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Virtual Cybernetic Building Testbed

Image of the Virtual Cybernetic Building Test Bed

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.

Credit: NIST

The NIST Virtual Cybernetic Building Testbed (VCBT) is a whole building emulator designed with enough flexibility to be capable of reproducibly simulating normal operation and a variety of faulty and hazardous conditions that might occur in a "cybernetic building", where numerous building control systems are integrated together and with outside entities such as utility providers. It serves as a testbed for investigating the interactions between integrated building systems and a wide range of issues important to the development of cybernetic building technology including:

  • Automated commissioning of building systems;
  • Automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) of building systems and components;
  • Optimization strategies for interacting building systems;
  • Communication and interaction between building systems and utility providers to manage energy loads and respond to real-time price fluctuations;
  • Development of decision support tools to aid emergency responders; and
  • Extension of BACnet capabilities to new applications.

The VCBT control hardware consists of BACnet products from multiple companies that are used for HVAC control, lighting control, physical access control, and fire detection. The BACnet network topology is an internetwork of all network types commonly found in BACnet systems. 


The interface between the control hardware and the building simulation permits the use of multiple simulation tools so that the simulation tool can be selected based on features that match the nature of the problem being investigated. 

The VCBT provides a way to emulate an entire building, including its various automation and control systems, in the laboratory. It provides a way to examine the interactions of the various systems and to see how the building reacts under adverse events, such as equipment failure or a fire. Tests can be conducted under reproducible, carefully controlled conditions, including weather, without endangering the safety or comfort of occupants in a real building. The VCBT can be used to test new concepts for control strategies and prototype products in a way that is economical, efficient, and convenient.

Usage Information

Access Information

This apparatus may be available for use by those outside NIST, but it must be operated by EL staff. Collaborative programs may be arranged on cost reimbursable basis

Created May 16, 2014, Updated September 26, 2017