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Smart Building Automation and Control Testbed and Standards


Improved industry standards and better information about the practical implications of integrating historically separate building automation systems are needed to meet the growing demand from building owners and operators to use system integration as a key method for reducing operating costs, improving energy efficiency, and better managing their facilities. This project expands the capabilities and usefulness of NIST's unique whole building emulation laboratory facilities, creating a testbed for investigating building system integration challenges and providing the technical basis for improved industry standards. The project also enables direct engagement in critical industry standards development and supporting policy activities that will drive advancement in industry products and practices.


Objective - To enable the development of a new generation of commercial products for integrated cybernetic building systems and transform industry practices for building operations, through a combination of measurement science research enabled by state-of-the-art testbeds and direct involvement in key standards development and policy activities.

What is the new technical idea?  Testbeds for evaluating controls, commissioning tools, and fault detection and diagnostic tools have been identified as a key industry need.[1] EL has successfully built a Virtual Cybernetic Building Testbed (VCBT) that combines the flexibility and reproducibility of simulation tools with networks of commercial building automation and control products to create a laboratory environment that realistically approximates actual building performance. The new idea is to expand the capabilities of the VCBT to emulate a wider range of buildings, building equipment, and operating conditions. The result will be a facility that can emulate a variety of building designs in any climate under both normal operating conditions and a range of fault or hazardous conditions. It will be a key resource for developing commissioning tools, fault detection tools, smart grid standards and operating practices, enhancements to the BACnet standard, performance metrics for commercial products, and best practice guidelines for building owners and operators. The products from this research facility, when combined with technical support for key underpinning standards, will drive the needed industry changes.

What is the research plan?  This project will enable the development of new integrated cybernetic building system control products and improved industry practices through two components:

  1. Ongoing technical support for enhancing the capabilities and international adoption of the BACnet communication protocol standard. This includes direct participation and leadership in the ASHRAE SSPC 135 committee, ISO/TC 205 WG 3, and BACnet International.
  2. The features and capabilities of the VCBT will be enhanced to enable evaluation of more complex building systems including systems with local renewable energy generation and storage systems. This will enable more advanced research in commissioning and automated fault detection and diagnostics. It will also enable research in optimization of building systems and integration of building systems with a smart grid. 

In FY 2016 - FY 2018, the older data acquisition system software and hardware infrastructure used to link computer simulations with commercial building controllers was updated to ensure continued operation of the facility and increase the flexibility of use. In FY 2018 and FY 2019 new standard sequences of operations will be implemented in the building controllers and the associated building simulations in order to enable testing of automated commissioning tools that support the development and use of ASHRAE Guideline 36, High-Performance Sequences of Operation for HVAC Systems. The HVACSIM+ user interface will be updated to make it easier to develop simulations for different building configurations.

Reference Documents:

[1] Measurement Science Roadmap for Net-Zero Energy Buildings – Workshop Summary Report, NIST Technical Note 1660, March 2010.

Major Accomplishments

Realized Impact

  • Adoption of the BACnet standard, based on NIST measurement science work, by CEN, ISO, and over 30 countries.
  • Establishment of BACnet International and BACnet Interest Groups in Australasia, Europe, Finland, Middle East, Russia, Sweden.
  • Implementation of BACnet by over 850 companies including every major HVAC control system manufacturer as the protocol of choice for integrated building automation systems.
Created October 17, 2011, Updated January 4, 2021