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Using co-simulation between EnergyPlus and CONTAM to develop IAQ and energy-centric demand-controlled ventilation systems



Maria Alonso, William Stuart Dols, Hans M. Mathisen


Buildings account for approximately 40 % of energy use in the European Union. In light of the Energy performance of buildings directive (EPBD), efforts are underway to reduce this energy use by targeting zero or nearly zero emissions/energy buildings (nZEB). For efficient buildings in cold climates, hygienic ventilation to ensure suitable indoor air quality (IAQ) is responsible for half or more of the energy use in nZEBs. The use of heat recovery and demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) are proposed solutions to reduce ventilation-related energy consumption. DCV can be utilized to realize energy savings by maintaining the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) below established limits. This is done to reduce ventilation airflows to minimum requirements when possible to reduce energy use. This paper presents a study of a corridor of offices ventilated with constant airflow in Norway over two weeks of normal occupancy. Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide, particles and occupancy levels were used to calibrate a simulation model. These measurements were used to validate a coupled energy, airflow and indoor air quality model. Co-simulation between EnergyPlus and CONTAM was used to evaluate the baseline energy use and develop a CO2-based demand-controlled ventilation strategy which took into account other pollutants and recirculation airflows. A parametric study was performed to evaluate energy use and occupant exposure. The main findings from the simulations reveal: - Interactions between recirculation of air and increased ventilation rates to maintain low CO2 levels are not always intuitive. In some cases, increased ventilation rates were unable to maintain acceptable CO2 levels when using recirculation of exhaust air, and the increased fan power of the demand-controlled ventilation system prevented very large energy savings. - DCV based on multiple pollutants must be carefully programmed to avoid control problems. For instance, reducing outdoor air intake when outdoor particle levels were high was effective so long as occupancy was below 100%. - Occupant health and building energy use are strongly correlated, and the ventilation control needs to be programmed considering this interdependency. Here we propose to use reduced exposure to pollutants as a performance parameter for comparison to reduced energy use. The study presented herein serves as the initial phase of a project to study in greater detail how to reduce ventilation while ensuring indoor air quality using a comprehensive analysis method.
Conference Dates
October 15-16, 2019
Conference Location
Ghent, BE
Conference Title
40th AIVC - 8th Tight Vent & 6th Venticool Conference


building simulation, CONTAM, demand-controlled ventilation, EnergyPlus, indoor air quality, energy use, recirculationEnergyPlus, CONTAM, IAQ, Energy Use, Recirculation


Alonso, M. , Dols, W. and Mathisen, H. (2019), Using co-simulation between EnergyPlus and CONTAM to develop IAQ and energy-centric demand-controlled ventilation systems, 40th AIVC - 8th Tight Vent & 6th Venticool Conference, Ghent, BE (Accessed April 17, 2024)
Created October 16, 2019, Updated March 15, 2024