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Building Automation and Control

Central control of systems such as heating and cooling, lighting and fire detection in large commercial buildings can improve energy efficiency and occupant safety and comfort, but only if those systems can communicate with one another. NIST led the development of a data communication protocol that makes it possible to integrate multiple building control products made by different manufacturers in different industries.

Image of the Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed
Credit: NIST
This Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed is used to test the automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology. The commercial building HVAC control equipment is linked to computer simulations of a building and the exterior environment, enabling controlled tests of various simulated building types, equipment faults, and weather conditions.

NIST staff worked with industry partners to develop BACnet (Building Automation and Control network) from its inception in 1987 through its evolution to national and international standards, incorporating new capabilities over time. The nonproprietary, open protocol makes it possible to integrate many building control devices into a single system. Not only did NIST help shape the emerging standard, but NIST researchers also led the development of test procedures and tools to measure how well commercial products use the standard.

Similar to how the standardization of the Internet Protocol allows computers around the world to exchange data, the BACnet protocol allows building systems and their associated equipment to communicate. Because so many manufacturers use BACnet, building owners now have the freedom to buy products based on price and performance, rather than compatibility with currently installed building control products.

NIST continues to work with industry to move forward the state of the art in building controls. The 2016 version of the BACnet standard contains significant new functionality to make building data more accessible and understandable, including revised web interfaces for integrating enterprise and building automation systems, and the inclusion of features that allow building components to be described in a machine-interpretable way. These new features will enable a wealth of opportunities for new services and operational improvements in the management of building systems and controls.