facility manager to make data-based decisions for diagnostics and optimization of systems.


BA aims to create cohesion between building automation system (BAS) data, local measurements, and occupant feedback to provide visualizations, empowering occupants and building engineers to take diagnostic, proactive, energy-saving, and comfort-improving actions. The multilayer BA architecture consists of central server, measurement, and distributed application layers. The server layer aggregates global and localized measurements with occupant feedback to correlate perceived comfort with actual data throughout the building. The measurement layer complements BAS data with localized, environmental condition measurements at workstations. The application layer provides a bidirectional communications mechanism between the building and the occupants that accepts comfort feedback and provides energy performance information. The interface layer also uses three displays to influence building energy use: empathetic and personalized gauges, graphical data, and competitive rankings.

BA was implemented at NREL in the Research Support Facility (RSF), a LEED Platinum and Net Zero office building, which has received many awards. The constant feedback from occupants has enabled BA to better enhance the BAS data controls. Continued work is being done on BA to increase visualization of data and enhanced the user experience.

  • Lower energy usage
  • Increased energy savings
  • Increased user control
  • Better building energy management
  • Heightened occupancy involvement
Applications and Industries
  • Commercial and industrial buildings
  • Lighting and building controls
  • Building sensors
  • Occupancy and energy meters
  • Building automated system (BAS) controls
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
NREL SWR 12-05Development - Software had been implemented and currently under further refinement. Available - Ready for non-exclusive license04/30/201304/30/2013

Contact NREL About This Technology

To: Jean Schulte<>